If you follow the intricacies of British politics at all closely you will have come across the great theme, that of “fundamental realignment”.
Almost anything that happens within the day-to-day froth of the news can be and is, by commentators, related to this. It was ever thus. The two great political parties, the Conservatives – or Tories – and Labour historically represent the two great traditions of the affluent and of organised Labour. Of course, these two patties are far more than their labels, and both are and have always been, at times, uncomfortable coalitions. Historically they shared at least a belief in the UK as a unified and united nation. In recent decades there has been a shift, and this is particularly apparent in the Labour Party, away from this link across the political divide.
The Labour Party has been captured almost entirely by a different group of people. Those who have left behind their working-class roots and have entered the world of work are positively embarrassed by their background and the views of their parents. This group of people, more often than not, public sector workers, in education, from primary through to Universities, health care, the broad mass of the civil service, and the media have collectively drunk the intersectional Kool Aid. This has resulted in a party that speaks up for Palestinian rights, it partakes in the culture war, making ever more grand statements about LGBTQ*, Race, and whatever is the latest fashionable trope.
The traditional patriotic, but socialist, minded working classes have been left without a political home. Into this breach has stepped the Conservative Party. When one hears talk about the ‘Red Wall’ or ‘Levelling up’ this is what is happening, a deliberate, and so far, effective theft of the identity of the Labour Party. Across the old, working class districts we have seen seat after seat fall to the Conservatives hands.
The problem for the Conservatives is that they too are a coalition. They have calculated – and with the demise of the Eurosceptic UKIP and latterly the Brexit Party – with good reason, that there is no one out there on their right flank, so they can tack towards the centre. This is leaving increasing numbers of conservative minded people, their own traditional core vote, feeling increasingly isolated in the party.
Lockdown, and the apparent glee with which this supposed Conservative Party has taken to handing itself levers of power and coercion, is creating great disquiet. As is a rush to unsustainable promises on the environment – a recent policy is demanding that every household replace their boilers – or find themselves banned from selling their property. On average this will cost £10,000 (almost $14000) per household. For a party that has always prided itself on being the party of private property, to propose to imprison people in unsellable homes unless they pay this tax is outrageous. That this is on the altar of supposed climate emergency rankles even harder.
The recent by-election in Chesham and Amersham, has come as a bit of a shock. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, a collection of soft left economics with a fine line in opportunistic grandstanding – in this case about a massive infrastructure project, a railway - tearing its way through beautiful rural landscape. The national party supports the project, but they made the by-election all about their opposition to it and pretty much any development. But this huge turnaround, from a 16 thousand majority to an 8,000 loss – a swing of 25% against the Government, is the swallow that doesn’t make a summer. The specific situation there cannot be replicated elsewhere. The next election is in Labour’s post- industrial Yorkshire heartlands, where cultural issues will be far more important.
The overall problem is that though the Labour party has haemorrhaged support amongst the working class, to pick up this support the Conservative Party has tacked to the economic left It is currently promising more and more multi-billion projects – a process they call levelling up. In the past this was described as redistribution, and was a Labour policy.
What the country is left with is again, a large group of people being disenfranchised.
The Labour Party (and some of the upper echelons of the Conservative party sadly) represent the new woke left.
The Conservative Party is becoming the high tax, high spend authoritarian party, looking increasingly like the old Labour Party.
Right now, there is nowhere for the more classically liberal, liberty focussed people, those who believe in personal responsibility and the ability of the individual to judge competing risks for themselves to go. There will be, but until then there isn’t just realignment on politics, but a tectonic shift to the left, culturally, economically and socially. It does not bode well for the future. Has England fallen? No, but it is stumbling around rather a lot.
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