Monday, May 19, 2008

How to lose the next election

It may be too late anyway and I doubt it would be a decisive variable but if you're a Labour activist and you are determined to make the party's prospects at the next election more dire than they are already, you could always take up the 'Tory toff' line that the local party are apparently pushing in Crewe and Nantwich. This is profoundly wrong-headed for at least two reasons:

1) Please don't make excuses for it on the basis that it's old-fashioned 'class war' rhetoric because even if it could be accepted that this was desirable, it isn't even that. This has nothing to do with an electoral promise to make Britain a more equal society, to take on bastions of privilege. It isn't even a meritocratic line that says they want to make Britain a place where it doesn't matter where you went to school.

No, it's saying everything is as it is and there ain't nothing we can do about it but vote for us because we're better placed to manage it than a bunch of toffs. This isn't class war - it's culture war. And even on this basis it doesn't work. Blair went to Fettes, for goodness sake - hardly an inner-city comp. If the fact that it's leader went to a posh school is a good reason for not voting for a party, where were the class warriors making this point in 1997, 2001 and 2005?

And while we're on the subject, what do these London commentators think the background of the 'son o' the manse' actually consisted of? Dismal presbyterianism, certainly (only a Guardian writer could think this was a selling point) - but being the son of a Church of Scotland minister is hardly a background in which one would learn first hand the reality of biting poverty.

2) To the extent it is embraced by the party, this culture war bullshit is indicative of a tendency that I've argued previously is absolutely suicidal for any democratic political party - mistaking your rank and file for the electorate. We already know hatred of toffs plays well with the grassroots through the colossal waste of Parliamentary time that was spent banning fox-hunting. It just so happened this was an issue that while relatively unimportant to them, was in tune with the majority of the electorate.

But they're not going to buy this shit. Labour claimed credit for benign economic circumstances that were in reality beyond their control - now they're going to have a job convincing people that the bad shit that is happening now is beyond their competence. They have nothing to say about inequality; social policy has to do with out-Torying the Tories whilst they abandon their core vote. But vote for us anyway because the other lot are led by a toff? Gimme a break. There's a lot of reasons why this line won't take but here's another one, as if it were needed: don't you think it's just possible that the average floating voter might ask themselves, "If Cameron's such an ineffectual fop, how come I can watch him giving the 'Clunking Fist' a beating any time I tune in to PMQ's?".

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