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11:52am on Friday, 8th May, 2015:

Interesting Times


Well that was exciting.

The Conservative party comprises a bunch of oddball people led by a decent man who is out of his depth. Labour comprises a bunch of decent people led by an oddball man who is out of his depth (well, until he resigns about an hour from now, anyway).

During the campaign, the only messages I saw on social media from people I follow were pro-Labour or pro-SNP. I didn't see anyone rooting for the Conservatives. This isn't because of the company I keep, as I'm certain that I know many people who do vote Conservative; nevertheless, none of them said anything election-related online. As for why they didn't, well judging by some of pretty aggressive ad hominem attacks on Cameron and Osborne that were posted, I suspect they didn't want to be on the receiving end of such abuse themselves. Indeed, it may well have steeled them to vote Conservative even more. It left Labour looking like the nasty party, not the Conservatives.

This wasn't just a social media thing. Many Conservative party election posters got defaced, but few Labour ones (except, I guess, in Scotland). This is not the kind of thing that wins over voters. It might shore up votes, in a "yeah, down with Thatcher, right on" kind of way, but it's going to do the opposite to waverers. How many people are going to think "well, my friends are all mocking the Tories so I'll vote Labour"? Answer: only the ones who weren't going to vote Conservative anyway (and even then they might not choose Labour for their vote). By being snippy and sarcastic, Labour made Conservative voters keep their heads down while building up resentment among them. There seems to have been some kind of systematic lying to pollsters, telling them what they wanted to hear instead of what's actually the case. Only when it came to the privacy of the ballot box were they able to show their true colours.

I'm now reading social media reports saying how this election was a disaster and how the country is going to be wrecked in the next 5 years. It's the same mistake all over again. Being vocal works, but only if you have positive things to say. If you only talk negatively, you have to make sure that no-one has anything even more negative to say about you. In Labour's case, the Conservatives did: they could wield the SNP and they could wield Labour's living the country beyond its means. Labour couldn't counter either of these, regardless of their reality or otherwise.

This is just one election, though it could be a turning point. Labour's basic problem is, and always has been, that it implicitly contains the seeds of its own demise. It's a party for working class people. The more it does for working class people, then the more working class people transform into middle class people. By helping its core voters meet their aspirations, it diminishes their number. Even the support from comfortable, middle-class people who have (or like to think they have) a social conscience is contingent on there being a socially immobile working class for them to feel paternalistic about.

I only saw one opinion poll that predicted a Conservative victory in this election. It was in the university's student union newspaper, and they asked two questions. The first was how the students polled would vote; the second was which party they thought would win. Labour won the former; the Conservatives won the latter. Last year, I'd come across this theory that asking who you think will win gets better results than asking who you want to win, so I did give this some credence. I wasn't expecting the Conservatives to get a majority, though.

If the Scottish Nationalists dropped their independence-for-Scotland agenda and rebranded themselves Scottish Socialists instead, I wonder how many seats they would have picked up south of the border.

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).