Breaking the Overton Window

An FT editorial declared last year that divisions between left and right no longer explain how voters think. In September Intelligence Squared ran a debate on Britain’s Political Identity Crisis and the dissolving of left and right into new political tribes. There is much talk of realignment in British politics.

One of the most useful contributions to the debate was this chart published just before Christmas by the FT’s John Burn-Murdoch and Sebastian Payne, based on data from the British Election Survey. It plots voters on two axes according to their attitudes. The horizontal axis is the traditional left-right split, based on issues like income distribution, taxation and the behaviour of big business. The vertical axis maps social attitudes to things like the death penalty, crime, school discipline and traditional British values.

As you might expect, it shows a large number of voters following something like the traditional two-party positions; for the Conservative voters, right-wing on economic issues and socially conservative on cultural issues, for Labour voters, the opposite. However there is also a significant chunk in the top left hand corner, containing both Labour and Conservative voters who are left-wing on economic issues yet more conservative on cultural questions.

 

Jon Mellon and Chris Prosser from the BES team discussed this in a paper they published last September. They found that, unlike the voters, most parliamentary candidates from the major parties fitted into the classic party positions. Plotted on a similar scale, their stated positions showed the Labour candidates falling into the bottom left quadrant, economically left and socially liberal, while the Conservative candidates clustered towards the top left quadrant, economically right and socially conservative.

There is, then, a group of voters in the top left quadrant not really represented by anyone. Furthermore, as Mellon and Prosser note, these voters are predominantly working class.

Something else happened in over the last thirty years though. The Overton Window, that range of policies that politicians and commentators deem to be politically acceptable, moved towards the bottom right. It was as though a deal had been struck; you can have diversity, minority rights and discrimination laws if we can have privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts. The effect of this was to take policies that were popular with the public off the agenda on the grounds that they were publicly unacceptable. Politicians proposing renationalisation and high taxes on the rich or the restoration of capital punishment and cuts to immigration tended to be dismissed as eccentric, even though many voters were in favour of such things.

As American political scientist Alan Wolfe said:

The right won the economic war, the left won the cultural war.

Or, as David Goodhart put it, the two liberalisms won, the economic liberalism of the right and the social liberalism of the left:

What if a lot of people feel that there’s no point in voting because whoever you vote for you get the same old mix of economic liberalism and social liberalism – Margaret Thatcher tempered by Roy Jenkins.

The two liberalisms – the 1960s (social) and 1980s (economic) – have dominated politics for a generation.

Even during the Thatcher period, when economic policies shifted to the right, the liberal policies initiated during the 1960s, and the social changes that went with them, continued apace. Conservative politicians may have railed against ‘political correctness’ but they didn’t do much about it. Racist and sexist language that would have passed unremarked in 1979 was considered unacceptable by the time John Major left office. Corporal punishment in schools was abolished under Margaret Thatcher and, while there was much tough talk on immigration, her government did little to change the existing laws. The Conservatives even shied away from illiberal legislation that would have been overwhelmingly popular, such as the re-introduction of capital punishment. Voters might have thought they were voting for socially conservative policies but what they got was economic liberalism.

If the right had quietly abandoned the culture war the left seemed to do something similar with the economic war. By and large, Labour under Tony Blair accepted privatisation and de-regulation. It tried, with some success, to mitigate the rise in economic inequality by using redistributive taxes and benefits while advancing its socially liberal agenda. Its Equality Act in 2010 said very little about economic equality. As Peter Mandelson might have said, the Labour government didn’t mind people getting filthy rich provided they had the right equality and diversity policies in place.

All of which meant that politics began to drift away from some working class voters. Voters who were socially liberal or economically on the right got at least some of that they wanted. Those in the top left quadrant were quietly ignored.

A YouGov poll in 2015 found majority support for both “radical left” and “radical right” policies. Policies that might be dismissed in the broadsheets as unworkable or even a bit bonkers were actually quite popular.

The survey also found that all policies except for workers on boards had majority support among UKIP voters. Perhaps more surprisingly, between 40 and 50 percent of Conservative voters backed the ‘radical left’ policies and a majority of Labour voters were in favour of the suggestions on benefit cuts and ending parole for murderers.

The accompanying commentary said:

All of this points to a contemporary mindset that defies traditional classification. It is possible for the same people to believe several things at the same time which come from opposite ends of the traditional ‘political spectrum’.

Most tellingly, although 63% of British people are at least fairly clear on what is meant by the left/right terms, the largest group (43%) say they don’t think of their views as being right or left wing.

Is this really a contemporary mindset, though, or just one that was ignored for years? My grandfather would not have found any of this at all strange. A former soldier, miner and trade union activist, he believed in nationalisation, workers’ rights and the welfare state, while also having a low opinion of ‘shirkers’ and a slight mistrust of foreigners. He would not hear a word said against the royal family or the armed forces. Every profile I read of union leader Bob Crow remarked on the fact that a left-wing firebrand such as he was also in favour of the death penalty. In that, I suspect, he was not that far away from many of the people he represented.

