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Political Absolutionists

Stephen Hornsby-Smith

Humanity has a habit of demeaning positive perspectives. Ricky Gervais is lethal to the Noah's Ark biblical story. He is countered by creationists who are contemptuous of theories of evolution. Both have not just made their minds up but have made-up their minds for us. No thanks. I prefer self-ownership than allegiance to political and religious dogma, even if it is persuasive.

Although, Britain has a long history of religious intolerance interspersed with periods of uncertainty exorcised by conflict, political public ownership is a relatively recent sectarian 'disturbance in the force' for the status quo. Here we have found a way to resent each other yet paradoxically makes unusual alliances of mutual interest despite decades of mutual hatred. We have successfully mis-managed the potential for national individual ownership enshrined in what it does materially for the individual by a blank cheque that feeds an ideological abstract gravy train for the chancellor, failing miserably to persuade the general public that the term ‘public ownership’ defines the core of their economic and political power. That is just another piece of paper that seems as economically convincing as Neville Chamberlain’s ‘piece of paper’ form Hitler was to promoting peace in our time.

Or should we believe asset-stripping and privatisation never throws-up the Phillip Green’s of this world? Could Keynesian mixed economics and monetarist economics have found a ‘happy medium’ to celebrate their ‘public divorce’ but actually enforce the status quo? I believe both Tory and Labour parties preserve their mutual but divergent interests by playing the classism card: A ball-less Toff’ who thinks manual labour is a Spaniard or an ‘ignorant chav’ whose idea of education is ‘how to fill in an unemployment form whilst secretly owning a white van to sell some pirate DVDs on the quiet’. Sound familiar?

Could, therefore, electoral success in Britain depend on how best to work the class vote? Classism works best in Britain. It’s successful politically, its popular, it’s institutional. What is it’s modus operandi? Marx and MacMillan in bed together?

Macmillan's aristocracy prevented Social advancement from the middle classes and to a larger extent from the working classes. His personality profile would indicate that his marriage to Lady Cavendish allowed him to abandon his middle class background whist pulling up the ladder for any one else. Likewise, middle-class trade unions in the 'Winter of discontent' (1978-9) used an old trick from the working classes (they went on strike) to demand greater social and economic mobility(doctors,nurses, teachers and University lecturer's etc) that would paradoxically grant them social elevation from the working classes. You could defy management by striking in a trade union to demand that (as Thatcher did) the unions should be prevented from 'harming' or 'dominating' the economy by striking. Here significantly the unions, whilst all striking, were for the first time split in objectives and in motivation - at this moment in history we witnessed the beginning of the break-up of the British trade unions by stabbing themselves in the foot. You didn't have to be a 'scab' to destroy the unions, you could start the national political change away from Labour by going on strike. Industrial relations had become an opportunity for the Tories, and Thatcher rammed home the failure of the unions by statute.

But it was Macmillan who had first learnt the trick of social class manipulation to obtain and prolong his dominance as Prime Minister, not Thatcher. Yet did this herald his own decline from power? Whether he realized it or not, he created new forms of electoral demographic in Britain, heralded by the promise of social mobility, and then he created new ways to prevent it. By careful assimulation and cooption he used his 'new demographics' to defend the status quo whilst trumpeting the values of his 'new aristocracy of mobility' for mass consumption. The working classes were shown the 'New British dream', the new inheritors of social mobility. Macmillan became the original New Labour in the 1950s way before Blair in the 1990s. It was 'cool Britannia' and 'the British people have never had it so good'. Official political consensus hid his ideological motivations, such strategic acumen was not Thatchers bag. Neither was her patronage to greater social mobility than any can of worms Macmillan offered. Was Thatcher evicting the very status quo that Macmillan had so scrupulously defended? This threatened many vested interests of the establishment.

How real was the grandee threat of the Tory elite to Thatcher? Thatcher's strident manner upset Macmillan, but the days of social deference and social class warfare that Macmillan secretly worked for, were over. But in Lord Carrington's noble resignation over the Falklands, the vultures were circling above ready to tear down Thatcher and replace her with 'one of their own' if the Falklands War had gone south. Forced smiles appeared as Thatcher had won the political and military day. The grandees had to wait until 1991 to get their revenge against a 'Grocer's daughter'.

But does Labour have grandees of their own? Absolutely. Forces of a political nature immersed themselves in a 'war spirit' that made the political failures and successes of the 1945-50 Labour government entrenched. One has to 'doff ones cap' to the legends of 1945-50 Labour. Even New Labour couldn't measure up to King Atlee and his men, even when Blair was at his most popular. I think Blair made the tactical error of not exploiting grandee Labour for his own benefit, or not making any connection between him and Atlee's 45-50 champions of Labour. It was the labour grandees who indicted Blair as war-mongerer and 'jonny foreigner' in his own party, at the same time. How did they manage to twist such opposites into one policy? The shelf-life of the political grandees obviously still lives on. Or not ? You decide. Decide if Labour hasn't dealt with its past or its future without the Grandee system, and how far Tory political nobility too influences the 'tawdry' fog horn of political endeavour in today's world. In my mind the political elite in this country have indeed retained their influence, and it is barely disguised.

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