Tuesday, 21 August 2012

To Live Up To The Best Of It

Norman Tebbit (yes, Norman Tebbit) writes:

As the world knows, elections are usually decided by economics, the feelgood factor, or at its most brutal, “it's the economy, stupid”. However, although the general election is probably still three years away, there is not much hope that we will be back in the boom times with taxes falling and real incomes rising. Indeed, unless the euro crisis is resolved soon by the exit of either the weaker southern economies or a break-up following the exit of Germany, it will continue to drag down not only the eurozone but our economy too. In those circumstances the electors would be asked to choose between the party which left us weighed down with debt and the one that had been unable to find a way out of the debt trap.

In such circumstances other issues may shape the election. Clearly Ukip hope that the impending or actual disaster in the eurozone will bring a surge of support for their policy to regain self-government for Britain by exit from the European Union. It will not be entirely easy to convince disillusioned Conservatives to support Ukip if it would risk putting Labour back into office. Of course, if it looked that Labour was a certainty to win anyway, perhaps a lot more former Conservative voters would be tempted to “lend” their votes to Ukip leading to a catastrophic defeat for the Tories.

Despite that, a good many Conservatives at all levels, from the grassroots to the House of Commons, comfort themselves that although Labour might scrape back into office more or less by default, Ed Miliband has little hope of recapturing many of the four million or so voters they lost between 1997 and 2010. That might be dangerously complacent.

On Monday, the Telegraph reported that the interesting French-born mixed-race Laotian Chinese Australian, Tim Soutphommasane, had been drafted in to help Labour's policy review. Earlier, in a more detailed interview, The New Statesman recorded how Soutphommasane had concluded that “belonging to a country means belonging to a tradition and trying to live up to the best of it. You can inherit a tradition even although you're not born into it.”

He met and impressed Labour's Jon Cruddas, the Member for Dagenham, whilst he was at Oxford. More recently Cruddas arranged for him to address a Westminster meeting of Left academics and Labour MPs including David Miliband and Hilary Benn. It seems to me that there is now an influential group within the Labour Party seriously seeking to restore its sense of Britishness with a concept of patriotism which would build on the theme of the Danny Boyle Olympic opening ceremony.

A young generation of Conservatives all too easily forget that the 1945 Attlee government founded Nato and committed Britain to nuclear weapons, as well as the robust Britishness of Jim Callaghan which suffused Labour before its disengagement from any sense of nationhood during the Blair years. The Coalition's cuts in numbers in the police and armed services are losing it supporters the Tories could once take almost for granted, and undermining its long reputation as the party that would always put the national interest first. It seems that there is a young and capable generation of Labour politicians preparing Labour to take on the mantle of the national party.

Those of us with long memories would take rather a lot of convincing, but there is a young and uncommitted generation who might be easier to persuade.  It is time that the Tories woke up.

But they won't.

The next Peter Hitchens? His Sunday column could not have meant anything except "Vote Labour, but only if Labour promises to retain the remaining Sunday trading restrictions and to renationalise the railways." Both of which it will. At least one of which it already does.

Peter Hitchens has implicitly declared for Labour. When will he do so explicitly? And who else will follow suit? Norman Tebbit? After all, Enoch Powell said to vote Labour in 1974. Not without effect.

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