May 19, 2010

60-40 KINGDOM:

Good news, boys: we’re not a left-wing nation: Britain should be natural territory for a Lib-Con alliance, but its partners must learn to socialise with each other, fast (Daniel Finkelstein, 5/19/10, Times of London)

Last week, during the constitutional crisis that culminated in Jaguar cars pulling off one of the most brilliant coups in the history of product placement, I heard the repeated claim that there is a “progressive majority” in this country that needs a “progressive alliance” to represent it.

I am not sure where this idea sprang from. “Progressive” is the sort of word that communists used to use in the 1980s when they were organising conferences that they didn’t want you to know were financed by the Soviet Union. Real people, most of whom spend a remarkably small fraction of their time organising popular fronts, don’t use it.

But I think what all this talk of progressive majorities is really about is asserting that most people in this country are broadly on the Left and that, intellectually, that is the only place where the Liberal Democrats can function. And both of these assertions are wrong. Quite wrong.

If Britain was a left-wing country, it would not have been necessary for Tony Blair to pull Labour so far to the Right that its leading figures hardly know what it stands for any more. [...]

Britain is, thankfully, an increasingly tolerant and socially liberal country. And people want the old, the sick and the vulnerable to be cared for. They don’t regard public spending cuts as a “liberation”, they are nervous of them and support public services. But at the same time they are tough on crime, angry about mass immigration, suspicious of government intervention and sceptical (though not generally all that interested) about the European Union. They don’t believe expansive promises from politicians, and they think that the welfare system is being fiddled. This is far from being a broadly left-wing country.

This is a Britain — moderate, socially liberal, economically liberal, tough-minded — to which this new coalition speaks; for which it could almost have been designed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 19, 2010 1:36 PM
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