Monday 8 October 2012

The Utopia of "Everyman" Toryism

It can't be very often you see the words "interesting piece" in conjunction with flash-in-the-pan social media celebrity "Luke Bozier", but this is one of those occasions. Luke Bozier has written an interesting piece on the Tories and how they strategically position themselves after EdM's well-received 'One Nation' speech.

His article on 'Everyman Conservatism' in today's Indy is a paean to one nation Thatcherism. He evokes a Toryism that was at its best when they connected with the aspirations of working class people up and down the land. With a dollop of Disraeli, he suggests Tories need to positively discriminate in favour of working class candidates (like him?); undertake a policy drive to find out what warms the cockles for proletarian and lower middle class voters; and lastly, a meritocratic makeover that identifies Conservatism with the virtues of hard work. Then the Tories have the best chance of clearing their true blue lawn of EdM's unsightly tanks.

If this is the line of march Bozier wants to pursue in the Tory party, then he has got an uphill struggle ahead. Unlike the clueless aristocrats that pass for Conservative leadership today, their forebears from Churchill to Heath quickly learned the lessons of the depression and the post-war settlement. They had to pursue policies that did not outright serve the naked interests of the rich and powerful to get themselves elected and ensure British capitalism stayed on the straight and narrow. Thatcher, and to a lesser extent Major understood this too even while they were dismantling the welfare state and carving up the labour movement. They appealed to a minority of working class voters (like my family) and convinced them they could look out for their interests better than their traditional party. It was just enough to keep them in power for a generation.

The Tory Party of today however is a very different beast. It appears all the lessons its best minds and activists learned during the latter half of the 20th century has fallen down the memory hole. Dave, Gideon and the rest don't even pretend to speak to or for the whole nation. The aspirant Tory worker who wanted dignity in employment, security in old age and a future for their families instead finds their party hammering their rights at work and eligibility to benefits, forcing them to stay at work for longer with less money at the end, and throwing their children onto the unemployment scrap heap (sometimes with tens of thousands of pounds in student-related debt). The connection that served post-war conservatism well has almost entirely broken down.

With nothing positive to say to this section of Tory support, Dave and co. have turned to divide and rule - employed vs unemployed, able-bodied vs disabled, non-claimants vs benefit claimants. The odd rhetorical flourish against the Maoists of Brussels and Strasbourg doesn't hurt either. Unfortunately for them, if you poison the well long enough truly foul things start a-stirring.

The Tories didn't get this way only because its leading cadre were born with the proverbial silver spoon. The Tory party as a whole is ageing and its grassroots associations decomposing. For a number of reasons it does not attract young political activists in the same way Labour does (whether careerist or not). The rot that is seeing it become an outright sectional party of the wealthy ultimately finds its wellspring in the counterrevolution Thatcher unleashed. The social solidarities her policies burst asunder eroded the activist base of the Tories as much as it did with Labour. But whereas Labour recovered part of its strength through the labour movement and being more in tune with wider political and cultural shifts, the conservative movement has floundered. All it has left apart from its withered body politic are the old boy networks and interlocking patterns of near-incestuous directorships.

As we have seen, the liberal make up Dave assiduously daubed the Tory party in was quickly wiped off after the general election. It's hard to see a worker-friendly makeover in the Bozier mould doing much better now the Tories are in full toxic effect. It would, in fact, be running against the grain of long-term social processes. And this is something that should have every socialist, trade unionist, and progressive person celebrating.


Fangs said...

Interesting post.

I think you're dead right about negativity, but I think some voters will respond to it. No matter how hard Labour attack immigrants and benefits claimants, it can always be outdone by the Tories. If the economy is still in the toilet, finger pointing might be enough to keep some working class Tories on side.

CharlieMcMenamin said...

Good to see you blogging again Phil Can I make one small observation about your re-spray?

If, like me, your eyesight's not so good then white-on-black text is a definite headache inducer. I have to use the Firefox Readability add-on to read stuff presented in this way - and, to be frank, I wouldn't bother unless I already knew the blog was worth reading. (Your blog is worth reading)

P.S.I love the washing machines....

Phil said...

Your wish, Charlie, is my command. I hope the new grey-on-black has the grey matter whizzing with activity as opposed to wincing under the brutality of high contrast.

Fangs, I'll write when I have a bit more time.

CharlieMcMenamin said...

Um, that's very slightly more unreadable - it's the black background that is the basic problem....

Phil said...

I'll have a tinker over the weekend and see what I can do.

CharlieMcMenamin said...

I'm grateful Phil. I do realise that in making these comments I'm subtly threatening a no doubt much-thought-about-and-pleasing aesthetic schema which, I agree, does look nice.

But I'm older than you, and I had moderately bad eyesight even when I was your age, so certain types of dramatic typology or graphics, on print or on the screen, have always been difficult for me. It's one reason why I never buy the mag Red Pepper for instance - I simply can't read it. (To be fair: Red Pepper once had headache inducing small print and lots of non white background. I've no idea if it still does as I stopped even looking when I found I couldn't read it).

Blogging is about communication so I don't think I'm being selfish: my comments are only made to help you communicate with a wider number of people.

Phil said...

You don't have to apologise for your comments. We're old blogging comrades so I value what you have to say. I'll have a play around with the design over the weekend. I'm sure the place can still look cool while keeping the washing machines.