Tuesday 29 August 2023

The Party's Over: Out Now!

Today copies of The Party's Over: The Rise and Fall of the Conservatives from Thatcher to Sunak officially hit the shelves. It is the partially rewritten and updated second edition of Falling Down: The Conservative Party and the Decline of Tory Britain, which came out in hard back a couple of years ago. The Party's Over adds about 20,000 extra words, covering the calamity of the entirety of Boris Johnson's premiership with and an expanded final chapter that takes in the Liz Truss interlude and the first steps of Rishi Sunak's government.

The revamped edition is a bit of a told you so. The original was mostly written during the first Covid lockdown when Johnson was at the height of his powers and commentators right, left, and centre were saying the Tories could look forward to a decade in office. When Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader few thought he'd be a contender after one parliamentary term. Remembering this is worthwhile as those same people now say Johnson was steering the Tories onto the rocks, and that a downturn in the government's fortunes was inevitable after such a long period in office.

That nevertheless poses an important question. Are the problems the Tories facing an issue simply of exhaustion, of the public getting fed up with them as they did in 1997 and 1964-66? Without peering beneath the surface, that appears to be the case. The antics of Johnson, Truss, and the do-nothing politics of Sunak are enough to give the most loyal Conservative voter pause. But, as the book argues, the Tories have a far more serious problem: a crisis of political reproduction. The mass base the Tories have built is utterly dependent on older people generally and retirees in particular, and is a coalition premised on high property values, home ownership, rising pensions, and (to an extent) shielding the elderly while attacking the living standards of working age people and gutting the state of its capacity to do anything. Voting Conservative is not a consequence of getting old, but of the tendency of acquiring property throughout one's life - however meagre it might be. If a Tory government is a block on this process of acquisition, it's not going to generate future Conservative voters. And that makes the job of winning elections progressively more difficult.

Therefore, while The Party's Over does survey the history of the Tories from the rise of Thatcher to today, it's more than a simple recapitulation of events. It pays particular attention to questions of political strategy, and how Thatcher's war on the labour movement was generalised into attacks on the (public sector-aligned) professional managerial class via her contempt for "expertise". This resulted not only in what we call neoliberalism, but the ongoing effort to stamp out collectivist politics and atomise people. The book therefore owes more to Marx, Foucault, and Wendy Brown than the usual touchstones of political science.

To mark publication day, I was interviewed by LabourHub with the headline "A red wall strategy is a non-starter for Sunak". Find out why by clicking through. And if you want a copy delivered straight to you day while supporting independent book shops, this is the best place to get it.

Over the coming months, I'll be doing trades council meetings, podcasts, bits of radio and so on to promote the book and its ideas. If you'd like me to come and speak to your group do drop me a line at the usuals.


Anonymous said...

Very worthwhile read.


Anonymous said...

The Party is over fro the Tory Party but not for Tory policies. Keir Starmer will see to that! The only way for change is to elect the Green Party into office. This may be achievable to forming a coaltion with with the Labour left.