Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Back To the Future

Politics is about power and pragmatism. Party labels mean very little. That's the default position. And it's how things were managed in Britain all through the 19th century and well into the 20th. But then something anomalous happened. The Labour party  elbowed aside the old Liberal party and for a while- from about 1920 to 1990- politics seemed to be about ideas.  In practise there may not have been much to choose between the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and the Tory governments of Ted Heath, But in theory- in theory at least- Labour stood for the interests of the unions and the working class and the Tories for those of business and inherited wealth and their visions of the good society were shaped accordingly. It was a time when your vote placed you on one side or the other of a divide which had to do with both class and philosophy.  Your vote was a badge of identity. 

But for some time now it's been apparent that this state of affairs no longer exists. Since Mrs Thatcher destroyed the old working class- on which the old Labour party relied- a new liberal-capitalist consensus has been established and with it a new  political elite- made up of lawyers and investment bankers and advertising men and people who've never done anything but work in politics- which divides up into parties almost at random. We're back where we were in the Edwardian age, when the two main parties handed power backwards and forwards between them on the principle of "Buggins turn"  and- in the words of Hillaire Belloc-

The accursed power that stands on privilege
And goes with women and champagne and bridge
Broke- and democracy resumed her reign-
Which goes with bridge and women and champagne.

A day or two back an event took place that set the seal on this new-old dispensation. Labour premier Gordon Brown welcomed Mrs Thatcher- the old class enemy- to Number 10, posed with her on the front doorstep and told us how much he admired her and how he and she were both "conviction politicians"- whatever that means.  

For someone like me who grew up in that pocket of time when ideology mattered- to whom the Tories were always toffee-nosed scum and Mrs Thatcher "that evil woman"- it's all terribly bewildering.  The world as I knew it has passed away. Because I'm the age I am and  was brought up to believe it  my privilege and duty to participate in the electoral process I've never yet failed to cast my vote in an important election, but I do now wonder why I should bother.
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