Friday, May 8, 2015

The Conservatives are the natural party of government


Labour has never been the “natural party of government” in this country. Harold Wilson’s claim was based on only one resounding election success under his leadership. Tony Blair, like him or loathe him, was perhaps a natural prime minister, the only Labour leader who was able to reach out beyond Labour’s comfort zones and into the socio-economic parts of Britain without which you cannot command a sustainable majority. Even in the face of his Iraq horror show, Blair led his party to its third comfortable election success.

Scotland is now pro-nationalist, and even perhaps willing to vote for independence in a year or two’s time. It has long been another country in political terms too. While it was revolting over the poll tax, England considered the mild radicalism of a Welsh Labour leader and, shyly, voted for John Major’s Conservative Party. Yesterday the Tories got a majority after hurting poorer “hard working” families for five years while those not in need of in-work welfare benefits feared that the Labour Party would somehow jeopardise the flimsy certainties of what, statistically at least, is an economic recovery.

The NHS is the exception to the rule, the last surviving nationalised industry and one that, broadly speaking, is popular. Labour may have won the 1945 election because its promise to introduce socialised medicine was the most believable, but after only six years in office it was out for another 13. Labour’s two election victories in 1974 were barely deserving of the name. The Labour government that lost office in 1979 had essentially been a minority one for most of its rule.

Now Labour has to consider whether a more authentically social justice and home rule message in Scotland and Wales will remotely help it in England (where Westminster elections, after all, are decided). To paraphrase Neil Kinnock, if you think that that is right, then go into the semi-detached homes of people struggling to pay their mortgage in the south of England and “tell it there, tell it there.”

The United Kingdom is under threat, and the very self-serving economic reasons why we joined the Common Market are increasingly being seen in England as not being upheld by the EU today. What will Labour do next? A lurch to the left will this time definitely consign it to the dustbin of history. There will be no electoral reform to save it, while Labour has lost Scotland (and its parliamentary support) whether it becomes an independent sovereign country or not. To be elected and then to govern in England will be impossible for Labour without being able to both appeal to aspiration and not somehow abandoning its so-called electoral base. In the 2015 election Labour absurdly pandered to that base without offering anything more than half-hearted apologies for past errors and an unconvincing line on deficit and debt reduction. The outcome was its third worst General Election result since 1935.

The recession was a fork in the road. In this election Labour tried to plough down the middle by refusing to say it had overspent in the last government whilst claiming it would reduce the deficit faster, but somehow more fairly, in the next. Electing a new leader who mouths the same (and, ironically, non-inclusive) platitudes about hard working families will not cut it, in England or Scotland. Something major needs to be tried. Reaching out to everybody, right across the Union, is an even taller order right now. Perhaps more honesty would help. If Scotland hasn’t already left the building by the time of the next Westminster election, tell voters that you will work with the SNP precisely to save the Union, that we should stay in the EU for the sake of jobs and, yes, for the sake of political stability across Europe, and that ever-expanding health and welfare budgets are not the answer. Otherwise, just carry on regardless.

1 comment:

Robert Powell said...

'd agree with nearly all of that. I'd add my own theory though on the important contribution of employment to the Tories win. In particular, self-employment.......

"Self-employment has been a key reason behind both the rise in the number of people in work and the lower jobless rate. Almost one in seven people - some 4.55m - are now self-employed, the highest level since records began in 1971. The number of people working for themselves has risen by 375,000 over the past year."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/10829623/UK-jobs-growth-rises-at-fastest-rate-in-43-years.html

The self-employed, although not necessarily well paid, may well have decided that the pro-business Tories were more in tune with their thinking than the employee-focused (typically, public-sector employee) Labour party.