May’s accidental success

by Dan Grummitt

If the polls are to be believed Prime Minister Theresa May has stumbled upon a winning combination ahead of this General Election. She has captured the votes of most of those who voted leave in the EU Referendum and held on to a significant portion of the more pragmatic remain voters.

It is this first block, though, that is the key to her success. Her predecessor David Cameron always felt that the Conservative party had to become more liberal to be electable and went for the votes of the opinion-formers and those with the loudest voices in the media and business. However, the leave side of EU Referendum created an unlikely alliance that May, with her more interventionist and socially conservative vision (in rhetoric and image at least) has captured. This unlikely alliance comprises blue-collar Conservatives, a chunk of the Labour working class which had long ago been abandoned by the party that was meant to represent it, as well as the traditional free-market and middle-class core that has always been Conservative terrain.

These new voters, many of whom stopped off on the UKIP train along the way, are overwhelmingly of the nation state persuasion rather than the globalist one and are variously called the ‘left-behind’, ‘uneducated’, ‘nationalists’, the ‘silent majority’ or even ‘racist’. However, a better term would be that of ‘Somewheres’ as used by journalist David Goodhart. Their opposites are the ‘Nowheres’ who are more comfortable in a globalised but paradoxically more individualistic world. The ‘Somewheres’ are simply the people whose opinions have been ignored for decades but who used to form the backbone of the Labour party back in the day when it wasn’t ashamed to be patriotic (perhaps best summed up by the single quote from Attlee’s Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin who, when speaking about Britain developing an atomic bomb, said: ‘We’ve got to have this thing [and]we’ve got to have bl***y Union Jack on top of it!’)

They are believers in a strong welfare state, strong defence,a strong family, and a strong national identity but are sceptical of uncontrolled immigration, aggressive liberalism, identity politics, and untrammelled free trade. They sometimes have unfashionable views that are viewed as either out of date or xenophobic when all they really want is what’s good for their family and for their country. They quite like their country the way it is, despite a propensity to moan, and don’t want it changed out of all recognition by globalisation. Also, and contrary to what others may think, most of them care about suffering in other parts of the world, but equally they recognise the importance of a largely homogenous national culture and that charity begins at home.They could be described in more flattering terms as the backbone of the country and had no natural home in either political party in modern Britain until the EU referendum, and the incompetence from Labour, created space for a realignment. Whether this realignment will be long term, and whether May lives up to her rhetoric, remain to be seen.

That May’s success is at least partly accidental is obvious. It couldn’t have happened without either Corbyn or, more importantly, the EU referendum which let us not forgot May was on the other side of. Sure, her image is far more appealing to these voters than Cameron’s ever was – as evidenced by the number of people who stress they will vote specifically for May rather than the Conservatives – and she has changed her position well to suit the political times we live in. The voters, though, were always there. They now have a voice. At least for the moment.

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