13 April, 2010


A questionable assumption

Yesterday's Times editorial, essentially a panegyric to the tolerant nobility of the British people and the underlying benefits of immigration, begins
There is a school of thought that political correctness prevents the British public from speaking freely on immigration. If only we could, the thinking goes, we would all cry “send ’em back”, or at the very least “lock the doors”. This is a myth. It is peddled by those who either do not understand Britain, or do not like what they see if they do.

As the election of 2005 showed, to Michael Howard’s cost, we are not thinking what they are thinking. We are thinking something else.
Perhaps I'm a bit lacking on the tolerant nobility front, but I can't say that this oft-repeated trope about why the Tories lost the 2005 general election reflects my own experience.

Until the early 1980s I was a more or less automatic Labour voter, but the disastrous compromise leadership of that old humbug Michael Foot, the failure to deal with Militant entryism, rampant Clause-Fourism, fatuous debates about the number of Tory ministers who could be forced to dance on the head of a pin, and indeed the general headless-chicken chaos of the Labour party in the early Thatcher years led me, like the Gang of Four, to fold my tent and depart, never to return.

Since then I have voted tactically, accepting that my single vote under the FPTP system was not so much to elect an individual representative but to help to nudge the popular consensus in a preferred direction. I have never accepted the triumphalist nonsense of the safe-seat mentality: "It's a safe Tory seat, Lad. Tha vote's wasted if tha votes for t'Labour." The candidate with the most votes gets the seat, but it's the margin that keeps the buggers worried.

But in 20-odd years of shifting tactical voting I could never quite surmount those old tribal loyalties so far as to bring myself to vote for the Tories, even in local elections where in my view they tend to make more effective councils, spending the money sparingly rather than getting carried away with grandiose society-reshaping projects.

By 2005, I was already sufficiently concerned by mass immigration for it to be my number one election concern. Michael Howard began making noises about clamping down on immigration and seemed to mean it. I was indeed thinking what he was thinking. I had made up my mind to grit my teeth and vote Tory. And then Howard, caving in in the face of propaganda attacks from the other side against "the nasty party", bottled out.

The received wisdom is that it was Howard's tough stand on immigration that cost him the election. From my point of view, it was his failure to maintain that tough stand that cost him my vote.

I wonder how widespread that circumstance is.

I can't remember who I did vote for, to be honest; it didn't really seem to matter.

Oh and I have since broken that particular duck by voting for BoJo in the 2008 London Mayoral election. More because it was the only vote which would ensure the end of the Curse of the Red Newtfucker than BoJo's specific party-political allegiance, it has to be said.

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