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The curious case of UK Conservatism

May 20, 2015

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We’re an isolated shrine to events that happened over 100 years ago – is it any wonder the country voted Conservative in the recent general election?

This will be my last thoughts on political events for a while to come (my minute readership sighs with relief). The dust needs to settle and we need to give things time to stabilise before evaluating just what the Conservative government plans this term. None-the-less, there’s a very interesting point to bring up post election – and that’s perhaps us liberals have fundamentally misunderstood our own country.

Ranting, assignations of blame and supposed quick fixes is the de jour of the Left* post the current UK general election and I can see to a degree why many are taking that route. It’s quite scary how fast right leaning elements have worked to try and cripple any hopes of opposition in the coming years – if there was any doubt before that Cameron has now been swayed by an extreme fringe of backbenchers who have steadily infiltrated his cabinet, there’s not even a pretense to otherwise now.

Yet the most interesting aspect of the election really is just how wrong those of us opposing a Tory majority got it. With the media trumpeting Milliband’s ascension and thousands of thinkpieces being written (even I had a go) proclaiming his new found status as an uncool messiah who would sway the electorate, we genuinely thought that at the very worst we would have it was another hung parliament, followed by a Labour coalition. We need to start asking just why it is we got that so wrong.

We live in a country with thousands of years of history baked into it. Whilst that’s quite encouraging to a degree and at least stops us falling into the troubling trap of patriotism without a cause that America and Australia suffers under, it also has it’s problems. Alan Moore himself once exclaimed that England is a mausoleum to people and ideas long past their prime and of late, the recent protests have had some wondering just quite why it is we venerate the past as much as we do.

That veneration I think ties into a degree of repression and Catholic guilt over the dissolution of (and perhaps longing for?) the British Empire, that seems to be woven into the unconscious fabric of English life. It means that, to a degree, a lot of people in the UK are more conservative than other countries. So with that, is there any wonder by nature our country is conservative?

I don’t really have any answers to this – it seems that overall The Left is quite fragmented. Whilst I wouldn’t argue that’s a bad thing, it does mean that at the moment all we are relegated to is damage control in our local constituency. Considering most of us don’t have the means to live outside of the current political system, (or at least I would hope have the empathy not to abandon others to increasing marginalization and being stigmatized for not caring only about themselves) we have a choice.

Do we want to leave things for another four years, or do we want to get more involved to produce a country, and a world, that we want to live in?

 

*that ever amorphous blob that claims to be liberal, yet houses a surprising amount of homophobia, transphobia, slut shaming, rape apologism and more. Even worse – it has an overwhelming number of beardy white blokes talking crap. 

Image taken from this site.

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From → Life, Reading

2 Comments
  1. Great article! And to my mind there are two reasons why we got it wrong about there being a hung parliament. Firstly, as you point out, the fragmentation of the left meant that the opposing vote was split too many ways. As a Scot, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the SNP are partly the cause of that with traditional Labour voters going nationalist to oppose the Tories but that only accounts for a few seats. The main reason is the apathy in the electorate. Even though the majority of those who voted, voted Tory, that does not account for a majority of the population. And a null vote cannot be assumed to be a vote for or against. So as a nation, we need to engage the voters again, make sure they believe that their vote is important and will make a difference. To do that, the government needs to be made better accountable to the voting public. The voters need to believe that election promises will be followed through on and it really is a government for the people by the people. How to do it though? Compulsory voting is not democratic because it removes people’s choices, something the Tories seem quite keen on so they may be hoist by the own petard. So encouragement and reward may be the way forward. Link it to the national lottery? People are greedy by nature and will vote if they get put into a prize draw but that removes the reason for voting, even though you get the numbers. We just need to make politics interesting and relevant again so that means getting it into the curriculum. Something the Tories will never do. QED.

    • Thanks for the comment Susan!

      As to your points raised – the SNP and the media’s coverage can only be blamed so much. As it is, Scottish Labour have been running increasingly sloppy campaigns for the past decade or so, predicated on the fact that before the rise of the SNP, they thought they had a monopoly on votes. The head of Scottish Labour in particular showed a contempt for the electorate that contrasted quite horribly with his own incompetence and the SNP message, which was that the SNP were offering something real and tangible for Scotland; hope.

      As for voter engagement – well, its banging the drum that is hit after every election – the fact is that a lot of people have become disillusioned and the main political parties aren’t aiming for them anymore. They’re drilling down on their core supporters, who are increasingly becoming a minority. There is no proper left wing party left in the UK now bar the Greens, with the Lib Dens rightly decimated for a generation and Labour leaning right in an attempt to capture some of the Tory/UKIP vote amongst the working class.

      Perhaps we just have to accept that until the western world starts to recover from the financial crisis (which it seems the Tories seem to be engineering to last long enough for them to sell off the remainder of the public services) liberal thoughts will be in the minority? Or maybe just the thought that those engaging with the Left in the UK have let the vacuum chambers of social media and online punditry warp their overall impressions of how the country thinks?

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