Friday 10 July 2020

Why are the Tories Invulnerable?

A double digit lead? For the Tories? How can that be with their awful record, evident incompetence, and reckless intent? Okay, the latest YouGov poll is an outlier, but it shares something in common with all the others: Tories leading, Labour trailing. How then to explain this persistent and immovable lump of support for the Conservatives? What constitutes it and why isn't it eroding? Some brief sense impressions that may be expanded into something longer on another occasion.

1. We're still in a crisis. When we last had a look at polling, the absolutely huge lead the Tories enjoyed was thanks to the birth of a national spirit, of rallying around the government because it was the only institution capable of defending us from Coronavirus. 20,000 care home deaths and one unsackable aide later, there is still a layer of the electorate clinging to the Tories because they're the government. For as long as the crisis persists their faith in Boris Johnson remains. Now is not for sniping and criticising, but for rallying around.

2. Remember Brexit? I do, you do, and so do the millions who voted Tory in 2019 to make sure it gets done. Not even the small matter of a global pandemic changes their desire to see it put to bed. Johnson's continued hard ball/reckless negotiation - today refusing to be part of an EU vaccination programme - plays well to a base for whom Brexit is a repository for fantasies of all kinds. The alternative? Sir Keir might be nice and responsible and have a good suit, but they know he was a primary mover in changing Labour's position from accepting the referendum result to having another crack at it. And so they're not too interested in what he's saying and won't take a look at him until after the Brexit business is finished with and their vote can't be reversed.

3. Good old Rishi Sunak. Workers helped. Businesses helped. If you don't pay close attention - like the majority of the Tory voting coalition, whose view matters askance - you could be forgiven for thinking the Chancellor and Prime Minister have done a good job. Yes, people have fallen through the cracks but you can't help everyone. As long as the carers are caring, the nurses nursing, and the shelves are full there's nothing to worry about. And a new stimulus package and help for young people will see them through the economic slowdown. You'll notice what this has in common: distance. Experiencing the crisis at a remove, and that's because the spine of the Tory coalition are older voters generally and retirees in particular. Provided they abide by social distancing and stay out of harms way, the crisis won't touch them. They're insulated, and despite the odd snippet of Treasury gossip in the FT about doing away with the triple lock, this is how pensioners are going to stay. They're doing alright out of the Tories, they've turned out not to be as bad as everyone says, so why switch?

Image Credit


Richard said...

Move out of Derby Phil. Try Woking, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Beaconsfield, Berkhampstead, St Albans, Hertford, Chelmsford, Basildon (man), Maidstone, Tonbridge, East Grinstead, Leatherhead ... I've left out the expensive bit in the middle and expensive outer London habitations such as Virginia Water, Chobham ... I could go on an on.

You, like I, have a modest working class background and could never afford a property in those places even on a university teacher salary. Blissex has set out a number of times the reality that large numbers of people on this big island count their wealth in property, not in the income from their day job (and this is not even getting to the fact that large numbers of people are on the inheritance list as well as generating an income from work. I know someone who has just inherited a million+ and who has 2 properties in the midlands, one funded by salary and one a gift from the family as a student home. Without family assets, normal comfortable middle class assets in England, this person would not even enjoy the better off worker life I and I guess you have).

And I'm not remotely near the real bourgeois and then the capitalists and their senior staff.

It's not rocket science. Most people's voting choices betray a savage personal logic and self-interest.

Labour is not out there day after day, month after month, defending workers in their workplaces and in their homes the way the CPGB did in its strong areas of Hezbollah now does in Gaza. If you don't build a class movement you don't have a class movement. Marx was right about that.

Your final point, why should the Tory voter switch, is exactly right.

So what the hell do we do? World War did not result in a movement to overthrow capital in the UK and now mass death within a small time frame has not dented popular political attitudes. Do we need a mass campaigning social democratic party, disciplined not to aim for power until it and its support were ready for power and the subsequent the attack on capital and the storm that would break? This gave us President Ebert and the Freicorps.

And Leninist fantasies are hopeless. That's one reason why the CPGB had the decency to stop pretending and disband.

What to we do beyond watching the political weather? I like your weather reports. Can we make the weather?

Phil said...

Just for the record, I still live in Stoke!

Shai Masot said...

4. Weak Labour party with no real policy platform or vision. Also, with a boring Tory-lite leader who was both a chicken coup plotter and a cult Remainer.

Blissex said...

«a boring Tory-lite leader who was both a chicken coup plotter and a cult Remainer.»

But at least he has "narrowed" the voting intentions gap to "only" 10%, a veritable "surge" for Labour from the 2% in 2017 and 11% in 2019 under Corbyn:
«Voting Intention: Con 46%, Lab 36% (8-9 Jul)»

Rah! Rah! for "centrism"; after all there only 30% of the votes to go the lead for Labour of 20% that so many claimed that a sterling centrist like Chuka Umunna or, ahem, Keir Starmer, would have given New Labour against the ineffectual government of Theresa May, and we could expect even more when compared to the farcical government of our slapstick current PM. But so far as he has the support of the USA and Likud he will be fine.

BTW he has recently allowed some breach of "centrist" discipline:
«In a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government today, Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire asked the government to justify the reduction in stamp duty on second home purchases from 8% to 3%.
In the correspondence, the Shadow Housing Secretary highlighted that the policy would cost the exchequer £1.3bn annually – at a time when the LGA has predicted an immediate gap in local government finances of £1.2bn by the end of this year.
She also pointed out that there are over one million people on council house waiting lists across the UK, and that the money could be put towards building “truly affordable housing” for sale or rent.»

