In the Guardian today, Polly Toynbee argues that the election result is proof that Britain is no longer a conservative country. The state of Labour, its widely disliked leader and all other things considered means that, for Polly,
‘ for Cameron to win a meagre 36% of the vote was a phenomenal failure. Not a failure of Cameron’s personally, nor of his campaign. The Conservatives were beaten because this is no longer a Conservative country.”
She uses the capital ‘C’ but presumably means the lower-case variety too. For Polly and her friends, we are therefore a ‘progressive’ country now.
It’s hard to know where to start in describing the wrongness of this conclusion. This week, a survey found that 75% of people had considered moving abroad during the past year. Similarly, in another poll last year, almost half of those asked would have emmigrated if they could. I think it’s safe to say that these people are not giving up on the country because they are dissatisfied that it isn’t ‘progressive’ enough.
On all the major issues facing us – the EU, immigration, social breakdown, welfare dependancy – poll after poll signals huge public concern in ways which signal a great potential support for traditionally conservative sentiments.
The fact is, these issues were barely touched on during the election campaign, if at all. It was a phoney campaign, hugely enjoyed by the media class who are infatuated with process maybe, but otherwise utterly hollow. Most importantly, there was no choice put before people; there was no one place for them to go to register their concerns. So instead they went everywhere.
But the crucial point about Toynbee’s claim is this: the Cameron high-command probably goes along with it. They have internalised this reasoning. They too no longer believe Britain is a conservative country, or if they do, they’re rather embarrassed about it and pretend it’s not so.
I saw a nice little illustration of this only last night. At a meeting in central London organised by the uber-networker Carole Stone to consider the post-election landscape, I made a couple of the above points from the floor. By way of an answer, one of the guest speakers, the failed Tory Mayoral candidate Steve Norris, railed against ’bone-headed’ right-wingers who nobody should take seriously, and rambled on instead about the effects of the death of ideology. There was simply an implicit refusal to take on board the notion that there was anywhere to go other than the hallowed ‘middle ground.’
So what are we left with now? A bunch of politicians, to the public eye hardly distinguishable, horse-trading: a gaggle of bald men fighting over a comb.
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