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Sunday, 19 April 2015

General Election 2015: Who will vote for whom (and why, and what will they get)?


That's a terrible title isn't it?

Thing is, I've already written it on that bit of paper; so I can't change it now. You can't change things; once they're written on paper they're set in stone.

I'm trying to get my head around this General Election, so I've doodled the above in biro on a bit of A6 paper, investigating the -isms and trying to gauge what the core offerings of each party are, and who they'll appeal to.

Disclaimers: I haven't read any manifestos (other than Plaid Cymru's); I watched a couple of TV leaders' debates; I don't know much about politics; I listen to Radio 4 and sometimes watch political stuff on BBC TV; I read the Economist a couple of times a year; my parents were Labour voters (probable still are); I've voted Labour, Lib Dem and Green in various past elections; I have a chip on my shoulder about inequality (especially of birth and opportunity), but few practical notions of how society could operate in a more meritocratic yet altruistic way. Final, and most important disclaimer: I'm aware this is heavy conjecture. It's basically my digest of the rotten food people throw my way. I'm very happy to be told how stupid and wrong any (or all) of it is.

So bear with me. I'll deal with the big-two-and-little-one parties first, because the consensus in political commentary is that they're all offering different versions of a neoliberal economic/political philosophy: austerity, less big-biz regulation and reluctant-to-enthusiastic acceptance of Thatcherism.

THE NEOLIBERALS

Conservatives
From what I've seen, the core offerings of the Tory party going into this GE (what I'm calling the "bait") are FREE MONEY and CONSERVATISM. The former isn't an "ism" and I was loath to include it, but such is the party (and media) focus that I can't not. David Cameron seems to be all up in my media grill every day with a new not-so-subtle offer of a big wodge of cash to a relatively small demographic that one can only assume has som Venn-diagram-crossover with the inhabitants of Labour/Tory marginals. Commentators scoff, but voters sound understandably pleased. Beyond this they're offering system justification, and celebration of Status Quo (the band and the... status) but really what you're getting when you bite through the bait, is the hook of NEOLIBERALISM. With an emphasis on making life easy for bankers and business owners, and difficult for people who are either unwilling or unable to work. There are nods to POPULISM (largely for fear of losing voters to Ukip) but actually the CONSERVATISM thing itself is a bit of a nod, because much of what it meant in the past (which is the Conservatives' favourite place, traditionally) is now offered more honestly by Ukip. Tory voters will be THE RICH (obviously: the rich love Status Quo, because they are rich) and PRAGMATISTS; specifically those who tend toward CONSERVATISM but are willing to accept NEOLIBERALISM with a RIGHTIST leaning.

Labour
Labour's ideological position seems even less defined and connected to its roots than the Tories'. Phrases like "Red Ed" and "Blue Labour" coexist unironically and it's hard to work out sometimes whether friends or enemies of the party came up with one or the other. They're broadly offering LEFTISM, which is barely a thing, if not understood in opposition to something else (in this case, the Conservatives) and CENTRISM, which they suspect far more people want, and which one would think of as the realm of the Lib Dems, who, due to the deadlock between stoic PRAGMATISTS elements of both the big parties, were able to leapfrog into government. Of course, the hook beneath the bait is very much NEOLIBERALISM, with what can only be described as "token" nods to regulation of big business and more of a focus on securing taxation from THE RICH than THE POOR because THE POOR are mainly Labour voters, and PRAGMATISTS; specifically those who tend toward SOCIALISM but don't really expect it or even necessarily understand it.

Liberal Democrats
Lib Dems are really flogging the CENTRISM of their offering in a much more explicit way than Labour, who perhaps don't want to confuse or alienate THE POOR, who feel quite far away from the centre of anything. Nick Clegg is more or less stood with David Cameron in one hand and Ed Miliband in the other making weird Wizard of Oz references and saying "whoever you vote for, you'll get me." Pundits are very quickly sliding from forecasting his Strange Death to admitting the inevitability of his reprised role of Kingmaker. Given to expect a return to government (largely because of the increasingly clear incompatibility of any of the NEOLIBERAL parties with NON-NEOLIBERAL parties; and the unwillingness of Labour to ally with the SNP) the Lib Dems are making far fewer mad promises than pretty much any of the other parties this time, because they know they might be held accountable for them. Beyond the ephemeral CENTRISM is the LIBERALISM that influences Lib Dem policy, and from which they haven't strayed as much as either of the big parties have from their core supposed offering. For this reason, Lib Dem voters will be LIBERALS, as usual. They'll lose the few SOCIALISTS who got confused and voted for them last time, but that won't be enough to reprise their Strange Death. PRAGMATISTS will be put off voting Lib Dem en masse because they only really truly compete in historically LIBERAL constituencies.


