Deprived of their social and ideological anchor, the Tories may never win again.
The great British middle class has changed. Its characteristics, outlook, values and relationships with the rest of society are very different to how they were. Take just one measure: the educational background of people in middle class occupations. In 1945, only 17,000 people graduated from university. Last year, there were 330,000 graduates
The sociology of this change is not yet fully understood, and the political consequences even less so. But we can already see the broad political ramifications of this development. For the Conservative Party, it’s clear that the old traditional true blue values simply don’t have traction any more.
The Tory-led government is unpopular, out of touch and presiding over a Downing Street-created double dip recession. You would have thought that they would exercise a degree of caution and perhaps pause to reflect before blundering on.
Yet the Tories continue to drive policies that the electorate clearly disagree with. The truth is that they are more concerned with holding the Parliamentary Party together than actually listening to the people.
The 1922 Committee elections have given us a glimpse into the real turmoil the Tories are in. Behind the blunders and incompetence of an increasingly unpopular government, a civil war is waging on the Tory benches.
On one side are Cameron and Osborne. Desperate to influence the outcome of the elections and take control of the 1922 Committee, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have backed the modernising 301 Group slate. On the another side are the core Tory traditionalists, who are enraged to see the Prime Minster attempting yet again – he tried to effectively abolish the Committee in 2010 – to infiltrate the committee and keep it in line with the frontbench. And lastly, the “anti-factionalist” side which see all the infighting in the party as dangerous and feel that Cameron needs to clamour for unity at all costs.
A huge effort is being made to represent the London mayoral elections as a merely localised personality contest between two “flawed” individuals. This is a convenient myth that conceals more than it reveals. To truly understand what is happening in London, we need to see the wider context.
Looking back to the financial crisis it is easy to see in retrospect that the collapse in the markets was used to increase the power of an oligarchy of elites. The millionaires were rewarded and the millions are paying more. The Sunday Times rich list shows the wealthiest 1,000 gaining fabulous new wealth. But it’s austerity for the rest.