Support for the death penalty was, as Eric Kaufmann pointed out, strongly correlated with Brexit voting intention. He argued that the Brexit vote was primarily about values, with the EU referendum providing an issue around which those with socially conservative values coalesced. That can be seen on John Burn-Murdoch’s chart, with the block of Leave voters spreading across the left-right divide but concentrated mostly on the authoritarian side of the chart.

I think Resolution Foundation Director Torsten Bell had it about right when he observed that many of the Leave voting areas had been left behind economically decades ago but that there was a cultural aspect to the vote too:

[T]his isn’t just about the numbers – it’s about culture, outlook, lifestyle and what we feel a sense of belonging to. That might not be the normal thing for an economic research organisation to say, but it’s true. And it’s also, as many people noted last night, a function of the coalition that underpinned the leave vote – shire Tories combined with Britain’s industrial heartlands. In a sense, though, this is simply a different sort of left-behindness. Left behind by the shift in the cultural zeitgeist as well as the economic changes.

Those in that top left quadrant had suffered economically and, at the same time, the prevailing political culture had gradually moved away from them. The referendum gave them a chance to upset the apple cart and they took it.

This leaves the main political parties with a problem. Doing what they have done for the past few decades isn’t going to cut it any more. Their dilemma is made more difficult because, when you start unpacking some of these political and cultural attitudes, there is yet more nuance. Take something like social conservatism. Acceptance of same-sex relationships has increased significantly over the past half decade or so, especially among people describing themselves as Christians. In contrast, attitudes to race and ethnicity have not moved as much. British Social Attitudes data suggest that people are a little less racially prejudiced than they were 30 years ago but the report contrasts this with the sharp drop in homophobia. Simon Hix, Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Leeper found that, for all the referendum rhetoric, voters were actually more concerned about non-EU migration than migrants from inside the EU.

A study by Populus for the Legatum Institute in last September looked at several aspects of social liberalism. It found, as you might expect, that younger voters were more socially liberal. Here, again, the general acceptance of same sex relationships shows up but the attitude to crime is also interesting. Younger voters, on balance, want tougher punishment for criminals and a more order society.

The same study, much to the disappointment of its sponsors, found significant support for renationalising transport and utilities and a generally unfavourable view of capitalism. Nationalisation found majority support among Conservative voters and across all age groups. The suggestion from some Tories that renewed support for nationalisation comes from young Corbynistas who can’t remember how bad things were in the 1970s doesn’t really stack up.

When it comes to the corporations and the labour market, there is little to cheer the deregulators. The light-touch approach of the last three decades is no longer popular with the voters, if indeed it ever was. Peter Mandelson might be relaxed about people getting filthy rich but the majority of people, it seems, disagree.

The common theme emerging here is that people want the government to do more. Whether it’s about crime and immigration or stopping profiteering and ensuring greater equality, the underlying theme in all of this is a desire for more government action.

This is why I think it is unlikely that post-Brexit Britain will become the deregulated shrunken state that many of those who bankrolled and ran the Leave campaign hoped for. It does raise the question, though, about what politics might look like in the next decade. The Brexit vote revived the idea that people can actually change things by voting and the surprise result of the last election suggests that voters might be getting the message.

It’s tempting to look at the data from the surveys I have covered in this post and conclude that a party advocating greater state intervention in the economy together with a crackdown on crime, curbs on immigration but with a liberal attitude to sexuality and soft drugs might be onto a winner. Something like a British Pim Fortuyn, perhaps. Politics is more complex than that, though, and a first-past-the-post parliamentary system without a directly elected presidency is the most hostile environment for insurgent parties. Ironically. UKIP only made the headway it did because of the proportional system in the European Parliament.

Nevertheless, those who talk of realignment are right in that the Conservative and Labour parties will almost certainly have to shift the positions they have held for the last few decades. The voters have started to break the Overton Window. It will be interesting to see what they let in.

 

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57 Responses to Breaking the Overton Window

  1. gunnerbear says:

    “It was as though a deal had been struck; you can have diversity, minority rights and discrimination laws if we can have privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts. The effect of this was to take policies that were popular with the public off the agenda on the grounds that they were publicly unacceptable. Politicians proposing renationalisation and high taxes on the rich or the restoration of capital punishment and cuts to immigration tended to be dismissed as eccentric, even though many voters were in favour of such things.”

    Statement of the f**kin’ obvious – the scum in the parties hate the working class. Listen to some Momentum snowflake whine on about how unfair things are….yet that snowflake is the one who has wasted years of their life studying a s**t subject at s**t university.

    • Daniel says:

      Hm, in my experience it’s the Momentum “snowflakes” who are most likely to agree with you. They are not particularly liberal.

    • Blissex says:

      It is an old application of the english class snobbery, nothing new. There is this delightful cartoon from “How To Be An Alien”, a 1950s humour book about english culture:

      The caption in the book is “Nice vs Nasty”…

      «the scum in the parties hate the working class»

      Well, working class culture is not that awesome either — indeed it is a bit short-sighted and narrow-minded. But the real issue is that the working class is not considered just “nasty” (and with some justification), but it has become electorally a lot less important, as T Blair pointed out 30 years ago, in 1987:

      http://www.lrb.co.uk/v09/n19/tony-blair/diary
      «Post-war Britain has seen two big changes. First, and partly as a result of reforming Labour governments, there are many more healthy, wealthy and well-educated people than before. In addition, employment has switched from traditional manufacturing industries to a more white-collar, service-based economy. The inevitable result has been that class identity has fragmented.
      Only about a third of the population now regard themselves as ‘working-class’. Of course it is possible still to analyse Britain in terms of a strict Marxist definition of class: but it is not very helpful to our understanding of how the country thinks and votes. In fact, of that third, many are likely not to be ‘working’ at all: these are the unemployed, pensioners, single parents – in other words, the poor.
      A party that restricts its appeal to the traditional working class will not win an election. That doesn’t entail a rejection of socialism’s traditional values: but it does mean that its appeal, and hence its policies, must address a much wider range of interests.»

      This was translated by the mandelsonian (and cameronian) “scum” into “the working class voters don’t matter”.

  2. Jim says:

    All of which has become a long winded way of saying that politics has become a middle class stitch up. Which is what the middle classes generally do when faced with a problem, game the system so they hold all the positions of power and ensure that only ‘right minded’ people get a look in. The middle classes don’t really care for democracy, those frightful masses of oiks could vote and have things how they want! So they work to drive out the actual working classes from politics, all the while mouthing platitudes about how much they admire them and wish to aid them etc etc

    The Labour Party stopped being a party of the ‘working man’ decades ago, in that it used to elect them as MPs, but no longer does. It used to have MPs who had been miners, dockers, railway men etc etc. Now they’re all lawyers and middle class university types. Ironically the Sheffield MP Jared O’Mara is actually more representative of the working classes in his area than anyone ever has been, but is being ostracised precisely because his somewhat un-middle class attitudes don’t fit in to the middle class mores of politics today. I always remember the 1997 election, for the disdain poured on John Major by the middle class Blairites, yet Major was a real ‘working class boy made good’ while Blair was your typical middle class dilettante, assuming the right to be in charge for no other reason than he was born to it. For me ’97 was the swap over, the final passing of the wartime generations who regardless of Left or Right had a more positive view of the working classes, to be replaced by the Baby Boomer Middle classes who knew they didn’t like the working classes and knew exactly what they wanted to do with them – push them into a corner and ignore them.

    If you went to where the real lower classes drink in the UK today, the ‘estate pub’, Jared O’Mara would fit right in. Yet those people have no-one to speak for them, because their views have been declared unfit for modern consumption, so they are untermenschen. People no right minded person would wish to engage with, for fear of being contaminated. So they are ignored.

    Brexit and Trump are the two phenomenons who have found that seam of untapped votes. I remember well on Brexit voting day I went to get a haircut after voting. And spoke to the lady who always cuts my hair. Typical working woman, family, builder husband, loves her Rugby. She said she had got all her family out to vote (for Brexit) despite the majority of them never voting normally (‘No point is there, nothing ever changes whoever you vote for’). It was then I thought Brexit had a chance. Up to then I thought it was doomed.

    • gunnerbear says:

      “If you went to where the real lower classes drink in the UK today, the ‘estate pub’, Jared O’Mara would fit right in. Yet those people have no-one to speak for them, because their views have been declared unfit for modern consumption, so they are untermenschen.”

      Well put….’cept it ain’t just ‘lower classes’ – it’s stacks of people right across the political spectrum.

    • P Hearn says:

      Excellent comment; nailed it.

    • Blissex says:

      «All of which has become a long winded way of saying that politics has become a middle class stitch up. Which is what the middle classes generally do when faced with a problem, game the system so they hold all the positions of power and ensure that only ‘right minded’ people get a look in.»

      That is in part a very reasonable notion, but there is an important “twist”: this has been all a strategy by the upper classes to defeat the unions and “socialism” and replace it with neoliberalism, the middle classes have been simply bribed into that strategy.

      The main bribe has been the colossal property price boom they have benefited from, but also an appeal to their sense of moral superiority (political correctness) and careerist ambition (enormous expansion of graduates intake).

      The story of the past few decades has been a strategy to detach the middle classes from their post-war alliance with the working classes for well paid safe jobs for everybody, reliable social services, etc., into giving the middle class the taste and then the illusion of becoming as if they were upper class gentry. A very gendered strategy BTW.

      Put my usual way, the model with which the middle classes have been seduced is that of the plantation economy, where the working classes would be the labourers in the barracks, and the middle classes would be the “trusties” in the cottages around the mansions of the upper class.

  3. gunnerbear says:

    ” My grandfather would not have found any of this at all strange. A former soldier, miner and trade union activist, he believed in nationalisation, workers’ rights and the welfare state, while also having a low opinion of ‘shirkers’ and a slight mistrust of foreigners. He would not hear a word said against the royal family or the armed forces. Every profile I read of union leader Bob Crow remarked on the fact that a left-wing firebrand such as he was also in favour of the death penalty. In that, I suspect, he was not that far away from many of the people he represented.”

    Another statement of the obvious – Blues and Reds have left the voters. The Blue and Red MPs…mostly white collar middle class types (and their SPADs)….would s**t themselves if they ever went into a working mans club or boozer and heard what voters really thought about how criminals should be dealt with…

    • Blissex says:

      «if they ever went into a working mans club or boozer and heard what voters really thought about how criminals should be dealt with»

      Only for criminals who are poor like themselves — they are very happy for white collar criminals to get a slap on the wrist, get away with it, or get a few hundred billions of government handouts.

      For example: a lot of working class pensioners were defrauded of 30-40% of their pensions by smooth talking well dressed criminals posing as pension advisors, and none of the victims or their relatives objected to fraud being relabeled as “misselling” and all the open-and-shut-case criminals getting away with it.

      Which tells me that the hatred of the working class for “criminals” is received wisdom.

      • gunnerbear says:

        ” they are very happy for white collar criminals to get a slap on the wrist, get away with it,”

        Eh? You’ve got to be joking.

  4. Jim says:

    Please note the most important outcome of Brexit – the attitude being demonstrated by vast swathes of the Remain camp – a Leave vote is worth less than mine because they are all uneducated xenophobes, and I am superior to that. Its shone a very bright light on the true attitudes of many people, especially in the middle classes who are shown to be totally anti-democratic, at best merely authoritarian, at worst fascist.

    • Martin says:

      In the Referendum, the electorate were presented with making a decision that required a huge amount of information on the consequences of their vote.

      In a political matter as permanent as this, saying that one person’s ignorance is equally valid as another person’s informed opinion simply doesn’t cut it.

      Additionally, your snobby attitude that working class people aren’t capable of holding an informed opinion is disgraceful. Many working class people voted Remain in Liverpool, for reasons this blog and others are still trying to figure out.

      • Jim says:

        Where did I say I working class people weren’t capable of forming an informed opinion? Quite the opposite!

        My point was that any one on the Remain side (it stands for Leave people too but I’ve not heard many of them decrying Remain voters as ignorant peasants who should be allowed to vote) who is playing with the ‘I’ve made an informed opinion and they’ve made ignorant stabs at it’ should have to stand in front of an actual person who voted the opposite way and tell them to their face that their vote was an ignorant one and thus not to counted.

  5. Patricia Leighton says:

    The logic of some of the comments is simply a rush to the moral and ethical bottom.This country has become more bigoted, aggressive,and downright nasty especially since the Referendum.I suppose therefore whoever promotes ‘Victorian Values’ and all the horrors they contain will have political dominance?

    • Jim says:

      You’re not understanding it.

      Vast swathes of the UK population have been declared persona non grata by the political classes (in that include the media and governing classes, the people who make up the nomenclatura). If you don’t agree that homosexuals should be able to marry, or adopt children, or that people should be able to come here from just about anywhere in world, commit crimes, then claim ‘human rights’ to prevent them being sent back, if you think that actually children should be looked after by women while men go out to work (even if you are that woman), if you are fed up with any empty houses on your council estate going to Somalian ‘refugees’ while your children can’t get one, then you are morally bankrupt, and beneath human consideration.

      Its the moralisation of politics. Their views in and of themselves define the moral worth of individual holding them. The political class have defined a set of moral values that they consider inviolable, and anyone who disagrees is sub human. And whose views can be ignored. And have been for decades by the simple method of ensuring no-one is allowed into the political club unless they agree.

      Like all moral crusades they normally start on good ground. Anti-racism, anti sexism etc. But its a classic slippery slope. Once you have allowed morality to define one small subsection of politics, then it soon seeps out into other areas, because its easier than debating on facts. Far easier to declare your opponents immoral scum who wish to kill the poor and eat their bones, than to debate why tax cuts are good or bad (for example). To the point we have reached now where you see Labour MPs publicly admitting they see their Tory opponents as sub human scum they do not wish to even be involved with in any way socially.

