Just been reading Gerry Hassan’s thought provoking column in the Scotsman this morning. In it he argues that the left’s tribal anti Tory reflex is blocking it from gaining any understanding as to why the Conservative party has long had an enduring popular appeal amongst the British working class.
“This left approach always assumed that given the correct programme and leadership, working people would vote ‘the correct way’ . Thus until the age of Thatcherism the Left, with only a few isolated exceptions, never seriously examined Conservatism. Instead they were happy to paint a caricature and wait for the whole thing to collapse.”
He goes on to argue that in Scotland Toryism since Thatcher has become equated with being anti Scots (in their rapid deindustrialisation of northern Britain, the Conservatives were also complicit in creating this impression) but that is time for Scots to recognise that “the Tory story is a rich, genuine one”. He argues that the time may have come for Scots to hug a Tory!
It’s an interesting pitch from someone on the Scottish left like Hassan. It may be that with three major parties fighting for breathing space on the centre left here, real politics cannot fully be realise until there is a genuine and popular right of centre movement.
I would only quibble one detail in Hassan’s piece. It was the Whig PM Lord John Russell and the Corn Law Tories who cut Famine relief for fear it would stifle the Market. The Tory Robert Peel fought and lost and early Tory rearguard against market fundamentalists in the general election of 1846, with disastrous human consequences.
All of which in fact merely bolsters his original point.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty