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”.