      Actually, I think any Remainer who has even considered the ‘I’m smarter than these troglodyte Brexiteers’ thought process should sit down and consider that every Leave voter is a person, and whether you would be prepared to stand in front of an actual flesh and blood person, and tell them you are a superior being, whose views are worth more than theirs. Because that is what you are doing – making yourself an Eloi to their Morlock.

      • gunnerbear says:

        Brilliant – top notch – awesome comment.

      • Charlie says:

        ‘ If you don’t agree that homosexuals should be able to marry, or adopt children…’

        Then you are a bigot and should be labelled as such.

        ‘or that people should be able to come here from just about anywhere in world, commit crimes, then claim ‘human rights’ to prevent them being sent back’

        If you think human rights is about ‘protecting’ criminals, you know little about human rights.

        ‘ if you think that actually children should be looked after by women while men go out to work (even if you are that woman)’

        …huh?

        ‘if you are fed up with any empty houses on your council estate going to Somalian ‘refugees’ while your children can’t get one,’

        Yes, the housing crisis is down to Somali refugees.

        • Dipper says:

          @ Charlie – “Then you are a bigot and should be labelled as such.”

          so, where would you place yourself on the authoritarian/libertarian axis then?

        • Dipper says:

          “Yes, the housing crisis is down to Somali refugees.”

          ONS figures show in 2015 just over 25% of all children born in this country were born to women born outside the UK. So that’s 1 in 4 maternity units and midwives for immigrants, and in a few years time 1 in 4 primary schools, 1 in 4 primary school teachers, 1 in 4 paediatricians.

          So in a practical sense, squeezes on housing and public services are down to immigration. A country cannot put its foot hard on the population accelerator without feeling the effects.

          If you operate an open border and have easy access to expensive public services you will have massive immigration and go bust. This is exactly what is happening and I don’t see how anyone can reasonably argue with that.

          • Charlie says:

            ‘So in a practical sense, squeezes on housing and public services are down to endless Tory cuts but small-minded racists prefer to blame immigrants instead’

            Fixed that for you

        • Jim says:

          Thank you for so eloquently demonstrating my point.

      • “If you don’t agree that homosexuals should be able to marry, or adopt children, or that people should be able to come here from just about anywhere in world, commit crimes, then claim ‘human rights’ to prevent them being sent back, if you think that actually children should be looked after by women while men go out to work (even if you are that woman), if you are fed up with any empty houses on your council estate going to Somalian ‘refugees’ while your children can’t get one, then you are morally bankrupt.”

        If someone believes all those things then yep, they are indeed either ignorant or morally bankrupt in my book.

    • gunnerbear says:

      “This country has become more bigoted, aggressive, and downright nasty especially since the Referendum.”

      No, the voice of those that have been s**t on for years by the Establishment is now being heard.

      It’s not being a bigot to ask why the f**k are we importing low skilled labour when British young men and women can’t get a ‘foot in the door job’. It’s not being a bigot to ask why our borders are wide open to the dross of Europe and murderous scum from further away.

      It isn’t being a bigot to point out for those at the bottom o’ the pile, immigration has done nothing but smash their wages down due to the vast oversupply o’ labour.

      Read this idiot – Sarah O’Connor – talking about how ‘great’ labour market flexibility is….

      “Have you ever noticed how supermarkets run out of fruit salads on sunny days when everyone decides they fancy a picnic? No? That’s because they rarely do.

      I never really thought about the mechanics behind this until I interviewed a man who supplied temp workers to a British company that made bagged salads and fruit pots. Demand would fluctuate according to the weather, but British weather is notoriously changeable and fresh products have a short shelf life. So the company would only finalise its order for the number of temps it required for the night shift at 4pm on the day.

      Workers on standby would receive text messages: “you’re on for tonight” or “you’re off”.

      Most of this hyper-flexible workforce had come to the UK from Europe. “We wouldn’t eat without eastern Europeans,” the man from the temp agency said confidently.

      https://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/who-needs-low-skill-migrants-anyway/

      …and think about what she has written…she thinks – a tool of a Remainer journalist naturally – that zero hour contracts are great…..bet the f**kin’ woman wouldn’t be saying that if she was on the receiving end. She’s gloating that those at the bottom of the pile are getting screwed over…and people like her wonder why the UK voted Leave….

    • gunnerbear says:

      Is it any wonder Brexiteers are in no mood to tolerate liberal pro-Remain s**te about immigration when a pro-Remainer is complaining about how rapist, scum foreigners are treated instead of standing up for the victims of the rapist foreign scum… http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/how-the-sex-attacks-in-cologne-impacted-germany-and-the-uk-1-5330725

      Why do you as a Remainer want criminals and rapists to be allowed to flood into the UK when you’ve seen what they done in Germany and France…because that is what staying in the EU means…

      • George Carty says:

        We don’t need to leave the EU to prevent a Cologne-style rampage happening in Britain, as the UK never signed the Schengen agreement (ie we retained border checks vis-a-vis the Continent) and the perpetrators were almost certainly not EU citizens.

