It has taken a couple of days to begin to process just exactly why the average person votes for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party. It is something of a conundrum for us because we Plague Islanders know just how morally bankrupt, greedy, self-serving, classist and callous he and the party are. Read any of the articles on this site and you will discover the evidence.
Regrettably however, Johnson resonates with some people, somehow – at least the ones who turn out to vote. There will always be people who are staunch Conservative voters, and you will never change their minds regarding who they vote for, but the concerning thing is that they are appealing to swing voters in England. With each passing election and by-election where votes are in favour of the Tories, it becomes more difficult to keep up morale: why do they keep voting for a party who harm us all? We suffer the consequences because of their pro-Tory votes.
In the news recently whilst reading about the by-elections, we’ve read some reasons given as to why the Tories were elected. In towns where there has been a Labour council for 10 years or more, people said they saw nothing having been done to make things better: the streets aren’t clean, school standards have dropped, hospitals and clinics have closed, public transport hasn’t developed, there are ghost-town high streets full of betting and charity shops. People have also mentioned a lack of visible police officers or ‘bobbies on the beat’ as they’re known here.
People must have saw this as a sign of Labour councils who do not care, where the truth is councils have been affected by cuts made by central government i.e. Tory cuts, as part of their ongoing austerity policy. The trees have effectively voted for the axe.
So, how does an Eton-educated upper-class man with a proven track record of brazenly lying – who is himself very class-conscious – possibly represent ordinary people of these isles? In truth, it’s really only English voters who have fallen for his con-tricks again. He resonates perhaps because he seems to be like one of them; he is different to typical politicians – different even, to traditional Conservative politicians. He appears to be a fringe politician, one who is not confined by the usual set of rules and conventions. We’re not especially talking about how he breaks laws or the big stuff – it’s more the little things and personal touches where he connects: a thumbs-up in a photo opportunity, playing football, looking disheveled most of the time. He seems real, his imperfections make him human, loveable even, and crucially, forgivable. He appears not to be a career politician: he says what he feels and damn the consequences!
That shit wins people over. It’s Rule No.1 in the Populist Playbook. (Rule No.2 is act tough – send the Navy somewhere if threatened by French fishermen before elections, for example).
So, do people just want good news, even if this isn’t true? Is it that with a future that is so uncertain for many, it is preferable to retreat to the myth of a golden past? For lots of towns across England, they are shadows of what they once were, now that their proud industries have gone: they weren’t ‘just jobs’ for people. Hard-working men and women took their identities from the industries they worked in, and their parents worked in, and their grandparents before them.
However, the facts seem to have been lost and/or forgotten by those very people who now vote Tory: it was Margaret Thatcher’s deindustrialisation and privatisation which bought about so much of the decline. Another problem is that a lot of Britain’s services are now in the high-tech and financial services industries, which are traditionally city-based. London has typically been prioritised here, but other cities have caught up, leaving these old industrial towns left behind.
So, if people would prefer to hark back to a past that seems better, then Johnson latches on to that really well, as he sells that version of, ‘We are Great Britain! We are world-beating leaders! Lions! We apologise to no-one! We are brave! And we will not allow those university-educated ‘Woke Warriors’ tell us how to behave! And over my dead body will we allow Europe to tell us what to do!’ For a lot of people, that last one is a very popular statement, and within it contains the shared vision of ‘Let’s make Britain great again.’ For lots of people, Europe are the ones responsible for all their woes: it was the European Union who took their industries away, and immigrants who filled the remaining jobs are the ones who finished everything off.
People like Boris Johnson have no interest in the truth here. Johnson doesn’t say it so much like how it is, more like how people want to hear it, and how things need to be interpreted by the people to realise his goals.
In addition, to some degree, Covid-19 has enabled Johnson and the Tories to hide the negative impacts of Brexit thus far. The unfavourable economic impacts of Brexit are being hidden within Covid’s devastation. Johnson has emerged triumphant now, due to the successful vaccination programme, and so many are so desperate to escape these Covid times that they might wilfully overlook the facts because the way out is all that matters.
Most people are not stupid and most are decent; most want things to be fair. The government know that if people knew what they were up to – the corruption/cronyism/opportunistic self-serving goals/sleaze – then they’d be gone tomorrow. The government know this too, because if they didn’t, there would be no need for such sophisticated propaganda machinery. Here, we should see opportunity.
The battle now for those of us who know the con tricks is to expose the charlatans for what they are. All is never lost, especially considering that more people did not vote than who did in these by-elections (the same is true for the 2019 GE). There is more opportunity here in that we must work to inspire this cohort to come out and vote against the Tories. It may also be the case that people will see the lies for themselves, when promises of ‘Levelling Up’ are inevitably broken, as are all of Johnson and the Tories promises.
~ L&A. 9.5.21 ~