What comes to your mind when you hear the word centrism? It feels wishy-washy and might be seen as an insult in that it doesn’t aspire to utopian values. Centrism, however, is the core of liberal democracy and we need it now more than ever before.

Centrism argues for compromise and debate, which is what politics is essentially about. It is impossible to achieve anything without discussion. If you force a reform through without any consultation with the opposition, you risk it being completely scrapped when the other side comes to power; not a single Republican voted for Obamacare in 2010, they are now trying to repeal it. You need debate and compromise to pass lasting legislation.

Centrists must embrace the other side without ceasing to advocate their own policies. I can already hear the roar of disagreement about the coalition government and Nick Clegg and the tuition fees; unfortunately, the tuition fees were part of this bigger search for compromise. As painful as it is, it at least limited conservative power between 2010 and 2015. Centrists paid a huge price for this compromise: the Lib Dems were reduced to eight seats in the next Parliament. This is only made worse if we consider the centrist opposition to sudden shifts of public opinion both left and right. The radicalisation of young people was a costly by-product.

Because centrists try to understand different views, they promote effective reform. It is impossible to be completely centrist, individuals inevitably lean left or right; but in practice centrism promotes a balance between social liberty and economic liberty. This allows for consensus and political discourse, which ideally leads to progress.

In most cases the centrist agenda takes good ideas from both the left and right. Economically, it can be cutting taxes for the poorest, but increasing taxes for the rich. This advances the most beneficial and realistic legislation, which is a more effective way of running a country. In this manner one is not tied to one’s ideology and forced to blindly follow it even if it’s harmful or purely populistic. Ultimately, pragmatism is at the heart of centrism.

And now is the time when we need pragmatism the most. Irrational and populist ideals are dominating current politics. Corbyn and Brexit are prime examples. Policies are being proposed that have no real footing. Corbyn proved such this summer when he went back on his promise to write-off student debt. We enter the era of populism and unrealistic policies, which won’t advance any constructive reform. Centrism must be the voice of reason.

The continued detachment between the left and the right is also worrying; it’s escalating to a point where both sides are too far apart to agree on anything. If you have a communist and a capitalist in the room there will be no compromise. As the parties separate, the culture of consensus is violated. There will be a drastic change of policy each time a new government comes to power, which is possibly the biggest hindrance to progress there can be. If our nation is a boat, and the government is the helm constantly changing direction, we won’t get anywhere.

There is a need for a powerful middle ground, which will bring a general accord between the two sides. As things stand now, this centre is annihilated. Liberal Democrats still can’t bounce back from their time in the coalition; Labour’s centrists have been silenced by Corbynistas; and the Tories have been systematically going right. This centrist power vacuum should be filled by a realistic centrist alternative, which could regenerate our current political culture and safeguard the future of Britain.