        If you want to use immigrant criminality as an argument for Brexit, then London’s Somali gangs may be a better example as many Somalis in Britain HAD been given citizenship by an EU country (usually Denmark or Sweden IIRC).

        • Blissex says:

          The problem with the “immigration and criminality” line of argument is the totally ridiculous assumption that immigrants are more likely to commit crime than any native community.

          Sure every resident of every affluent leafy suburb would like to strip the citizenship and deport to Iraq the nasty-looking proles of the council estate just on the side, and that’s how it used to be done, but for now they are only able to exclude many authentic refugees just in case there were a small number of bad apples mixed in.

          Because the number one principles of those people are “we must never take any risks at all”, “absolute security at any cost to someone else”, “you can never be too safe”, “better to hang 10 potential criminals than to let 1 actual criminal escape”, all variants of “Blow you! I am alright Jack”.

          • George Carty says:

            I was trying to show that gunnerbear’s argument was invalid even in its own terms, but I suspect the real issue for many Leave voters wasn’t so generally “immigrants and crime” but rather “Muslims and sex crime” – the Rochdale and Rotherham grooming gang incidents also fed into this despite the perpetrators’ British citizenship.

            Incidentally, if you have a look at that New European article which gunnerbear linked, then I’m sure the comments will appall you!

        • gunnerbear says:

          “We don’t need to leave the EU to prevent a Cologne-style rampage happening in Britain, as the UK never signed the Schengen agreement (ie we retained border checks vis-a-vis the Continent) and the perpetrators were almost certainly not EU citizens.”

          In a couple of years they will be once they get hold of an EU member-state passport. Our borders are being overwhelmed by people who have no right to be here.

  6. Dipper says:

    That top diagram. RHS. The one with the large pink blob of Labour in the lower left Libertarian left quadrant. Seriously??? I can’t see the original article but how on earth is Labour in the Libertarian half???

    Post referendum what we have seen is large numbers of metropolitan commentators being very keen on liberty and freedom for them and their friends and removal of as many rights of freedom of expression and voting from people they disagree with. I’m sure they think they are libertarian, but they aren’t.

    • Jim says:

      I thought that too. The modern political classes (Right or Left) are increasingly authoritarian towards those they don’t like. The whole ‘I don’t agree with your views but will defend your right to say them’ has been replaced with ‘Your views are hate speech and you will be locked up for repeating them in public’. By no stretch of any imagination is that attitude ‘libertarian’.

    • gunnerbear says:

      “Post referendum what we have seen is large numbers of metropolitan commentators being very keen on liberty and freedom for them and their friends and removal of as many rights of freedom of expression and voting from people they disagree with. I’m sure they think they are libertarian, but they aren’t.”

      Well said

    • James says:

      Left Libertarianism comes at the freedom angle differently than the Right form.

      The left version says you can’t be properly free as a person if you are constantly in the fight for basic needs like security, shelter, food, water. You can also extend that to things like healthcare which are usually no fault of the person and therefore a basic need. Essentially they want you to live as a free person rather than closer to an animal fighting against nature.

      • Dipper says:

        So the reason for labour supporters being in the libertarian half of the plot and the conservatives in the authoritarian half is because the definition of being libertarian differs between the two?

  7. Charlie says:

    Wow, this article has attracted even more bigots than usual to the comments section. They must be bored post-holiday season.

  8. That John Burn-Murdoch chart published in the FT is misleading. First of all, it doesn’t represent the density of the data-points (i.e. individual coordinates) within the plotted areas. If the bulk of the leave voters are to the right of the vertical axis, then this gives a distribution much closer to that plotted for parliamentary candidates, and thus a different story. One reason for suspecting a variable density is that the plotted areas do not correspond to a 52/48 ratio (it’s closer to 65/35).

    It is also not clear what threshold has been used to cut off marginal data-points. This is relatively straightforward in a uniaxial plot (e.g. you just lop off the top and bottom 10%) but less so for a biaxial plot where the “erratics” can potentially be found 360 degrees around the plotted area. To put this in concrete terms, where would a Lexiteer or Daniel Hannan appear on this chart? It’s possible there is no threshold and the areas encompass all the data-points, but that would call into question the sample size and its representativeness.

    I’m not disputing that there are social authoritarians who are comfortable with state intervention in the economy, but that their number and significance have both been inflated to suit transparent political narratives (Ford & Goodwin, Goodhart etc). This is partly a consequence of the greater sensitivity of a referendum, compared to a general election, to relatively small movements in turnout (likewise, social media is highly sensitive to motivated individuals whose claims to being representative should be treated with caution – see comments).

