Time to get beyond the anti Tory reflex?

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.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    This is something that ‘New’ Labour (particularly down England way) knew well and set about not only understanding but winning over the the practical ‘working man’ who had obviously warmed to Mrs T’s economics of the greengrocer – and as soon as the The Sun declared it’s love for the Labour party Tony knew it was mission accomplished. Trickier if you dont intend dumping your principles but still no excuse for blinding yourself to what your potential electors think.

    Looking at it from the Irish side if the fence, it might be fair to also ask when will the Tories get beyond their anti-Nationalist reflex – they were doing well for a while with their no strategic interest but have now revereted to type and the old thinking hasnt gone away you know as evidenced by FST in the Westminsters and they have also recently been spotted heavily armed with anti-Nationalist weaponry – with the Hatfield talks in one hand and UCUNF in the other.

  • Whilst Gerry’s statement that the Conservative party has long had an enduring popular appeal amongst the British working class may have been true at one time, but not any more, the last of the Tory held big cities where the working class voter held sway turned red in the post WW2 period. True their was a blip in the 1980s but it was just that, and working class people in larger numbers certainly did not vote for the Camronite Tories.

    In the past, Patriotism and a lack of confidence, were the things which mainly made W/C voters vote Tory, although in the 20th century post LP foundation, even at its height WC Tory voters were always a minority.

    The fact is the majority of the WC became totally disillusioned with the Tories after WW1, first at their failure to build a peace fit for heroes and then in the 1930s when workers were made to pay bitterly for an economic crises which was not of their making.

    It is not an tribal anti Tory reflex which dictates the lefts hatred of the Tories and never has been, our hatred is based on the exploitative and class prejudiced record of the Tory party when in Office, they always chip away at the gains made by WC people and since 1948 their failure to maintain properly, what most workers regard as the crown jewels of the British way of life, the NHS, or have you forgotten the state the NHS was in when Labour came to office in 1997.

    WC people are no more stupid than middle class people, and often far more generous, who they support electorally is based on what is best for them and theirs.

    As to Gerry Hassan, he looks like a man who is about to support the Coalition’s ferocious attack on the working classes, still nothing unusual there, we are used to such people deserting us when things get tough. By the way Mick, you might send Gerry a political map of Scotland.

    Why you believe Gerry is on the Left I have no idea, he belongs to that rather nasty bunch who ‘stole’ the assets created by Stalin’s gold from the CPGB membership, so they could featherbed their own careers as “writers, commentators and thinkers about politics and ideas.” Ever since they got their hands on the communist party’s financial assetts and deliberately imploded the CP, they have been on a tiresomely loud journey to the political right.

  • Seymour Major

    It is not an tribal anti Tory reflex which dictates the lefts hatred of the Tories and never has been, our hatred is based on the exploitative and class prejudiced record of the Tory party when in Office

    Well, at least that is an admission that there is hatred.

    Words such as “exploitative” and “class prejudiced” are highly inaccurate descriptions of what the Conservative Party is all about. In politics today, most of the political bigots are on the left and most of the political lies come from the left.

  • Alan Maskey

    Mick

    The NHS does not work and need a major overhaul. Please do not defend it.
    Please also do not pretend the war mongering British Labour Party is left wing.
    Please tell us more about robbing the funds of the Communist Party. That looks interesting.

  • Barry the Blender

    Whilst Gerry’s statement that the Conservative party has long had an enduring popular appeal amongst the British working class may have been true at one time, but not any more, the last of the Tory held big cities where the working class voter held sway turned red in the post WW2 period. True their was a blip in the 1980s but it was just that, and working class people in larger numbers certainly did not vote for the Camronite Tories.

    That’s a load of absolute bollucks. All it shows is that Tories aren’t popular in cities. This reflects a more geographic development of voting patterns where the North votes red, and the south vote blue. That gives us a scenario where superrich stockbroker belt Renfrewshire East votes Labour, but white van man, poorer Thurrock in Essex went Conservative.

    Look at Birmingham for instance, the tories achieved huge swings in seats like erdington or northfield but crashed and burned in the very comfortably off Edgbaston where it expected a dead cert gain.

  • “but white van man, poorer Thurrock in Essex went Conservative.”

    Barry

    Let me ask you, do you know anything about Thurrock, have you ever been there, checked out how the votes stacked up at the last election. Looked at the class mix of the bourough, seen what Thurrock’s people have experienced over the last three decades? Or did you just think great, Mick has given me a chance to use the word bollocks.

    By the way these days I am told, it is all but a greater London suburb and it is only a matter of time before it becomes one.

