Out of Touch Conservatives…

Right wingers often mock the left for how removed its values are from the concerns of common men. What Corbyn’s success has proved (as, to some extent, did Trump’s) is that right wing values can also be out of touch.

Opinion polls have shown time and again that the British public is far to the right socially – supporting massive cuts to immigration and an end to parole for murderers – and far to the left economically – backing the renationalisation of the railways and an increased minimum wage of £10 an hour.

The average British person over the age of 25 would be a one-nation socialist. Corbyn and his team – vastly exceeding my estimation of their political nous – appreciated this and downplayed their support for immigration and minority affairs in favour of a campaign built around public services. It paid off.

Beliefs are not wrong because they are unpopular. An opinion could be held by one man and yet be right. But I think Conservatives overestimated the extent to which the public cares about their cherished ideas of economic liberalism.

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, reacted to Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to seize the empty mansions of millionaires to house the homeless victims of the Greenfell Tower fire by saying that it would represent “the abolition of property rights” and was “genuinely frightening”. Later, he observed that this inspired “more abuse than anything I’ve ever tweeted”.

One can’t draw too much from this. Online pile-ons are often engineered by extremists. But I would bet half my head that if Britons were polled on who they agreed with more, most would choose the Labour man. They houses are empty! They don’t need them! They aren’t going to stay! As it happens, I agree with Pollard that the rule should be upheld but I still think that the average Briton cares about “property rights” largely when he sees somebody taking his stuff. As an abstraction it is worth far less.

Again, I am not so much of a democrat that I think public opinion need determine justice. But if Conservatives want to win back the voters they have to get “outside the bubble” and appreciate people’s “legitimate concerns”.

About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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4 Responses to Out of Touch Conservatives…

  1. Simon says:

    I’m not sure what’d be healthier for politics in the industrialized world: Leftism and liberalism getting a divorce, or conservatism and libertarianism doing the same.

    This is probably more obvious for people who like me live in a country that unlike the UK/US doesn’t have a two-party system so the people corresponding to particular sub-factions of Labour+Tories/Dems/Repubs have their own distinctive parties.


    • bsixsmith says:

      It can’t come soon enough. What is also becoming increasingly clear is that the parties of the left and the right would have better chances than the liberals and libertarians. Macron bucked that trend but I suppose Mélenchon and Le Pen were more left and right than most. There are still extremes a lot of voters will not go to.


      • Simon says:

        For what it’s worth: If you look at Macron’s policy platform it will become clear he’s closer to the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson than to any of the Democratic candidates, except much more pragmatic – i. e. more willing to work with establishment liberals than with the ancap/paleocon crowd who don’t really have an apparent equivalent in most of Continental Europe, so his rhetoric is designed to appeal to that audience instead.

        I really wonder how much of political categorization is driven by cultural signifiers and rhetorical shibboleths than the underlying philosophical theory and practical policy proposals. There is again my overall observation that most people don’t have ideological worldviews as much as partisan loyalties.


      • Simon says:

        Now that you mentioned JL Mélenchon, it reminds me that last year I thought that Brexit and the rise of Trump would result in the biggest cultural shift of the Overton Window to the right in several decades… but apparently that’s not *quite* what has happened. Instead, much of the industrialized world’s political left has reacted with “if the right need to embrace their extremists in order to win we have to do the same” sentiments.

        According to that argument Mélenchon’s open admiration for Hugo Chavez and Jeremy Corbyn’s defending the IRA would be a feature, not a bug, in the eyes of either candidate’s supporters now that the current US president spent most of the campaign trail recycling his doomsday scenarios from the militia movement.


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