    What we do know about 2016 is that many reactionaries who hadn’t bothered voting for years turned out, but we should be cautious about assuming that this heralds a lasting realignment in voting patterns (if anything, 2017 was a reversion to a very traditional two-party spread) or that it is the “revenge” of the traditional, white working class. As for the Overton Window, it’s always worth remembering that the metaphor is one of framing.

    • Blissex says:

      «What we do know about 2016 is that many reactionaries who hadn’t bothered voting for years turned out, but we should be cautious about assuming that this heralds a lasting realignment in voting patterns»

      But that’s precisely the point made by our blogger: that there is a bunch of potential voters “who hadn’t bothered voting for years” because they are not represented by any major party, or their ote is irrelevant with FPTP, and that tilted the 2016 referendum result.

      Whether that “heralds a lasting realignment in voting patterns” does not seem seem to me the main concern of our blogger, but that especially if it does not, it means that a large chunk of voters are not represented in the electoral system.

      That abstentions by “bigots” and others zoomed up during Blair’s “quasi-Conservative” tenure probably was regarded as a huge success by the mandelsonians and every “right thinking” (that is, neoliberal “end of history”) intellectual, but there are people who regard it as a very bad long term thing.

      • gunnerbear says:

        Yup…the area I live in has been Red for decades…..if you’re not Red it really is pointless to vote (and I’m sure the same is true of being a non-Blue in some Blue areas)…

        ….but the area turned out to vote heavily for Leave – so much so that the MP has shut their trap about being a Remainer and the MP has made it clear that he now supports Brexit….

  9. Dipper says:

    Two comments here confusing objecting to a policy of mass immigration with being anti-immigrant. The two are clearly very different, as the policy is down to politicians and I’m not aware of anyone blaming individual immigrants for taking up the offers made by our politicians.

    Either those making these comments are very dim, or more likely are deliberately writing things that are untrue to claim some kind of artificial moral superiority, and in so doing completely make the point that myself and others have been making in the comments about the intolerance of the left. Congratulations!

  10. Blissex says:

    As very general and important point, that kind of two-axis “spider chart” with cultural and economic left-right have been used for a long time by the researchers at Political Compass:

    https://www.politicalcompass.org/uk2017#ukhistorical
    https://www.politicalcompass.org/uk2017
    https://www.politicalcompass.org/uk2015
    https://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

    As ‘David Timoney’ above observes, the scattergraphs by the FT are crude, and these from Political Compass are even more simplistic. but I think that they have value.

  11. Blissex says:

    «It was as though a deal had been struck; you can have diversity, minority rights and discrimination laws if we can have privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts.»

    There was no deal — it was part of the general strategy to advance right-wing economic policies as much as possible, while pacifying the left with identity politics instead of class politics.

    «As Peter Mandelson might have said, the Labour government didn’t mind people getting filthy rich provided they had the right equality and diversity policies in place.»

    A quote that is far closer to the actual strategy, from the diary of Lance Price (A Campbell’s deputy), dated 1999-10-19:

    “Philip Gould analysed our problem very clearly. We don’t know what we are. Gordon wants us to be a radical progressive, movement, but wants us to keep our heads down on Europe. Peter [Mandelson] thinks that we are a quasi-Conservative Party but that we should stick our necks out on Europe.”

    Another quote that is highly relevant, but developing it may not be “politically correct”, from David Willets in “Prospect Magazine”:

    “And behind it was an appeal to the consumer – usually female — over the interests of the producer — usually male and unionised. This potent postwar mix contains many of the ingredients of “Thatcherism.””

    However there is a point here on the “deal”: the real deal was trading “identity politics” for “thatcherism”, it was bribing the rentier middle classes with massive work-free tax-free capital gains on property. The story of the past 35 year is not so much one of the triumph of identity politics, which have been used to distract the left from class politics, but the colossal rise in property prices (and in private debt).

    It has turned out that the affluent middle classes of southern marginals write the government of the day a blank cheque on cutting pensions, wages, job security, boosting political correctness, craven identity politics, they don’t care as long as they get massive work-free tax-free capital gains on property. This is the graph of total private debt, overwhelmingly housing related, 1880 to 2015, from an article by Steve Keen:

    You can see in the graph every change of government. The other important graph is this one of house prices after inflation by UK region, change between 2005 and 2015:

    from an article by LoveMoney.com and it tells a big story.

  12. Blissex says:

    BTW as to graphs that tell a big story, a commenter at EuanMEarns.com has done this graph of electricity consumption in the UK by region, 2005-2015m with 2005 as 100:

    The story here, repeated in some other european countries, is that up to 2000 electricity consumption had grown steadily for 50-70 years. Declines of 15-20% in 10 years are apocalyptic.