Attacking the interests of homeowners is the worst possible "communist" betrayal of the "centrist" politics of "aspiration".

Blissex said...

«the spine of the Tory coalition are older voters generally and retirees in particular. Provided they abide by social distancing and stay out of harms way, the crisis won't touch them. They're insulated»

I guess our author knows better, but I wish to repeat here that it is not age that matters, but enjoying rents and capital gains: there are many retirees who lost their jobs in M Thatcher's harrowing of the north, and have been struggling ever since in crap jobs, and were too young at the time to have already accrued a decent final salary pension, lost their houses too, or never had the money to buy one, and are currently surviving on their rather small state pension, and struggling to pay rent on their bedsits.

The tory voting people are those who enjoying massive capital gains and rents from business and property, including from fully accrued final salary pensions, and most of course are older (e.g. they bought their properties when thanks to socialdemocracy housing was cheap, they accrued most of their pensions before thatcherism undermined them) and live in the Home Counties and Londonm where thatcherite policy from the Conservatives and New Labour have supported well paying jobs in growing businesses and booming property prices.

Blissex said...

«Labour is not out there day after day, month after month, defending workers in their workplaces and in their homes the way the CPGB did in its strong areas of Hezbollah now does in Gaza. If you don't build a class movement you don't have a class movement.»

Well Momentum tried a bit to do that, and Corbyn himself, but if you do that's "mad communism" and the accusations of "antisemitism" follow soon. The interests opposed to worker interests are not stupid, and they have been working for *centuries*, diligently and cleverly and ruthlessly, to ensure that "There Is No Alternative", and "progressive" parties are allowed to go as far as right-wing identity politics whiggism (because identity politics works against material interest politics by fragmenting classes).

The ideal party for those interests are not movements but pure marketing machines, with very few or no pesky members, supported meanly by and dependent on big donations from those oligarchic interests, rather than member subs; see Blair, Cameron, and for a less successful example, "Change UK" and Umunna. For some people PASOKification (of parties on both left and right) is a strategic goal.
One of the great "faults" of J Corbyn was that by attracting a lot of new members he made Labour not only well funded by subs, but also wholly independent of big donors.

Consider this quote from a celebrated "centrist" (J Cowley...) editor of "New Statesman":

Miliband’s chief problem is not policy but tone. He needs to find a distinctive voice to articulate people’s feelings about the present moment. And he might have to accept before long – or the electorate will force him to – that Europe’s social-democratic moment, if it ever existed, is fading into the past.

Part of the reason there was a "social-democratic moment" was that WW2 was a "total war" fought by mass conscripted armies (as opposed to the "dynastic wars" fought by small paid armies) and the elites had to arm the servant classes to fight them; post-WW2 the elites knew well that the servant classes were now composed of veteran soldiers, well used to killing and manning tanks, artillery, bombers, etc., and that there was a soviet model to counter, and sought to reward or at least pacify those militarized servant classes (there are other related reasons). Those conditions no longer apply.

«What to we do beyond watching the political weather? I like your weather reports. Can we make the weather?»

That is still possible but, given that those post-WW2 conditions no longer apply, only against the ferocious hostility of the business/property rentier elites, who have chosen in most anglo-american culture countries a plutocratic "dixie"/"brazilian" model of the economy (which is to say back to the 1850s or even the 1750s), and they punish brutally (see J Corbyn) every attempt to move otherwise. Risking even their poorly paid, insecure jobs for "the movement" is not what many people who can recognize themselves in “The working class can kiss my ass I got the foreman's job at last” want to do.

Socialism in One Bedroom said...

Thinking about it Britain has not had a Labour leader since 1945 and that project was built off loot from the colonies!

Britain’s place in the world market and it past and current imperialism can explain much about the politics of Britain. British people do not add to surplus value, if you did the math I would guess that the average Brit actually draws more than he provides (see Samir Amin for his calculations on this, though I draw slightly different conclusions to what he does).

Certainly from the real science, physics for example, if everyone consumed what the average Brit consumes we would need 4 planet Earths and the average Brit uses 11kw of energy compared to the world average of 1.8kw. Brits will happily see kids die in the med to maintain that supremacy. So all foreign policy is in my humble opinion a form of supremacy.

This is why pulling statues of Slave holders leaves me a bit cold, I would be more impressed if someone pulled down the fucking fence that has been put up on the local recreation ground, meaning the only space for walking is the fucking garden. They put the fence up so they could charge for Sunday football.

Today Britain is a nation of the petty bourgeois and no leftist rhetoric will change that. In the past it was more working class but then the working class dog was tied to its master by colonial interests.

In Britain you can’t build a working class movement because it basically doesn’t exist, except for an army of imported fruit pickers and food delivery drivers, who are more duck and dive and avoid the eyes of immigration control than a revolutionary block.

I am not even convinced capitalism has any internal mechanisms to bring about its transformation. I think it will be ‘exogenous’ factors that change capitalism, so for example a pandemic, or climate crisis or technological change. Capitalism has consistently reproduced class relations without much trouble.

You can tell Britain and the West is not a place where the revolution will happen because people are obsessed with identity issues, and whether they are Emo’s or Goths or fucking Pixies. A sure sign that in the West at least the class issue has been resolved.

And the political parties simply reflect this reality.

Jimbo said...

Labour seems to have lost its appetite to govern. We've just lost the last election with the lowest number of seats won for decades.

And here we are bitching about Tory lite this and Corbynista that and ridiculous fratricidal bickering.

How do we expect the electorate to take us seriously?