    There were a host of reasons why the Tories took Thurrock, they vary from over the last decade a mass input of lower middle class white flighters from inner London, the retirement of a very popular LP MP, who was replaced by a less popular local candidate, working and middle class racists returning home to the Tory Party from the BNP and WC LP voters abstaining because they were unhappy about the unequal way NL dealt with newcomers to the UK.

    What did not occur was WC people voting en-mass for the Tory party candidate and all your talk of bollocks will not make it so. As I wrote, places like Thurrock have been here before, as there was a similar rightwards blip in the Thatcher period. Although to be fair to you if I must, at that time more workers went over to the Tories due to Right to buy.

    To repeat myself, WC people are no more stupid than middle class people, and often far more generous, who they support electorally is based on what they believe is best for them and theirs. The Tories at the last election were offering nothing which was likely to entice the WC vote en-mass, whether in Thurrock or the country as a whole and so it proved.

    Do some working class people vote Tory, of course they do, in great numbers no, did they vote en-mass for the Camronite Tories? as I have already said, No!

  • Athelstan

    “WC” is often used as a euphemism for a toilet. Lefties like Mike sometimes give the impression that they hate real (as against to idealised) working class people. Is this an unconscious giveaway?

    Mick’s argument above seems to be based on:

    working class = good
    lower middle class = bad

    How does he define the two?

  • Do assure me that all those commenting here have at least cast an eye on the likes of:

    Bob Mackenzie and Allan Silver: Angels in Marble, Working Class Conservatives in Urban England;

    and

    Eric A. Nordlinger: The Working Class Tories.

    Both of those date from the late 1960s (as I recall). So, here are three possibilities:
    (a) someone is reinventing the wheel, unnecessarily;
    (b) someone is recycling second-hand material;
    (c) there are genuinely new sociological discoveries to be considered;
    (d) it’s just another opportunity for the ultras to get their rocks off (see above).

    If (c), give us a few clues.
    If (d), big yawn. Nothing of interest here, folks, move along sharply, please.

  • … or even four. It is Saturday evening.

    Ish thish a glass I shee before me?

  • Reader

    Malcolm Redfellow: So, here are three possibilities:
    Five possibilities:
    (e) One or more of the following has changed politics since the 60s:
    The Winter of Discontent; Thaggie; the Poll Tax; New Labour; the invention of the ready sliced loaf; one or more of several recessions; Derek Hatton; Tom Robinson.

  • Glencoppagagh

    I presume Hassan was writing in a Scottish context. State dependency in Scotland has become almost as bad in NI so that even the majority of the middle classes won’t vote Tory out of self interest.

  • Seniorhas

    Malcolm,
    I can also recommend on this point Martin Pugh’s recently published book “Speak for Britain: A New History of the Labour Party”.

  • This bright, clear but now hazing Yorkshire morn, with the frost not yet clearing off the slateroofs, leaves me at peace with the world. Even to those who couldn’t see a point if it stabbed them in the …

    My complaint with this thesis is: 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.

    Anyone still nursing that mid-last-century notion hasn’t been near a canvassed doorstep in a while. Haven’t you all noticed that the modern Labour Party is irredeemably middle-class? That was true even back in the ’60s, of course, when Christopher Logue epitomised it in his poem about why “I vote Labour because …”

    The truth is the English gut working-class (the Tory party is an endangered species anywhere else) are far more likely to be attracted to UKIP, the BNP or whatever stirs in the boondocks (e.g. the EDL). Any lingering Tory vote among the so-called “working-class” is the modern equivalent of the “upwardly mobile” lower orders: still welcome in the local Constitutional Club as long as they’re only there to sup the ale and don’t stand for the Committee.

    Any “ideological” shift there has been over the last (say) half-century can be adequately measured by the continuing decline of Beaverbrook’s remarkable creation, the Daily Express, which truly represented and was genuinely of that type of Jingoism. The parallel rise of The Sun is the difference between a distinct, valid and now lost voice and a big fat lip.

  • “This bright, clear but now hazing Yorkshire morn, with the frost not yet clearing off the slateroofs, leaves me at peace with the world.”—— Lovely.

    Malcolm,

    Your so right about the Daily Express, my own father was an avid reader and a working class Tory, back then my interest in the paper mainly ran to Rupert Bear. Although, if you look back at the calibre of the Daily Mirror and Express, which ‘I think’ were both read mainly by working class folk and compare them with the Sun and Express of today, then one gets an idea of the malign influence Rupert Murdock has had on the British media.

    I would suggest his attempt to by back control of News International is because he wishes to further lower the tone of the British media by turning Sky News into a UK version of Fox News.

    Enjoy you day.

  • Dewi

    “Time to get beyond the anti Tory reflex?”

