The other day I argued that people’s political views on international matters are seldom based on strictly economic considerations.
This certainly goes for our domestic politics as well.
We are viscerally predisposed towards supporting some parties and, even more strongly, towards rejecting some others. Most of us are capable of explaining rationally the choice made intuitively, but this will only fall into the domain of post-rationalisation.
Such a bias is seldom mainly, and never merely, rational. Nor is it ever based solely on a cold-blooded calculation of financial odds.
I can prove this assertion by simply pointing out that, if people saw their voting forms as nothing but balance sheets, we’d never have a single Labour MP, never mind prime minister.
To realise this one doesn’t have to delve deep into economic theory – just looking at history would clinch the argument. For Labour governments have always, with predictable monotony, destroyed the economy they ran. No crystal ball is needed to realise that, if they’ve always done so in the past, they’ll always do so in the future.
Tory governments have had a spotty economic record, but it has never been as disastrous as Labour’s. And it would have been even better if the Tories hadn’t always had to take over a ruined economy bequeathed to them by their predecessors.
There’s no sound economic reason for those who aren’t subsisting on welfare ever to vote Labour – yet many do. It would be naïve to think this is because they’re too stupid to figure out where their economic interests lie.
I worked for many years with Labour-voting advertising executives whose six-figure salaries were nicely padded with hefty bonuses, stock options and all sorts of perks. And they were perfectly aware that under a Labour government they’d pay higher taxes and have every manner of spoke stuck into the wheels of their business.
And yet my partners persisted in their urge to “punish those bastards”, meaning the well-off. When I pointed out that they themselves were “those bastards”, and they themselves would be punished, they simply shrugged. “I don’t care,” was the typical answer.
In other words, another man’s pain is a more attractive prospect than their own benefit. This explains the alacrity with which Ed Miliband is outlining his electoral platform. If realised in government, it’ll spell the greatest economic disaster this country has ever seen, and yet he feels that enough people won’t care about that and return Labour to power.
Just think: we’d have a doctrinaire authoritarian government hell-bent on bleeding us white with taxes, increasing the national debt even beyond its present catastrophic size, attracting even more immigrants while introducing taxation policies guaranteed to keep foreign business at bay, spending even more on foreign aid and madcap green projects, nationalising all they could (starting with the railways), controlling our eating, drinking and smoking habits, destroying what little is left of our education, disarming the country in the face of growing foreign threats – and I’m only mentioning the policies about which the Milibandits are talking openly.
Add to these those they keep up their sleeves, as everyone knows they do, and on any rational level a Miliband victory would spell an unmitigated economic calamity, one that no subsequent Tory government would be able to reverse.
This would be almost acceptable if one felt confident that we’d learn our lesson and next time elect a sensible government. Yet we know already that this won’t be the case. The Brits are still keeping Labour at the top of the polls even though Miliband is promising more of what plunged the country into an economic abyss just a few years ago.
I’m not adopting a holier-than-thou position here. True enough, at the risk of sounding immodest I probably know more about politics and economics than the average voter. And I can rationalise my political judgement in the form of soundly argued book-length essays.
Yet I’m as guilty as anyone of disregarding logic and voting from the heart. If this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t even contemplate voting UKIP in national elections. After all, as a formidable battleaxe of a former Tory minister once told me, a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour.
We all know Nigel Farage’s party won’t carry the 2015 elections. We also know that people who are ever likely to vote UKIP are intuitive conservatives like me and, if you’re reading this, probably you.
If they cast their vote that way, it won’t be the vote that’ll win UKIP the election, but it may well be one that’ll lose it for the Tories. Yet I and many others like me are so disgusted with Cameron’s take on conservatism, that we may well go against reason and put Miliband into 10 Downing Street by voting UKIP.
It’s interesting to observe how the strategies pursued by the two main parties are diametrically opposite.
Cameron’s Tories are ignoring their core support, intuitive conservatives like you and me. I won’t bore you with citing a list of Dave’s policies, such as his fanatical push for homomarriage, that have made many a conservative stomach churn.
Rather than going for depth, fortifying its position with the core support, the party is going for breadth: trying to appeal to those whose hearts are in a different place. This runs the obvious risk of haemorrhaging votes the UKIP way and not replenishing them from elsewhere.
Miliband’s Labour are doing exactly the opposite: they’re ignoring intuitive and even marginal Tories, who they know aren’t likely to vote Labour under any circumstances. Instead they’re trying to shore up their position among intuitive socialists.
Socialism is demonstrably animated by class and economic resentments, and every policy Miliband has announced so far is aimed at boosting those. While the Tory message bypasses the voters’ heads only partly, the Labour message does so entirely.
It goes straight to the rotten heart of those who’d want to “punish the bastards” even at a loss to themselves. A vote for Labour would thus mean that the nation has sunk deep into a moral and intellectual hole. But if you think this makes the Labour victory unlikely, don’t hold your breath.