Where did the ‘One Nation’ Tories go?

Because my politics is not tribally based I hope I can try to look at the politics of other parties with at least a degree of objectivity. On this occasion, I want to look at the modern-day Conservative Party and contrast it with its not too distant past.

I look upon the present-day Conservative Party as one which seems to present itself, almost proudly, as being the party of spivs and chancers. In my view, it’s a very different beast from the former ‘One Nation’ Conservative Party of say Ken Clarke or John Major and the significant shift is possibly one that started less than 25 years ago.

My Dad, George Robertson, was a Tory, sometimes a Party member and a one-time Director of Maghull Conservative Club. Through him and via my time as a local councillor I have met many Conservatives. In straightforward terms, I’d say the vast majority of them were reasonably comfortable middle-class folk who wanted low taxes, strong law and order, their wealth protected and they could not abide liers, spivs and chancers – not cricket, un-English and rotters are how I think they’d see them.

Obviously, I did not share Dad’s politics but on one occasion, when he had the opportunity to vote for me (as I was standing in the ward he lived in), he told me that he had done so. It led to an amusing (for both of us) exchange where I pointed out that he should have voted Labour as I was too left-wing for him. However, whilst not supporting his politics I had the opportunity to try to understand them. Each day he would read his Daily Telegraph and he’d make remarks about Margaret Thatcher (I think he wondered if she was a bit too soft at times!), Tony Blair (he was far too much of a leftie for Dad), John Major (possibly too much of a leftie for the Tory Party) etc. etc. What became apparent to me was that Dad was worried about where the Tory Party was heading and indeed the Daily Telegraph too.

If I understood him correctly, he feared that standards were dropping, that spivs and chancers were coming to the fore in his party and I think his views were shared within his circle of Conservative supporting friends. To put this in context Dad died in January 2009, so I’m talking about things going on within and around the Tory Party in the years before then.

Obviously, all political parties evolve over time and they, in UK terms, drift around the political spectrum driven by political dogma or events beyond their control. However, what Dad saw happening to his Party in say the 10+ years prior to his death and then taking into account what has subsequently taken place, hasn’t the present-day Conservative Party fundamentally changed in ways that would have seemed inconceivable only 25 years ago? If Dad was concerned about the rise of spivs and chancers 15 years ago, what on earth would he think of the Tories as they present themselves now?!

So where have the Conservatives of the not so distant past gone to? Yes, many will have passed away, some will have all but been thrown out of the Tory Party and others will have left of their own accord. Yet, even taking that all into account, where have the ‘One Nation’ Tories gone to? Who are they supporting politically in the very much changed right-of-centre political spectrum?

Starmer’s Labour Party seems to be on a mission to recapture the white, working-class, right-wing voters who switched to the Tories in recent years. To do that Labour needs to look, at least to that section of the electorate, more than a little Tory and to have a policy stance right-of-centre. But, of course, these presently Tory backing electors are not middle-class, they don’t have the same values as ‘One Nation’ Tories did so is there any wonder that they’ve changed the Tory Party quite fundamentally. Indeed, Johnson and Starmer act as if the white, working-class, right-wingers are the only part of the electorate they have any interest in!

This situation leaves the majority of the electorate with a feeling of being unwanted unless, of course, they are tribal Tory or Labour voters who will continue to support their own clan no matter what it stands for. But look at it this way, who is fighting for the poor and disadvantaged in our society and who is now fighting for the middle classes? If Labour and Tories are only interested in white, working-class, right-wing voters (predominately those in work) then it means other sections of our society are being politically cut adrift but with the hope that tribal party loyalty will pull them in to vote for their usual party.

We are used to the Labour Party swinging from left to right as such has always been the case, but my view is that the Tory Party is now a very different animal from the one it was only a generation ago. Our politics, in general, is more right-wing as a right-drifting Tory Party has pulled Labour along with it too. As a Social Liberal of the left, I also worry that the Lib Dems have lost some of their radical, progressive edge which was more evident in the Charles Kennedy era.