    Nope – time to reinforce it. A Cabinet of multi millionaires in it all together whilst reducing benefits to disabled people by
    billions. And we are paying banking bonususes of £7.3bn this year. The world’s gone mad.

    http://www.disabilitywales.org/1168/2325

  • Thank you, mickhall, a true gentleman. There are so few of us left.

    And I must agree with you on all points.

    I learned my radicalism (long before I became a paid-up socialist) from my parents’ copy of the Express. That was under the editorships of the magnificent, marvellous Arthur Christiansen and Bob Edwards. Anyone who needs to know what motivated the English lower middle-class between the ’30s and the ’60s need look no further than the files of those days. And what will they find? Some excellent writing by the likes of Michael Foot, Nye Bevan and Harold Wilson.

    The essence of the modern British lower-orders upstart (of which I remain proudly one) was defined by Nye. It’s in Hansard, vol. 395, should anyone wish to refer. Michael Foot’s biography of Nye has it encapsulated, however:

    ‘Very important man. That’s Councillor Jackson,’ his father had said to him. ‘What’s the Council?’ I asked. ‘Very important place indeed and they are very powerful men,’ his father had replied. ‘When I get older I said to myself: “The place to get to is the Council. That’s where the power is.” So I worked very hard, and, in association with my fellows, when I was about twenty years of age, I got on the Council. I discovered when I got there that the power had been there, but it had just gone. So I made some enquiries, being an earnest student of social affairs, and I learned that the power had slipped down to the County Council. That was where it was and where it had gone to. So I worked very hard again and got into Parliament, and it had gone from there too.

    The ConDem coalition is rapidly ensuring that local authorities have no powers left. They are introducing “Henry VIII clauses” to give ministers retrospective powers to abolish any body of which they disapprove. They are reducing the power of the Commons, while creating 50 peers to keep the Lords obedient. This week 50,000 students took the conflict onto the streets; and were right to do so. La lutte continue.

    And, yes, today was a very fine day. An hour in a decent book-shop. I liquid-lunched in a gas-lit bar (Hales in Harrogate) with an ample sufficiency of Timothy Taylor of Keighley Landlord Bitter. Then to a learned dinner party involving two pre-teenaged grandsons who put me aright on the problems of the world (and Class 2). What, short of the odd Murdoch tarred-and-feathered, could be better?

  • Neil

    Dewi on the money, they’ve shown their true colours yet again, ideological cuts that affect the poorest, while ensuring the richest in society get a better deal. They even managed to ensure the poxy Windsors make an extra 30m quid a year, they need it don’t ya know. How else will they be able to pay their servants? Another example below of the Tory’s looking out for people’s wellbeing over big business, and that’s just for starters. Gotta meeting but I’ll post further examples of why the Tories whould never be voted for by working class people ever again when I get back.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/12/mcdonalds-pepsico-help-health-policy

  • Neil

    The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s figures yesterday showed public sector employers shedding jobs faster than expected: more than four in 10 will have culled 14% of staff by the end of the year. The private sector is hiring – but mainly temporary Christmas work. Layard’s research shows the lasting damage: even those who find jobs again are left for ever less happy, feeling life is more dangerous.

    The government has put deficit reduction before the damage done to people. As daily distress emails report cuts in services that do most to ease suffering, I find talk of happiness hard to swallow. Children’s centres are taking a hit as councils cut back, leaving isolated and depressed mothers on their own. Breakfast and after-school clubs are closing, leaving neglected children without the second home that schools were becoming. Connexions offices, which picked up the young fallers and “neets” (not in education, employment or training) are closing, along with youth programmes that helped cut crime. Frail old people are losing home visits. Housing benefit cuts forcing families to uproot to places where they know no one will cause immense suffering. The poorest teenagers are about to lose the educational maintenance allowance that paid their travel to college and gave them a little money of their own. Look at what is about to hit the arts, a great source of pleasure. If fewer go to university as a result of tripling fees, the sum total of happiness will fall: people with degrees record greater life satisfaction than those without, a cultural enrichment beyond mere earnings.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/16/unhappiness-david-cameron-wellbeing

    Cathy Warwick, the general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said she had serious concerns that there were too few midwives to ensure proper standards of care for new mothers and babies.

    “I fear for the future of maternity services, that the quality of care will fall and that safety could be compromised. I fear that midwives who are toiling away doing their best will become even more disillusioned,” said Warwick, who represents the UK’s 30,000 midwives, in a hard-hitting speech to the RCM’s annual conference in Manchester.

    “Most of all I fear that women and their babies will be ill-served by maternity services. The government’s lack of response about this seems at best bewildering, and at worst a clear refusal to do something about it.”

