If you look at studies of people in the wishy-washy middle, among them the “shy Tories” who bolted toward the Conservatives at the last moment, you find individuals who do not believe that the future can be any improvement on the present. They sense that the UK is stagnating economically and culturally; they know that it has become less fair than it used to be. They see that the rich have gotten richer even since the coming of the Great Recession, and that one million people have been driven to rely on food banks for daily sustenance. But they don’t feel anything can be done to improve the situation, and their basic instinct is fear that things could get worse.
The shy Tories are neurotics in love with their symptoms. They complain, they feel bad, but they don’t really want to get better. And so given a choice between a remedy and more of the same, they have chosen more of the same.
On the left, we do an excellent job of pushing people away, despite all our talk of ‘inclusion’ and Labour’s claims to be the party of ‘the many not the few’. My feeling is that this affects all left-leaning parties. That seems to be backed up by the numbers, which show how what you might call a ‘progressive alliance’ composed of Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, SDLP, Greens and Plaid Cymru won 47.7% of the total vote in this election while the Conservatives, UKIP and DUP from the right picked up 50.1%. (Thanks to John Clarke for pointing that out).
Compare that to 2010 (a bad year for Labour remember), when the more ‘progressive’ or left-leaning parties won a total of 55.7% against the right’s 41.7% and you can see that over the past five years the British left has been losing votes to the right, despite having a Conservative-led government implementing public spending cuts (known in left-wing circles as ‘austerity’). As a whole, the voters have looked at us and said, “You know what, the other lot aren’t great but I prefer them over you lot. See you later.”
This is where we need to start, by admitting that with the bulk of the British pubic, we are unpopular – the only serious exception being the SNP in Scotland which has got its identity politics worked out. There are lessons to be learned here.
I don’t have any important insight into British politics. I just found it interesting and amusing to read these posts in juxtaposition. In a way, it’s reassuringly familiar to see British lefties like Bobby Appletree respond to political setbacks the same way our progressives do here — with incredulous scorn and withering contempt for the ungrateful voters who are too stupid or craven to choose what’s best for them. Well, I’ll never be mistaken for a political scientist, but it still seems obvious to me that projecting an attitude of haughty impatience toward people who don’t already agree with you, especially when you’re not operating from a position of strength to begin with, is rather self-defeating.