So my case is that the Conservative Party has fundamentally changed, it has lost its previously dominant ‘One Nation’ Tories and to me, it looks like it has very much embraced spivs and chancers. A party where any form of common, mutual or state ownership is deemed to be another act of socialism that needs to be put back in the private sector. One Nation Tories could at least see a place for some public services being in public hands. And of course, the change here is that the Tory policy agenda these days seemingly has the ‘backing’ of the white, working-class, right-wingers, although in reality they are very much being played as the Conservative Party will always be about the comfortable and wealthy.

And oh yes, what about Partygate? Well, my old Dad being a Conservative with standards thought Boris Johnson was a wrongun donkey’s years ago. I think he’d have said about recent events that the man is no Conservative and should never have been elected as their leader. Indeed, I’m pretty sure Dad would have walked away from the Tories when Johnson became their leader, such was his dislike of the man.

A New Year message from Kia Strummer – Leader of the UK’s Supportive Opposition

Well, where to start? OK, probably best to term this an apology rather than pretending to be upbeat.

Labour has been in a mess for a long time now but we do like a good bit of internal warfare as it helps the Tories and frankly, they need all the help they can get presently. If you look back we’ve helped the Tories with Brexit by trying very hard not to oppose them whilst taking our place on the Brexit fence leaning both ways at the same time. I think we succeeded in that aim very well but that fence was very uncomfortable.

Our real battle with the Tories (the only one really) is for those pesky white, right-wing, working-class voters who used to back Labour but who deserted us in their droves because of our Brexit, or Lexit as we like to call it, stance. We’ve been seen as the ‘muddle in the middle’ by those Brexit backing voters, stuck between the pro-EU Libs and Brexit loving Tories. But we want those right-wingers back where they should be within Labour and we’re prepared to do all that’s required to get them back.

So here are my questions – Do we need to sound more right-wing, even more than Labour does already? We could get Rachel Reeves to re-run her 2013 idea to be harder on benefits than the Tories if that would do the trick? Or how about Labour going back to its socialist roots in a right-wing way? Jez Corbyn tried that in a left-wing way and it went down like a brick budgie with the right-wingers who beggared off to the Tories. Please, please, I’m begging you; let me know your ideas to get right of centre voters back in their Labour home.

And speaking of Jez Corbyn, it was a huge laugh for Labour right-wingers when we were trying to look like we were backing him whilst we were actually trying to do him in as our leader. There were many social democrat-type MPs singing the Jez/Momentum tune so as not to be deselected and constituency Labour parties across the UK were pretty much all fooled by some terrible acting. But seriously the right is back in control of Labour again, at least until the next round of left V right which may well be just around the corner. So Labour needs to look and feel Tory whilst not being seen as Tory at all, maybe we could aim to be One Nation (Tory) Labour? Someone dig out Ted Heath’s policies, please.

So Labour is clear, in 2022 we’ll be swinging more to the right and less to the left, in fact, if we can drop anything remotely leftie from our policies then so much the better. Yes I know, Labour is always stuck in the past, refighting old battles with Thatcher and Blair but by becoming One Nation Labour we can go back to the halcyon days of the 3 day week and put the 1970s to rights. If that doesn’t get the white, working-class, right-wingers back nothing will!

So that’s Labour’s plan. Like it? Got any right of centre policies you think Labour should adopt? Why not drop me a line via a handwritten letter, very 1970s!

PS. I recently thought of that iconic 1979 Liberal poster, the one with David Steel (he was a bit of a leftie I’m told) in the middle of Thatcher and Jim Callaghan. Well, a remake of that classic poster could have the Labour Leader (not sure how long I’ll last in the job) in the middle with Tory and Lib Dem leaders on either side. Those Libs are still lefties so Tim Farron tells me, so with a new Labour slogan – Go muddle in the middle – all will end well for our reinvented Ted Heath-type Labour Party. What could go wrong?