Lord Hannan of Kingsclere is a conservative couple, writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020 and is now president of the Free Trade Initiative.
It was, as all experts hastened to explain, a vote of ownership. The Conservatives had England, Labor in Wales and the SNP in Scotland. In a crisis, people concentrated on the regime.
Yes. But we explain, in depressing detail, precisely what kind of regimes they met. They got together to release things. They voted gratefully to the administrations that granted grants, subsidies and interest-free loans. They were happily approving of the idea of being paid to stay home.
In fact, they had no choice but to vote for these things. Who offered an alternative? What politician, in the current mood, wants to be the obscure one who reminds everyone that accounts have to be settled? Who wants to be a Cassandra and delve into how the debts of the last 14 months will drag us down over the next few years? I mean, look what happened to Cassandra.
The rise of big government is paradoxically bad news for Labor. Boris Johnson has always had something about bridges, airports and others big projects. Even before the success of the pandemic, the man who once described himself as “Breza Hezza” was beginning to unscrew the taps of spending. But the blockades altered the tax terms of trade in a total and irretrievable way. Not so much Brexity Hezza as Brexity Jezza.
Corbynists claim a late claim. “You see? There [itals]era[enditals] a magical money tree after all! Your boy is spending more than our boy ever promised. ” Yes, it is. And that is precisely the Labor problem. How can Keir Starmer – how can anyone – criticize the government for not spending enough? The usual Labor line, that is, that they would be more open than those heartless conservatives, is redundant.
If it cannot attack the government on fiscal policy, what else can it resort to in Labor? Deafening? Yes, yes, good luck with that. The country soon decided it liked the prime minister. Sure, it can be seen as a bit chaotic, but it’s doing things that people like. At a time when the UK is leading through a vaccination program that reveals the world, complaining about a redecoration that is not supposed to have cost a penny to taxpayers is not only useless, but self-defense. . Work has become an hopelessly small aspect during a crisis. Wallpapers for Boris, curtains for Keir.
Ecological problems, then? Again, forget it. The Prime Minister has embraced the ecological agenda wholeheartedly like any head of government on the planet. According to voters, workers would pursue the same agenda, but in a less profitable and market-friendly way.
With the economy, ridicule and environmentalism, Labor is left with only the war of culture. Interestingly, this is one of the few subjects that unites corbynites and estarmerites. The problem is that it doesn’t unite them with anyone else. The two Labor factions fight furiously on Twitter, but both are a league away from the patriotic workers who used to be the mainstay of their party.
As Khalid Mahmood, the Birmingham MP, said after the result: “A London-based bourgeoisie, backed by social media warrior brigades, has effectively captured the party.” Mahmood was the first British Muslim MP and is generally happy to take on causes for his co-religionists outside Birmingham. But it has little time for identity politics, at least not in the upset way the British left seems to import from the United States. Common with most Britons of all ethnic backgrounds, Mahmood, a patriot, proud to have had ancestors in the Merchant Navy in the two world wars. It is revealing that his love for the country must be at odds with the Labor leadership.
The cultural war is where work is weakest. Corbyn was more or less openly anti-British, automatically betting on any nation against his, regardless of subject. Starmer at least sees why this is unpopular and does his best to be photographed occasionally with flags. But, arriving late and uncomfortable with patriotism, he offers a slightly creepy version. The country as a whole, not just the former Labor base, but more than 80% of us who think that, with all its flaws, Britain has been a benign force over the years, perceives its inauthenticity. As I write, opinion polls suggest a conservative 11-point lead.
The combination of social liberalism and extreme internationalism shared by Corbynites and Estamerites is, out of a few cities with large universities, unpopular. That can change over time, of course. Historian Ed West, rarely a man with a positive outlook, believes that demographic change will eventually align the electorate with Labor culture warriors. The population, he points out grumpily, “it will be more diverse, more urban, more lonely, with more university education and more impoverished by rental prices”- all the trends that help workers.
Maybe yes. In fact, how Henry Hill pointed out yesterday in this place, the only region in England where conservatives have started to slip is my old area, the south east. The results of the local election produced investments in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Oxfordshire and (by extrapolation of the new boundaries) to Buckinghamshire. But, to be brutally frank, it makes little difference. Under the system of the first past, the Conservatives can slip much further into the home counties without endangering more than three or four MPs. For the next couple of election cycles, at least, long awakening won’t matter much.
No, much more alarming is the way in which fiscal conservatism has simply disappeared, one of the first victims of the closures. Although the country is reopening, there is almost no talk of reducing spending to where it was, let alone starting to repay our debts. As after 1945, a collective threat has made us more collectivists. We yearn for a great government. We believe we have earned a pay rise and are voting accordingly. The Labor Party may have had it; but, alas, it has the free market.