Wednesday, 13 October 2021

The Erosion of the Tory Party

I've written enough on this topic, so here's someone else having a go. Alex interviews Andy Beckett about whether the difficulties the Tories are presiding over are going to bite chunks out of their support, and why Keir Starmer is playing his cards close to his chest.

As ever, please don't forget to support Alex's work.


Blissex said...

I agree on many points with our blogger, notably the importance of property in voting decisions, and also the effects of isolation and insecurity on the voting decisions of the retired, and the decline of the Conservatives, but I see different reasons but also that they don't matter:

* Conservative mass rentierism is based on the assumption that 25-35% of the voters can sustainably extract big boosts to their living standards via property (and secondarily stocks). That cannot work in the end: 1% can do that, perhaps up to 10%, but not the 25-35% which is the bedrock of the Conservative vote. Also, the political effect of property depends on the number of property owners, and that is shrinking as property ownership is becoming more concentrated. Obviously the Conservatives are well aware of both problems, therefore their "high wage economy" (continue to extract higher rents from businesses via higher wages that then result in higher rents) and the various initiatives to broaden again the minority who are property rentiers.

* But what really matters politically, but perhaps not sociologically, is not whether *thatcherism* continues to win seat majorities; thatcherites don't really care whether Conservatives, New Labour or LibDems win a majority, as long as they are all thatcherites, and they are, all of them fully endorse property and finance based rentierism.

As to the latter point I think that Starmer is not an opportunist that would do *anything* to win elections; I think that he is sincerely committed to the ideology and practice of thatcherism, and just like Blair he would not want to win on a leftism platform, as his current dire poll numbers and doubling down on thatcherism show. There is an interesting analysis here:
«it is clear that older non-graduate homeowners form the largest section of Conservative support. [...] All those non-voting renters should be fertile ground for the Labour Party. [...] The Labour Party needs to get more of people in these groups out to vote.»

But the historic mission of New Labour and thus of Starmer is to ensure that "trots", that is non-thatcherite voters like renters and workers, are not represented by any major party, so that they have nowhere else to go but abstention, as during the "glorious" period 1997-2010 when the percentage of voters went from around 75% to around 60%.

That renters and non-propertied workers must not be allowed to influence politics is fr more important than which thatcherite party wins the most seats. The personal wealth of most Conservative, New Labour, LibDem MPs (and also of their "sponsors") depends on continuity thatcherism, keeping a high level of redistribution towards property and finance rentiers from renters and workers.

Therefore Starmer and New Labour will not appeal to "trot" voters like renters and workers even to win elections. Which means that currently it is the Conservatives that talk the talk of appealing to workers (certainly not to renters though).

So even if the Conservatives are/were in decline, as long as all the main voting options are thatcherite, very little will change except the names and some secondary policies.

Blissex said...

«But what really matters politically, but perhaps not sociologically, is not whether *thatcherism* continues to win seat majorities»

oops, I had meant to write "is not whether the [Conservatives, but] *thatcherism* continues to win seat majorities".

The point here is that for most LibDem and New Labour and Conservative MPs what matters is thatcherism, and property/finance rentierism not the specific logo and flavour. Sure careers matter too, but for New Labour or LibDem MPs with a property portfolio a Johnson government is much better for their wealth than a Corbyn government, or any other non-thatcherite.

Corbyn himself lives in a townhouse probably now around £2m, but I have no doubt he would accept a fall in property prices that would reduce the valuation of his to £1m or £500k if that meant Labour voters (renters, buyers, workers) would be able to afford better housing, but I suspect that very few "opposition" thatcherite MPs from New Labour or LibDems would disagree with this commenters on "The Guardian" some time ago:

I will put it bluntly I don't want to see my home lose £100 000 in value just so someone else can afford to have a home and neither will most other people if they are honest with themselves

Turkeys (usually) don't vote for Christmas...

Blissex said...

There is another factor than concentration of property ownership that might lead to a shrinking of the Conservative coalition: the switch from defined benefit to money purchase "stakeholder" pensions. But I am not sure how this will play out electorally.

The switch away from defined benefit involves three main changes:

* Pensioners on money purchase will get not a fixed income but a variable income depending on how well the stock market are doing.

* The pension they will get will be in most cases roughly a third of what an equivalent defined benefit pension would have been, because the switch from defined benefit to money purchase was done to obfuscate a cut of two thirds (except for directors and top executives) in employer contributions into most pensions (usually from 20-25% of wages to 6-8%).

* For many if not most pensioners around 30-60% of their pension fund will be "absorbed" by a stack of pension management fees.

The expectation of thatcherites is that stock based money purchase personal pensions will create a large number of voters that will be pushing for extreme thatcherite policies to push stock prices up, but I am not sure because they might be resentful for the variability of their pensions and how small they will be and much of them will be "absorbed" by fees.

In particular the insecurity of money purchase pensions might turn many pensioners against thatcherism, unless the stock market keeps booming forever and ever without crashes, or viceversa might make them even more obsessed with the security of the property markets, that "always" go up, as the Chief Economist of the BoE described:

«Haldane believes that property is a better bet for retirement planning than a pension. “It ought to be pension but it’s almost certainly property,” he said. “As long as we continue not to build anything like as many houses in this country as we need to ... we will see what we’ve had for the better part of a generation, which is house prices relentlessly heading north.”»