THE OTHERS

Ukip
Ukip have distanced themselves from their last manifesto (indeed, leader Nigel Farage did quite some time ago) and are now offering something broadly focus-group-led masquerading as honesty by way of being what quite a few people want to hear: mainly stopping passage of bodies (or money) beyond Dover, and bringing back smoking in pubs. The trick of the management consultant is to show someone a mirror and say "Cor, you look lovely!" and this is Ukip's most successful political technique. While to those on the political left, Ukip's combined NATIONALISM and POPULISM is akin to guffing in a tent and not opening the zip, to those on the right it's a breath of fresh air. It looks a lot like the BNP from some angles, but it's not that much like the BNP in the grand scheme of things; the real hook beneath the simple and well-packaged brand is CONSERVATISM, which there is increasingly a gap in the market for since the Conservatives have gravitated toward NEOLIBERALISM. A word of warning from a cynic would be that the former mutates into the latter. History has literally shown us that. But Ukip-voters (and party members) often live in history, so perhaps that sorts itself out. Their voters will be CONSERVATIVES and NATIONALISTS; maybe RACISTS too, but only because the BNP, a party actually committed to RACISM, has more or less disappeared from view. The good thing about Ukip's target audience is that they actually vote.

Greens
The Green party are really hoping for a surge this time, like Ukip. But unlike Ukip, their offerings target disenfranchised Labour voters as opposed to disenfranchised Conservative voters, and this is reflected in their mutation into an entity offering no longer just ENVIRONMENTALISM, but also SOCIALISM. The real core of their being is still very much Green: cut them and they bleed sap. But the adapted offering will pick up votes from SOCIALISTS as well as ENVIRONMENTALISTS. The rub is that they won't tempt many PRAGMATISTS (who are unlikely to truly commit to either of the Greens' offerings unless there's a guaranteed MP at the end of it) and it's worth remembering that SOCIALISTS have numerous minor non-ENVIRONMENTALIST parties to vote for in some areas, and are by nature not a hugely united effort. (See: Spanish Civil War.) It's likely much of the projected Green vote will fall foul of hovering-pen syndrome (PRAGMATIST) general indecision (SOCIALIST) and hard-worn apathy (ENVIRONMENTALIST), but they might surprise us, as they did much of the nation earlier this year when it emerged they already had an MP, who had previously never been heard of outside of the non-gay bit of Brighton.

Plaid/SNP
You can't lump Plaid Cymru and the SNP together. But I can, and so I will. The former especially are not banging the NATIONALIST drum as loudly as they could; possibly for fear of alienating the quarter of Wales who are ENGLISH, but more probably for fear of alienating the majority of WELSH people who don't speak Welsh. While Plaid has emerged from it's lingualocked past, the SNP by virtue of HISTORY more than POLITICS never had such an issue. Both are now riding a wave(let?) of anti-NEOLIBERALIST fervour that's felt more keenly the further you get from That London, with all its BANKS, and offering a combined package of SOCIALISM, which is popular is areas of both countries, as evidenced by the Old Labour vote, and POPULISM, which everyone likes because it literally is the things they like. What both truly represent is NATIONALISM, which confusingly means both EVERYTHING and NOTHING in political terms. So this gives both an unshakeable air of untrustworthiness among NON-NATIONALISTS (who are, unbeknownst to themselves, actually implicit BRITISH NATIONALISTS). The one difference between the two parties is that the SNP, due to a combination of factors, almost won a referendum on independence last year, whereas Plaid did not. So one party (the SNP) will do much better than the other (Plaid). Even though both offer similar things to similar people who really do exist and aren't imagined. Those people are NATIONALISTS and SOCIALISTS, and the proximity of the two words is unfortunate but not to be read in to. Indeed, little can be known about the former (they really could be anything once nationalised) and the unfortunate voting-related truth (for Plaid) about the latter is that Welsh habits die harder than Scots habits. (No bulletproof monk jokes please.)

BNP
Finally, the BNP. The BNP offer RACISM and NATIONALISM. And the former at least is a genuine offering. The problem is that they lost that fat guy with the glass eye that apparently passed for charismatic in political circles, and Nigel Farage is doing decent POPULISM-driven canvassing among the elements of THE POOR that are disenfranchised with Labour but insufficiently PRAGMATIC to lump it; and, besides, their NATIONALISM offering is better covered by Ukip. Given that Labour and even the SNP are now offering token nods to RACISM, it has by virtue now more or less become part of the lexicon political correctness, as opposed to what RACISM-detractors previously supposed it was: i.e., the polar opposite.

Actually finally, there are apparently some parties in Northern Ireland, but they aren't allowed on (mainland) British media channels because they remind Mainland Brits (AKA "Brits") too keenly of the COLONIAL PAST of our NATIONALISM (because apparently neither Scotland nor Wales can adequately do that, being too physically, literally "British") and, in Northern Ireland's comparative lack of STABILITY and Status Quo, THE ALL-DEVOURING DREAD THAT IMPLICITLY INFORMS ALL OF OUR ACTIONS FROM THE MOMENT WE WAKE TO THE MOMENT WE FALL ASLEEP. As a consequence, in all but the possession of an agreed flag, Northern Ireland does a better impression of being a proper country than any of either Scotland, Wales, England, or the UK; let alone Cornwall, Yorkshire, the Northeast, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Wessex, etc., all of whom have their own political parties representing them in the 2015 General Election. (Alas, I can't claim to be able to even hazard a guess as to what they either offer or truly represent, baitwise and hookwise.)

Happy voting; I do hope you let your ballot spoil you!

A Velky.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful comment Mr Velky. I wish the journalists would adopt your language of "pragmatists" instead of floating voter. My own analysis is that they have all painted each other as representing the Deadly Sins. Tory = Greed, Labour = Envy, UKIP = Anger, Nationalists = Pride - all of which leaves the LibDems representing Lust and Sloth. Not a bad position if you want to win back that student vote.

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