So it’s Halloween, that lovely time of year when all things nasty and scary rear their heads for all to see. But the great thing about Halloween is that they disappear back to the dusty confines of the guest-room wardrobe one day later. Unfortunately, Labour’s 12-point lead, while being both very nasty and scary (for both our party and country), seems somewhat less inclined to do this. With their greatest lead over us so far this Parliament, according to today’s YouGov poll, how do we…
… turn the tide?
In my previous posts on this topic, I discussed our party’s polling history, as well as the two issues (the economy and Europe) which we need to get right if we are to perform well in 2015. Today, I’m going to discuss a problem which lies at the heart of our party, and yet we Conservatives seem very unwilling to tackle: our blue blood. But more importantly, why this one issue may make it virtually impossible for us to get Dave back into Number 10 again.
So, we’re back to this old boring debate again. Does someone’s education really matter in the 21st century? Is it really that important if David Cameron went to Eton, and then Oxford? Surely we’ve overcome the dogma of class by now? It’s where someone’s going, which matters, isn’t it? Not where they’ve come from…
Whatever your view on the topic, I believe it’s one of the single most important issues in the British political arena today. As the fallout from Andrew Mitchell’s supposed Freudian slip has shown, coupled with George Osborne’s cut of the 50p tax, and Iain Duncan Smith’s rather unpopular reorganisation of the welfare system, we have the image as a party of the rich, the wealthy middle classes, who have little interest in the plight of the ordinary man in tough times. What’s worse, is that we’re actually perceived as a party which is trying to brush over and even cover up this aspect of our character; an aspect which still lurks below the surface, and which embarrassingly reappears from time to time. Our party’s image is not good, at all.
Fine, the background of our cabinet ministers is not our greatest selling point. But it’s a bit far to say it will cost us an election, isn’t it?
I don’t think so.
With many of the problems our government faces, it has a plan to solve them. This demonstrates not only an acceptance of the existence of a problem, and a willingness to overcome it, but also a set of policies which can be tweaked and altered to ensure that the problem is dealt with effectively, and in a popular manner. We can apply this to the economy, to Europe, to education and the NHS. Virtually any problem. And this is what the electorate wants to see; effective action to get Britain back on her feet.
But the image of our party is different. The electorate can see the problem; I can see the problem. I hope that you can see the problem. But the party cannot afford to see the problem, even if, deep down, it knows it’s there. Why not? Because the private schooled and Oxbridge educated dominate our heart; it has become systemic amongst the top echelon. We’d need turkeys to vote for Christmas if there was ever to be change.
So the party doesn’t accept that there’s a problem, so it has no plan to solve it. This shows the electorate we believe that there is no problem, we have no willingness to overcome it (if it even exists in the first place…), and we have no policies to deal with it.
How will this cost us the 2015 election?
Firstly, by being totally out of touch with the British people. Again, according to YouGov polls right through this parliament, 46-53% of the electorate have consistently believed we appeal to only one section of society, rather than to the whole country. By comparison, Labour’s highest score on the same question was just 24%, and that was two years ago. By not addressing this problem, we’re demonstrating to the British people that we don’t see what they do. And you can’t be much more out of touch than that.
Secondly, we’re in very tough economic times, which despite what the left are saying, we’re all paying for. But that doesn’t change the fact that some very wealthy and very well educated men in Westminster are making decisions which will cost those at the bottom our society very heavily indeed. And today, this approach to economics forms the heart of the political discussion worldwide. It’s THE issue of our generation, and while economically we may be getting it right, politically, we’re getting it very wrong.
Broadly, what I’m saying is that I see where the left and Labour are coming from. But I disagree with them; I think they brush over our successes, and blow our failures out of proportion. However, too few of the electorate disagree with them, as the polls clearly show. We can no longer stick our fingers in our ears, our heads in the sand (as hard as that may be with our finger simultaneously in our ears…) and pretend that our rich party image is not a problem. Because doing so will cost us power, and condemn our country to the Labour party, and a future of yet more unsustainable spending and decline.
So how do we solve this problem? Well, when I first began writing this blog post, that’s what I thought I’d be able to tell you by the end. But after these two hours in front of my laptop, I feel there may be no real way to turn the tide, at least not in the short-term. In my opinion, our party has a cancer, which it developed from the collapse of the British meritocracy in the 1970’s*. We can play with other policies, and try to compensate. Hope that by getting right on Europe and the economy, that the electorate will turn a blind eye to our image. But ultimately, we need to cure the cancer, not treat it with apathy and let it become worse.
But first, we’ll have to accept it exists.
* I highly recommend a viewing of Andrew Neil’s Posh and Posher: Why Public Schoolboys Run Britain. It’s widely available online.