    She accused David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, of breaking promises made before the election to increase midwife numbers by 3,000. Writing in the Sun in January, Cameron said: “We are going to make our midwives’ lives a lot easier. They are crucial to making a mum’s experience of birth as good as it can possibly be, but today they are overworked and demoralised. So we will increase the number of midwives by 3,000.”

    But since taking power both men have consistently refused to honour that pledge, said Warwick. When the NHS business plan was published last week, it contained no mention of midwife numbers.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/17/government-reneges-on-midwives-pledge-says-rcm

    They lie, they tell you “we’re all in this together” while cutting services for the poorest in society, they put KFC in a position to dictate dietary health policy and advice, they give their friends in big business more influence while syphoning off a very quiet 30m pounds pay increase for their German Overlords and shit all over students (well, poor ones anyway).

    They are Thatcher all over again, the samed ideological attacks disguised as money saving measures like for instance the student fees – any student starting a course next year won’t pay the bill back for an average of more than 30 years. So that’ll help end the recession in 2040 but has fuck all to do with the one we’re in now.

    One can only hope that once people really start feeling the pinch as the UK copies the policies followed by the ROI they’ll see the Tories for what they are, which to my mind is evil, and realise working class people voting for Cameron is akin to pre war German Jews voting for Hitler.

  • Neil

    Oooops a little more:

    NHS ringfenced against cuts – four year freeze in spending coupled with annual increase of 4% in demand for services mean that jobs and departments are being cut.

    Tory pledge moratorium on A&E maternity units – even Chase Farm hospital, the location the Tories chose to announce the ‘moratorium’ is now slated for closure among many others (see link for a lis of about ten maternity, paediatric and A&E hospitals also closing now the moratorium is no longer required due to Tories now being in power).

    Job cuts in NHS – worst example is in Oxfordshire where they plan to cut 100m from the wage bill, or 4,000 of their 14,000 staff.

    Tory white paper entitled ‘Liberating the NHS’ include 20 billion in savings over 4 years, abolition of Strategic Health Authorities & Primary Care Trusts with a loss of 60,000 jobs. Also includes forcing all NHS trusts to become foundation trusts and generate much of their money through private health treatment. Can’t forget the the Tory business partners now can we?

    Almost all of the 1 million staff of the NHS to become staff of private companies.

    NHS ringfenced eh? Lies. And all of the above, unmandated, thanks to their lie that they wouldn’t cut the NHS, it looks like their set to destroy it, placing it into the hands of shareholders. Ah well, at least the Health Authorities like the private companies and McDonalds, KFC and PepsiCo mentioned in the link 3 posts back will all have the same objective in mind. Getting richer at the expense of the electorate.

    At least we don’t have to worry about the many millionaires in the Tory party, they should be able to get their mum a hip replacement. Your mum might not be so lucky.

    http://www.therespectparty.net/breakingnews.php?id=939

  • The parallel is there with NI I think?

    A few weeks ago, I think it was implicit in Trevor Ringland’s good wishes towards a post-sectarian centre-left illustrated the need that a post-sectarian centre-right has for a proper opponent.

    I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to see a Conservative Party thrive before, but personally, I’d prefer Labour v Conservative politics to communal politics any day of the week?

  • Neil

    Lord Young, the prime minister’s enterprise adviser, was forced to issue a grovelling apology last night after he claimed most Britons “had never had it so good during this so called recession”.

    He had also suggested that George Osborne, the chancellor, had deliberately inflated the rhetoric around the spending cuts to protect the pound.

    He claimed that in a few years people would look back and wonder what all the fuss was about, and said most of the complaints were coming from those who thought the state had a right to support them. He also described the loss of 100,000 public sector jobs a year as within the margin of error in the context of a jobs market of 30m workers, adding “people will wonder what all the fuss was about”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/19/lord-young-grovelling-apology

    There ya go folks. You never had it so good. Well according to millionaire Lord Young, again I say his Ma won’t be left wanting if she needs a hip replacement. Pity about your though.

    He’s obviously referring to those people on tracker mortgages, they never had it so good. Well assuming they aren’t paying their 300k mortgage on a property worth half that. They maybe aren’t doing so well.

    Or assuming of course that they haven’t lost their jobs, their homes or both. Again, not so good.

    So, if you’re one of the people on a tracker and your home isn’t in negative equity and you haven’t lost your job and you aren’t a student, disabled, a housing executive tenant in a big city, a public sector worker, a nurse or a patient, you never had it so good.

    Remember folks, we’re all in this together! It should give you some comfort as it’s the only time you’ll be in such good company, especially if the millionaires in the Tory party get their way.

