In Robert McKenzie and Allan Silver’s highly influential study of working-class Conservative voters, Angels in Marble: Working Class Conservatives in Urban England, the authors discuss how and why the Conservative and Unionist Party traditionally draws over half its support from working-class voters, equivalent to around one-third of the working-class vote.
Yesterday, the ‘angels’ turned their back on a Labour Party beset by antisemitism, identity politics, extreme social liberalism and far-left socialism.
While Labour’s vote held fast and even gained a little ground in certain metropolitan regions, it collapsed precipitously in the ‘Red Wall’ constituencies of the North and Midlands.
Labour’s next Red Wall may need to be built around the M25.
Going into the election, senior figures in the Conservative Party had identified ‘Workington Man’ as their putative working-class target voter. The eponymous constituency of Workington had only returned a Conservative in three of the past 101 years. In 1997, the Conservatives secured a mere 12,100 to Labour’s 31,700 votes. Yet last night, Workington decided it had finally had enough of Labour and duly elected Mark Jenkinson – a salt-of-the-earth local Conservative – to Parliament, vindicating Conservative Central Office’s faith in the appeal of their message to working class voters.
An analogous geographic realignment is underway in the United States where the ed-med-tech coastal counties dependent on sophisticated corporate welfare are increasingly voting Democrat, while flyover country is becoming more solidly Republican. The US heartlands and small-town England share a similar resentment at being treated like rubes by liberal metropolitans sneering at their ol’-time belief in limited migration and national self-determination. Those Labour PPCs courageous enough to speak to Workington Man on the doorstep, will have discovered that he was royally p****d off at establishment types frustrating the democratic will in their smoke-free, carbon-neutral backrooms of power.
It is a mistake to think, as many are suggesting this morning, that Workington Man merely “lent” his vote to the Tories. The seats gained by the Conservatives last night have the potential to become their heartland rather than just fleeting marginals.
For those classical liberals and fiscal conservatives who have made common cause with the Conservative and Republican parties over the past decade, all of this will come as a bit of shock. Austerity was relentlessly maligned from the left in the past election, despite the fact that David Cameron and Theresa May’s fiscal caution was a factor in the relative economic prosperity of the United Kingdom over the past decade. Despite caring no whit for the 200,000 unborn white, black and Asian babies killed annually in England and Wales by abortion, the ignorant ranks of online progressivistas informed us that austerity had led to 220,000 unnecessary deaths, a quite ludicrous claim.
Rather than fight the fiscally conservative fight, Boris caved, and promised to open the sluice gates of public spending, thus ensuring future progressivistas would be handed an even larger national credit card bill to repay.
This was Boris’s Trumpian turn, an abandonment of the classical liberal ideal in favour of beefed-up spending. What future now for classical liberalism in a Conservative Party competing with Labour in a big-spending beauty contest? What future now for British public finances?
The insufferable John Bercow – whose constitutional innovations facilitated deep-state stonewalling of Brexit – may be correct in describing Boris Johnson as a mercurial, Disraelian figure of uncertain convictions. It’s doubtful that Boris himself is uncertain of his deepest convictions, but he certainly is happy to keep the rest of us guessing.
Johnson must however understand one thing about his Trumpian turn: while Trump has frustrated fiscal conservatives within his base, he has worked hard to keep social conservatives on side, appointing socially conservative justices to the Supreme Court and rhetorically courting a religious right with who he clearly has little natural affiliation. Without this loyal base – a base that cares passionately about unborn life, the right to bear arms and religious liberties – Hillary Clinton undoubtedly today would be President of the United States. Without an on-side, charged-up grassroots, the Conservatives are electoral toast.
It would of course be economic suicide for the country and electoral suicide for the Conservatives for Johnson to follow the United States and Republicans down the big-spending road to perdition. As Benjamin Franklin warned, when the “people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the Republic”. American public finances are a busted flush, and the British Debt/GBP ratio is hardly that much healthier (107% v. 86%). When the tide goes out, the United Kingdom had better be swimming with its clothes on.
The challenge, therefore, for the new First Lord of the Treasury is to show that he can govern public finances well, cut bloat and abuse, and reduce the future liabilities of the British treasury.
The challenge for the new Prime Minister is to show that he cares about life from conception to death; cares about preventing the exploitation of women and the vulnerable in society; cares about protecting children from people trafficking, abuse and pornography masquerading as education; and, cares about integrating our communities and stopping mass migration.
For both fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, who are today merely glad not to be waking up to Comrade Corbyn, there is little solace to be found in Johnson’s rhetoric.
It remains to be seen whether there will be any in his deeds.
(c) All rights reserved.