A couple of weeks ago, the Marmoset, while pondering the more wearisome of election clichés, contemplated the likely electoral catastrophe awaiting the Labour Party on June 8th, unless: ‘…Theresa May [is] caught doing something unspeakable to a kitten – or to National Treasure Alan Bennet with a slice of Battenberg…].
Be careful what you satirically wish for.
Within seven days of publishing that blog, Theresa May has promised to lift the hunting ban (foxes, not kittens, but you get my point), and launched a major assault on the universal winter fuel allowance for OAPs along with a full frontal attack on anyone facing age related infirmity (i.e. pretty much everybody) in the form of a posthumous asset grab to pay for elderly care, lovingly dubbed The Dementia Tax by a Corbyn campaign, lagging twenty points in the polls and unable to believe their luck. Not Bennet and Battenberg per se – but collectively as good as.
Is this enough to turn the election? I have absolutely no idea.
But if it does it will be for the very realpolitikal reasons that Corbyn’s Labour Party spent so long trying to pretend didn’t apply to them.
Remember the ‘new kind of politics’ that was promised – attacking Tory greed, a system rigged in favour of the privileged, and galvanising the disenfranchised?
Tim Minchin has a gag that runs:
‘Question: What do you call alternative medicine that really works?
You could just as easily ask: What do you call ‘A New Kind Of Politics’ that really works? To which I would answer: ‘Politics’.
If June 8th sees Theresa May failing to make major electoral gains – or even losing her majority – it won’t be because the nation has been swept up in an idealistic fervour to rescue the disenfranchised. Labour will succeed – as it usually succeeds – because its policies resolutely favour the middle classes.
Of course free university tuition and the reinstatement of maintenance grants is enabling for lower income families, but statistically it’s the middle classes who are sending their kids to university and are most hit by the gargantuan cost of it all. In absolute big money terms, this is a policy that benefits the middle classes the most.
When governments borrow – as John McDonnell intends to do to the tune of hundreds of billions of squids – they do it by issuing government bonds and gilts, which have guaranteed long term returns courtesy of the ordinary taxpayer. And who buys those I wonder? The disenfranchised? Hmmmm…. let me think about that for a nanosecond.
And I wonder who it is that’s going to get hammered by a posthumous raid on Margaret Thatcher’s beloved property owning democracy? That’ll be the property owning democracy that that the left has been championing all these years, will it? That good old left wing policy of locking up your assets in bricks and mortar, inflating the housing market, undermining the public rented sector, and handing the money on to your kids – because we all know how much the idea of inherited privilege is at the core of Labour values.
So there you have it folks. If you’re a house owner with half a million quid in property, kids at Oxbridge, and a major share portfolio… Vote Labour! Vote Labour! Vote Labour! It’s a no-brainer.
I know I will be.
The delicious, taste-tingling irony of all this, is that those of us none-too-keen on the more swivel eyed aspects of Corbyn worship, have been serenely intimating for a couple of years that the only way to win an election in this country is to appeal to the centre ground; to give people who aren’t idealistically wedded to the Labour cause a reason to vote for the party. Such utterings have been greeted with derision, insult, shouts of Red Tory, Tory-lite, neo liberal Blairite scum fuck off to the Tories where are your real Labour values working people Ken Loach I Daniel Blake moral high ground jizz jizzety jizz…
But now a great big dollop of steaming realpolitik just landed right in Labour’s lap giving the asset rich middle classes – flinching like a whipped puppy at the prospect of losing their wealth, privilege and ability to inherit stuff – a stonking great flashing neon steer to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn – the saviour who will put the eight trillion pounds locked into UK home ownership beyond the reach of the cash-strapped care system!!
Satirical hyperbole aside, as the population gets ever older, spending a greater and greater proportion of our lives economically non-productive at best – and requiring incredibly expensive care at worst – new sources of money will have to be found to pay for this, and there will be a limit to how many things corporation tax can fund… especially when it’s already been spent a couple of times over already.
Me? Personally I absolutely favour taxing the assets people leave behind them after their deaths… but to fund a universal elderly care system, not as a financial punishment for individual infirmity.
So has Theresa May hit her Poll Tax moment before she’s even won an election? If the public develop a herd immunity to a political idea it can bring you down, as it did Margaret Thatcher.
But will May’s proposition focus the electorate’s mind on the need for a big ticket collective way of funding long term elderly care?
Hmmm. The uncomfortable reality is that popularly the electorate don’t really make much of a distinction between the two fundamentally different approaches. Attempts to increase death duties and such like, usually proposed by left of centre parties, tend to go down like the proverbial turd in a water strike (is there a proverb about a turd in a water strike?).
So if, by some further twist of electoral fate, Jeremy Corbyn should find himself in Number Ten in a few weeks time, he and John McDonnell will soon realise exactly why Theresa May made her perhaps ill-fated attempt to shed herself of electorally motivated and extremely expensive economic obligations to the beleaguered middle classes on whom electoral victory in the UK continues to depend. Our Jezzer might have to think again about precisely who he is calling greedy, and what exactly he means by a rigged system….
It’s politics, Jez, exactly as we’ve always known it.
Or to put it another way… don’t fuck with the Battenberg.
(Marmoset’s Addendum: Within twelve short hours of posting this blog, Theresa May has performed a screeeeeching, eardrum-ripping, handbrake turn, promising a cap on care costs in an echo of David Cameron’s promise of of a few years ago. Whether this will help shore up the Conservative poll lead it is far too early to tell, but, with regard to this particular blog, the really interesting thing to watch out for will be whether Corbyn’s team have got the taste for wooing the privileged middle classes, or whether they go back to playing the ideological greatest hits to keep the fanbase happy.
What’s that you say?
They’ve brought forward their promise to scrap tuition fees? Mmmmmm… cash for votes – more addictive than Spice – once you start…)