  • Neil

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1332319/Calls-Tory-councillor-resign-claims-said-Hitler-right-idea-gipsies.html

    Hitler had the right idea about gypsies according to Tory Mayor Mike Eckersley.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/24/house-of-lords

    Tories ‘bonfire of the quangos’ up the shitter, due to the fact that it would give an individual minister so-called Henry VIII powers over independent bodies such as the IPCC and Judicial Appointments Body – which chooses judges.

    Would it be cynical to suggest that the Tories (and their fall guys in the Lib Dems) deliberately set this up to cull only a few quangos, but at the same time to enact legislation to give ministers power over the remaining (not yet confirmed for the cull, but on the list so under the Tory minister’s power) quangos?

    Would it be cynical to suggest the Tories have an ulterior motive in seeking these powers over independent bodies that investigate the police and appoint judges? I doubt it.

    He predicted: “There is a real, real danger that the Liberal Democrats could implode – their role has been a sleight of hand”.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/24/new-leader-union-alliance-of-resistance-cuts

    He added “I think the same could be said about the Conservatives because none of these devastating announcements made by them were debated or discussed by the electorate. By next May the national health service is going to privatised completely without any proper parliamentary debate. Ordinary people would be absolutely horrified if they knew what the issues were.”

    Len McCluskey of Unite.

    And a nice 10% housing benefit cut for those folks that have been on benefits for more than a year. That’s good, don’t ya think? I mean, obviously anyone out of work for more than a year doesn;t want a job and should be punished.

    That’s likely to be all the more true once the coalition have pushed 100,000 public sector employees onto the dole. When 10 people apply for every one job staking shelves in Tescos it might be worth considering that there are no jobs for these people. But fuck ’em anyway, right? I mean 50 quid a week’s more than enough to people who’ve been paying their taxes for the duration of their careers, they can take a wee cut more it makes little difference. They’ll be hungry anyway so sure they can go without food for a couple of days.

    And at least we know according to the millionaire heavy and handsomely employed Tories (well those that can keep the mask up unlike Lord Young and conceal their delight at the opportunities for regressive cuts afforded by the recession) that we’re all in this together.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve some things to do at my duck pond.

  • Neil

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1332319/Calls-Tory-councillor-resign-claims-said-Hitler-right-idea-gipsies.html

    Hitler had the right idea about gypsies according to Tory Mayor Mike Eckersley.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/24/house-of-lords

    Tories ‘bonfire of the quangos’ up the shitter, due to the fact that it would give an individual minister so-called Henry VIII powers over independent bodies such as the IPCC and Judicial Appointments Body – which chooses judges.

    Would it be cynical to suggest that the Tories (and their fall guys in the Lib Dems) deliberately set this up to cull only a few quangos, but at the same time to enact legislation to give ministers power over the remaining (not yet confirmed for the cull, but on the list so under the Tory minister’s power) quangos?

    Would it be cynical to suggest the Tories have an ulterior motive in seeking these powers over independent bodies that investigate the police and appoint judges? I doubt it.

    He predicted: “There is a real, real danger that the Liberal Democrats could implode – their role has been a sleight of hand”.

    Also from today’s Guardian (reposting this without the links as my original is awaiting moderation):

    He added “I think the same could be said about the Conservatives because none of these devastating announcements made by them were debated or discussed by the electorate. By next May the national health service is going to privatised completely without any proper parliamentary debate. Ordinary people would be absolutely horrified if they knew what the issues were.”

    Len McCluskey of Unite.

    And a nice 10% housing benefit cut for those folks that have been on benefits for more than a year. That’s good, don’t ya think? I mean, obviously anyone out of work for more than a year doesn;t want a job and should be punished.

    That’s likely to be all the more true once the coalition have pushed 100,000 public sector employees onto the dole. When 10 people apply for every one job staking shelves in Tescos it might be worth considering that there are no jobs for these people. But fuck ‘em anyway, right? I mean 50 quid a week’s more than enough to people who’ve been paying their taxes for the duration of their careers, they can take a wee cut more it makes little difference. They’ll be hungry anyway so sure they can go without food for a couple of days.

    And at least we know according to the millionaire heavy and handsomely employed Tories (well those that can keep the mask up unlike Lord Young and conceal their delight at the opportunities for regressive cuts afforded by the recession) that we’re all in this together.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve some things to do at my duck pond.

  • Neil

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/8160151/Tory-peer-apologises-for-gaffe-claiming-the-poor-breed.html

    Tory peer says benefit cuts will encourage the poor to breed. ‘That’s not sensible, is it?’ he said.

    The mask slips yet again.