There is a scene in the TV ‘Game of Thrones’ which is referred to simply as “the Red Wedding”. All addicts of the show will instantly know of this famous, or indeed, infamous scene. Without giving too much away, there is carnage as generations of a family are slaughtered in a few brief, unexpected moments. And that is sort of how it felt on Friday morning, as I awoke to find that Labour had been annihilated in Scotland and conclusively rebuffed in England, the Lib Dems had been annihilated just about everywhere, Balls was gone and then the resignations started. Swift and brutal stuff. John Piennar, BBC’s chief political correspondent, took up my ‘Game of Thrones’ analogy and ran with it. ‘Right now’, he said, ‘David Cameron must be feeling like Don Corleone in The Godfather as his rivals are serially mowed down in a dramatic coup de grace.’ Leaving aside the vagaries and deficiencies of our voting system, why did Cameron win and The Millipede lose? In brief, I think this is why.
Of course, it is obvious there is Scotland. Labour’s utter annihilation at the hands of the SNP means that Labour is always going to struggle. It has to make up too much ground in England, and in particular what I, and the Daily Mail, will call “Middle England,” meaning everywhere but the inner metropolitan constituencies. And why can’t it do that? Because it can’t make progress when “Middle England” doesn’t trust it on the economy, or like or trust its leader.
It’s not that anyone’s particularly in love with “Call Me Dave” Cameron or the Tories. Voters are just pragmatic. As I observed in a comment on yesterday’s post, I am not that keen on “Flashman” as Cameron is known to his own backbenchers, and I do not accept all that “we are all in this together” bollocks. We have a cabinet stuffed with major public school rich kids who will never know what it’s like to worry about what might happen if they lost their job or their business failed. That may not disqualify them from being effective ministers, by the way. In my experience a lot of rich, privileged people have got that way because they come from rather bright stock. But we are most certainly not “all in this together”.
And it’s been a rough few years for a lot of people, including me. But things are, for the most part, stable. Inflation is next to nothing, interest rates are low. There is some growth, and some new employment, though I have concerns about the quality of those jobs. I have no doubt that five years ago the UK was close to the financial brink, caused by both an international banking crisis and government spending which was spiralling out of control in reckless manner. I think we were going the way of Greece, in a handcart, fast. I don’t want to go back there.
First there is that basic issue that Labour has with credibility on debt and financial responsibility. Ed Balls was a problem, not an answer. His speech congratulating his Tory conqueror in the election was gracious. He might be a very smart man. But I have always taken the view that when it comes to taxing and spending, putting him (and The Millipede) in charge is the equivalent of the proverbial vampires in charge of a blood bank. I think a lot of people feel the same. Then there is The Millipede/Beaker person/thing himself. I am sorry, but he’s weird. The English are traditionalist, rather deferential but occasionally quite cruel people. I think people can accept that Cameron is capable of being a bullying “Flashman” type, as I understand his Parliamentary nick name to be. That’s sort of…well, to be expected really. That’s what toffs do, isn’t it? But the English don’t like weird, they don’t like geeks. There is no long-standing worship of “the intellectual” in England, as you might find in France, for example. A good thing, I would say. Hence all that cruel “Fuck off Beaker” stuff on Twitter. Harsh, but inevitable.
Then there was the SNP. The prospect of a Labour SNP axis, though denied by Millipede, was obvious and toxic to the hobbit folk of the Shires on England. The prospect of Scottish raiders pouring south and looting the Treasury is anathema to many English voters. My impression from being out and about is that this played large, as the Tories thought it would. Then there was THAT BLOODY STONE. I’m sorry, but what the HELL was that all about?
And then – a minor detail. Russell Brand. There was a pithy line in The Times yesterday:
“The trouble with democracy is that sometimes it refuses to be influenced by a narcissist with logorrhoea and a YouTube Channel.”
(Logorrhoea: noun. 1. Pathologically incoherent, repetitious speech. 2. Incessant or compulsive talkativeness; wearisome volubility – I didn’t know that until I looked it up).
Noting more betrayed The Millipede’s lack of judgment than getting down and personal and obtaining the endorsement of old “Rusty Rockets”. Will it engage you with “the kidz”, Ed? No, it won’t because the moronic and impressionable airheads who follow this ghastly shit are too lazy and to busy playing The Simms or World of Warcraft to be bothered to vote (even if they could work out who was who on the ballot paper), whereas grim, curmudgeonly hard-working (yes THAT phrase) faintly middle-class people like me will be so incensed and disgusted that you had anything to do with the colossal arse that they will get out and vote for anyone to stop you being anywhere near the keys to No. 10. As a strategy, it disgusted me. Russell Brand disgusts me. He is everything that is wrong with the modern world. Russell Brand was probably worth a good five seats to the Conservatives. All of these mean that a significant percentage of was “Middle England” was prepared to get out and stop you, even if it meant voting for a party for whom they have no real affection. Not all of them, of course, but enough to make a difference.
And then there was the awkward matter of those segregated rallies in Birmingham, which I found shocking, disturbing and profoundly disgraceful. I have heard nothing from you on these. But then, I didn’t expect to. But then, that leads to my final point: Here there is a problem. Labour’s bedrock vote was, of course, always founded on the urban working-class. To what extent does this exist anymore, and even where it does exist, can Labour rely on it?
One of the problems is that deep down, Labour’s ruling elite hate it. To be more precise, Labour hates white, working-class voters who in turn have always hated Labour’s positive fixation with immigration and multiculturalism. Not so deep down inside, many – not all, but many – of Labour’s elite and opinion formers actually hate the section of society the party was originally created to serve and represent. They hate what they regard as its small-minded bigoted stance on the Great Multicultural Experiment. In this context, as we remember from Gordon Brown’s classic Gillian Duffy gaffe, “bigot” is defined as anyone who happens to raise reasoned and legitimate concerns based on real life experience. The intellectual Labour elite secretly despise the cultural “norms” of the white working-class. They don’t like their drinking habits, they don’t like their food, they despise their smoking, they don’t trust them to manage their own affairs, and if they show any aspiration, they don’t like that either. Thatcher was much more in tune with working-class “aspirational values” than Labour has ever managed to be.
Labour has become the party of a “metropolitan elite”, embodied by Te Millipede (and I suspect a rather disgruntled David Dimbleby, who looked like he was chewing wasps as the polls came in and the results went the Tories way). But it is now dependant on inner city, ethnically diverse constituencies for its votes. Just look at a map of the constituencies which the parties hold, coloured for each party. England is a sea of blue surrounding inner city islands of red. And in Scotland, it has been destroyed completely. The result is it cannot command a majority unless it woos the more affluent, more “small c” conservative middle ground.
The demographics of immigration may mean that in the end the traditional politics of England may well have been too deeply disturbed for this to be anything but a last hoorah for the Tories. But for now, it got a right kick in the Balls.