Sunday 30 July 2023

On the Road to Nowhere

I'm almost embarrassed for the Conservative Party. While the Tories taking up the "cause" of the motorist was obvious after barely hanging on at the Uxbridge by-election, I wasn't quite anticipating how all in they're prepared to go. In a ridiculous interview with The Telegraph, Rishi Sunak tells Britain car owners that he's on "their side". Forgetting for the moment that motorists are also public sector workers, energy users, food shoppers, wage earners etc. Sunak is banking on those things that make drivers' lives a misery like, um, low traffic neighbourhoods, will re-ignite interest in the Tories. He says "When I’m lucky enough to get home to North Yorkshire, it’s more representative of how most of the country is living, where cars are important." Might he be on to something? After decades of attacks on public transport, outside of most towns and cities life without a car is very difficult. This is reflected in the number of cars on Britain's roads, which presently stand at 33.2 million. The Tory galaxy brain has surmised there is a voter pool here worth fishing in.

Sunak might talk about getting home to his constituency, but with his fondness for private jets and helicopters chances are it's not a run that's overfamiliar to him. Having difficulties with the very basic competencies of everyday life, and the old hoohah about keeping his Green Card are just episodes of an existence lived at a gilded remove from that of most people. The Tories know they have to make their man relatable, and waxing lyrical about the freedom and beauty of the car is one of them. Just don't mention that his garage must be bigger than most houses to store all four of the motors he owns.

Obviously, as the motorists' friend Sunak isn't about to announce lower petrol prices or anything that might help purses and wallets. But what it prepares the ground for is a link between traffic calming measures, the Boris Johnson-originated ultra low emission zone in London, green taxes and, ultimately, Britain's energy security. In a typically dishonest attack on Keir Starmer, he pushes further along with the attempt to frighten receptive punters about what a Labour government will mean. I.e. Less energy security, more dependence on Putin's Russia for energy, and fewer well-paying oil jobs in the North Sea. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you that the Tories are yet again pushing fossil fuel interests. As ever, they affect to help the little guy while servicing the big guy.

This new strategy can't be isolated from everything else they're doing. Becoming the motorists' party shares the lane with also being the anti-woke party, and the anti-refugee party. The outlines of the populist campaign the Tories want to run between now and the next election are visible for all to see. In the absence of Brexit and anything substantial to hang off the Labour leader, the briefcase "sensible" Sunak is trying to introduce multiple wedge issues that oppose groups of unsullied people against undesirable others and their constant ally, the liberal/remain/woke elite. In each case, through a combination of Tory rhetoric, policy positioning, and media framing the Tories are trying to summon forth angry collectives who are exercised by these issues to the exclusion of all else. The problem they have is Sunak is singularly ill-suited to being the figurehead of such a campaign (especially when internal opposition occasionally threatens to seize the wheel), and as a rule the public are actually not minded to ignore stagnating wages and the galloping cost of living. Which is what the by-elections the Tories are choosing to ignore have decidedly told us.

Image Credit


Ken said...

If you had waited a little longer, you would have woken up to the news of more oil and gas licences. As per your analysis of the rise in the green vote, I think I might look at the current betting odds for the green vote.

Phil said...

I think I'll be writing about that tonight.

Graham said...

I am not suprised by the Tories' turn as it is consistent with their free market beliefs.
I am, however, struggling to decern what Labour actually believe on these issues;
* Are they in favour of ULEZ restrictions ?
* Do they support LTN zones ?
* What do they think about the failed / non-existent technology that is carbon capture ?
It seems to me that Labour's strategy is that if they keep quiet, then the will inherit the "green vote" by default without the danger of annoying the motoring lobby.
All very clever but confirms Sunak's other attack point that Starmer is
unprincipled and doesn't actually believe in anything (other than his destiny to be the next PM)

McIntosh said...

And the SNP vote!

If I remember, an argument against independence for Scotland in 2014 was that the oil and gas were running out and their financial position meant they needed the English to subsidise them. And now we have the prospect of pumping out oil into the indeterminate future and revenue flowing into the UK Treasury.

Blissex said...

«After decades of attacks on public transport, outside of most towns and cities life without a car is very difficult. [...] The Tory galaxy brain has surmised there is a voter pool here worth fishing in.»

As usual the right-wing political strategists are not morons and attempting to portray them sarcastically as "galaxy brains" is cheap silliness, especially as they have been winning big time for over 40 years.

In particular I keep repeating that in the 1970s a right-wing think-tank figured out the highly non-obvious story that *at the same level of incomes/class/...* voters with cars, houses, share based pensions voted more often for right-wing parties than those who used public transport, rented, had defined-benefit pensions. Thatcherites from Thatcher and Blair themselves onwards have worked hard with that story in mind.

My guess is that car ownership has an "individuating" (as our blogger used this word) effect: people waiting for a delayed, poorly maintained train have a common attitude against the railway company, and can easily talk to each other and organise, those stuck in an equivalent traffic jam in their own cars would blame themselves for choosing the wrong route or time, and anyhow they cannot as easily communicate and organise.

Blissex said...

«All very clever but confirms Sunak's other attack point that Starmer is
unprincipled and doesn't actually believe in anything (other than his destiny to be the next PM)

What he believes in is hard to say, but is behaviour has been consistent, he has not been a craven opportunist that simply follows the wind:

* He has publicly and clearly rejected the "communist" 10 points inherited from Corbyn.

* He has publicly and clearly condemned and expelled or undermined all MPs and members with "trot" tendencies.

* He has always chosen the policy options most favourable to property owners, and business owners and bosses.

* He has consistently supported (even with a three-line whip at voting time) Johnson's/ERG's hard-brexit from the EU.

* He has always chosen, given the alternatives, endorsing the most authoritarian policy options.

If his many clear, repeated policy choices are a guide, his politics are consistently those of kipper thatcherism, with a side of "woke" posturing.

Perhaps his personal beliefs are not those of kipper thatcherism, but in his public politics he has been very consistent on that.

Anonymous said...

Luke Akehurst has a big role in choosing Labour candidates.

That is the Luke Akehurst who wanted to expel Labour members who campaigned against the invasion of Iraq.

Luke Akehurst is against the ULEZ, LTNs and such policies.

The chances of strong opposition to Tory policies in these areas is low.


Anonymous said...

Luke Akehurst is one member of the NEC.

He can't do that much without others supporting him.