    • Blissex says:

      «Declines of 15-20% in 10 years are apocalyptic»

      The point I am making here is this: if that unprecedented, apocalyptic decline in electricity consumption is indicative of actual regional living standards, then a lot of people in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, West Midland, East Midlands are very angry, because the declines in the graph above are *average*, that is a large percent of the population will have cut their electricity consumption even more. These very angry people will lash out when given the opportunity.

      Note: I reckon that the decline in electricity consumption is closely related to a decline in living standard (that is people have electrical bill affordability problems) because:

      * For over 100 years electricity consumption trends have indeed been a good proxy for GDP/GVA trends.
      * There is a very large difference in the decline between London and North East, which indicates that there is no significant independent factor like more efficient electrical devices, and the least decline has happened where economic activity has been better.
      * Other european countries show similar patterns both overall and by region: declines don’t happen or are small where economic activity presumably is better.
      * The decline in many european countries is matched by a surge, a huge trend change, in China, and both happened within a couple of years of China’s WTO membership.

    • Blissex says:

      «Declines of 15-20% in 10 years are apocalyptic»

      Silly me — the decline obviously happened in 6 years, bottom reached in 2011. And many regions have since oscillated around the bottom, with perhaps small recoveries afterwards. The main feature of the graph: the decline started years before the Great financial crisis.

      • George Carty says:

        Does this mean that the real traitors were those politicians who allowed China into the WTO?

        I only came down firmly on the Remain side of the fence about 3 months before the referendum when I noticed Cameron sell out the steel industry of Britain (and perhaps of other European countries) to the Chinese mercantilist predators!

        • Blissex says:

          «the real traitors were those politicians who allowed China into the WTO?»

          Well, these electricity graphs have persuaded me that China’s WTO entry has been a very big deal, even bigger than the Japanese export boom of the 1960-70s. There have been two huge international shocks post-WW2: first the Japanese export (and commodity import) boom, and then the Chinese export (and commodity import) boom, with similar effects.
          When B Bernanke and friends use the “savings glut” euphemism, they are really discussing the chinese entry into the WTO, BTW.

          But “traitor” is not quite appropriate, and China’s entry into the WTO was both sort of inevitable and a big problem. Different countries had very different responses:

          * Japan and Germany became suppliers to China, Japan of high-value parts, Germany of high-value plant. Both very careful to avoid selling out to China, with governments very attentive to avoid exporting whole industrial sectors to China. They both also however drove policies to make local labour more “affordable”, in a managed rather than a savage way.
          * France sort of survived, because french customers like quality french stuff, so do many others, and there are several high value french industries, and their government careful to protect.
          * Much of italian industry, which relied on a mixture of low labor costs, and clever design, to make good value non-high-tech stuff, was slaughtered by chinese competition, e.g. italian furniture makers.
          * The USA and UK governments drove very hard every opportunity to replace products from local industry infected with expensive, bolshie, old-labour, enemies of the state, with products from chinese industries staffed by very cheap, docile, non-union workers.

          As usual chinese WTO entry was both an opportunity and a challenge: an opportunity to get cheap stuff from abroad, and a challenge to either avoid destroying local industry, or to ensure that local industry was destroyed.

          The EU had in essence very little to do with it, national governments drove the response.
          Look at it from the point of view of millions of affluent or rich property and business owning tory voters in the UK: for them chinese WTO entry has been a source of a very big boost to their wealth and standards of living, and they think that the “politicians who allowed China into the WTO” are national heroes.

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  15. janga says:

    Very interesting, necessary article and comments; especially good these graphs and illuminating comments from Blissex.
    About social liberalism…
    I think generally people who need to rely on each other (e.g army, dangerous occupations generally, people on low incomes- and back in the day at least,family) need stronger,more predictable bonds and so appreciate loyalty, responsibility, reciprocity and duty. Unity-the opposite of “do as you please, be what you want, anything goes”.This is the basis of solidarity and social cohesion.
    I see social liberalism as the cultural- trickle-down from the aristocracy of the late 19th/early 20th century, whose social position was so secure they had no need to consider others’ opinions or needs even as they became un-anchored, empires mutating around them…
    “Now you too can be free!” has been adopted in the West in a very effective bait-and-switch tactic, most starkly demonstrated in Spain during the “Transition” from the dictatorship where people with every right to expect political-economic redress from their new democracy instead found exactly this combination offer of social liberalism (look, naked ladies, look drugs, look homosexuals, look jokes about the church!!!) and “reconversion” -destruction of industry,substitution by services, deregulation- while being inveigled into NATO etc.under the tutelage of the Socialist Workers Party of Spain… and told to forget about the past, lest it come back to haunt them.
    This seems to be a common feature, with varying doses of violence, of Oil Shock/late Cold War European experience.

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