Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Unenthusiasm rules

My guess is that if the British people as a whole were asked to sit down to take the Ten Propositions of Toryism* test (from my last post) they would rack up a pretty high score. Seven out of ten at least. It shouldn't surprise us, then, that the Tories were in government for the bulk of the last century. Why, though, do they ever lose? Let's look at elections since the '50s (the post-war Labour landslide was a one-off).

Firstly, the couple of narrow Labour victories in the mid-'70s can be explained away as highly peculiar. They were the upshot of the country experiencing a sort of national Stockholm syndrome. Having been kidnapped by the trades unions, it began to feel it could only be protected by the unions' political arm, the Labour Party. This was clearly an unusual national-psychological hostage situation, and one which it is difficult to believe will be repeated.

The other two periods of Labour success since the '50s feel more characteristic and typical: the first being the victories in the mid-'60s under Wilson and the second being those under Blair in the '90s and '00s. These have a common context. As Pravda used to say, it can be no coincidence that they occurred during periods when the country was euphorically enthusiastic about itself, this enthusiasm being validated by Americans who happened to notice us briefly. We're talking, of course, about Swinging London and Cool Britannia (both labels invented by US magazines, I believe).

So it may be that the British are only capable of abandoning the Ten Propositions during spates of unusual self-confidence and self-love (though we do seem to need the US to confirm that we're great - we worry that otherwise we might simply be delusional). A sort of national euphoria leads us to believe that yes, we can start from scratch, it would be quite straightforward to reorganise the country to make it much, much better, and whilst we're at it let's sort out the rest of the world too and, yeah, forget history, look at what the kids are up to - aren't we a young country! Enthusiasm uncurbed.

This helps to explain why there's no enthusiastic anticipation of the next Tory government - this is simply the normal state of affairs. What's more, I can't imagine we're going to enjoy another period of hi-jinks for many a long sub-par year. I see unenthusiastic Tory rule stretching out long into the future...

* I use Tory and Conservative interchangeably even though some would argue they have distinct meanings. Personally, I've always preferred Tory as it was originally a label for an Irish brigand, a more romantic and edgy association than Mr Major's 'invincible suburbs'.


worm said...

Personally I've never understood anybody who gets excited about a particular politician or party- In '97 I thought all the people getting in a froth about Blair changing the universe were a bunch of gullible simpletons (and I was 19 at the time). If history has proved anything, its that bar a tiny handful, every politician's reign ends in disappointment and bitter acrimony.

would be willing to bet thats where Obama's headed too.

If you dont get too excited about anything, then you wont be too disappointed by anything!



Sean said...

Whats needed is a return to 19th century politics of Conservatism V Liberalism. These are the two traits I think you will find in us all.

Its Liberalism that's lost its way to a false progressive view called Socialism.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Hmm. Conservatism (with a small "c") is maybe every country's back-off stance though, Communist countries included. Yeah, what happened to The Liberal Party? Thay can't all have been "disgraced", surely.

Gaw said...

Personally, I feel a bit soiled having written about politics. I feel compelled to sometimes but it's just not a healthy subject. It's something that can excite the passions without allowing them any satisfying outlet. The upshot is a sort of stale anger mixed with self-disgust. Anyway, that's what it feels like to me!