What Became Of The Great British Progressive Majority? It Never Existed

BBC Challengers Debate - Leaders Debate - General Election 2015 - Nigel Farage Stands Alone

Turns out that pooling their strength and holding hands beneath a big progressive rainbow will not help Britain’s left-wing parties get back into power after all. What a shame.

Remember the Great British Progressive Majority, that overwhelmingly large (yet always infuriatingly hidden) bloc of centre-leftish voters who together wielded the power to lock the Evil Tories out of 10 Downing Street and government forever, if only they could be organised and persuaded to vote tactically?

You know, that vast conclave of redistributionist, environmentalist, identity politics-wielding, Big Government-supporting luvvies who supposedly outweigh the 11.3 million British voters who re-elected the Conservative government last May?

Well, no worries if you don’t recall the fabled progressive majority. Because it turns out that it doesn’t exist after all, and never has.

Guido reports:

This morning the centrist, cross-party Social Market Foundation held a well attended seminar headlined by Chuka Umunna, Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg. It felt like a wake for the Labour Party. SMF claims – on the back of research from Opinium – that there’s no progressive left-leaning majority in the country – the majority of voters hold “traditionally right-wing views” that will guarantee a “healthy majority” in the future for the right-wing parties.

The wonks categorised voters’ attitudes into eight political tribes/parties that share very distinctive political views. Despite the majority of voters self-describing as “centrist”, most voters actually identified with centre-right and right-wing political attitudes.

But…but…but Nicola Sturgeon promised us! One can hear the wailing from trendy lefty dinner tables from Brighton to Aberdeen. And so she did. So did they all – Sturgeon, Nick Clegg of the forgotten “Lib Dem” tribe, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, the Green Party’s underwhelming Natalie Bennett. In the tawdry hunt for votes, all of these party leaders told the electorate that between them, they carried the votes to “lock David Cameron out of Number 10 Downing Street“.

The only one to object, as all of this unfolded, was the hapless Ed Miliband, whose votes these other parties were ruthlessly cannibalising. Miliband, still entertaining sweetly pathetic hopes of becoming prime minister, had no great desire to share power in a leftist coalition, to have moralising Scottish and Welsh nationalists perched on either shoulder, scolding him for his insufficient fidelity to socialist principles.

But Miliband need not have worried about sharing power. Between them, the main parties of the Left – Labour, the LibDems, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party – managed to accumulate just 13,102,483 votes in the 2015 general election. Meanwhile, the main parties of the Right – Conservative and UKIP – racked up 15,215,675 votes. This gave the parties of the Right an edge of well over 2 million votes, despite the fact that David Cameron’s lacklustre Coke Zero Conservatives hardly put a spring in people’s steps as they went to the polling station. Britain’s fabled progressive majority didn’t show up on polling day. And they didn’t show up because they don’t exist other than in the minds of starry-eyed leftists.

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If you have the time, the whole report – entitled “Dead centre? A review of the political landscape after the referendum” – is worth a read. Yes, it contains the obligatory sprinkling of shellshocked establishment wailing about Brexit, and is published by a think tank which claims to represent something (the so-called “radical centre”) which by definition can not exist. But the report nonetheless highlights the key reason why the parties of the Left cannot unite in opposition to the Evil Tor-ees, as many of their activists clearly want to happen.

Money quote:

On the whole, our analysis makes more cheerful reading for those on the right, than on the centre or the left. The two largest tribes, making up around 50% of the population, hold a range of traditionally right wing views, offering a solid foundation on which to aim for the 40-42% of the vote which normally guarantees a healthy majority under our electoral system. These groups share a desire to see immigration reduced to below 100k a year and were both solidly pro-Leave in the EU referendum.

In fact, of the eight different voter tribes identified by the report, “none of the other groups approaches the size or homogeneity of these two”. These two groups alone account for more than half the electorate, and are inherently distrustful of more leftist policies. Throw in a third tribe, the “free liberals” (perhaps including this blog) and you are looking at 57% of the electorate likely to be hostile to collectivist, redistributionist thinking.

If splits within the Conservative Party and between the Tories and UKIP look bad, that is nothing compared to the fissures on the right, according to the report. As Guido notes:

The progressive tribes are fragmented, disagreeing on openness to the world and attitudes towards the welfare state and taxation. This is bad news for the current Labour Party as the think-tank finds massive differences between so-called“Democratic Socialists” and “Community” party voter blocs – traditionally known as Labour supporters – while both tribes agree on socialist policies towards capitalism, they diverge on supporting the EU or having an internationalist approach.

Well, really it is just Labour that is fractured. The LibDems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green party have all clearly decided to tread the internationalist, social democrat path, worshipping at the altar of the EU and scorning the nation state as a worthwhile agent for change or guarantor of core liberties. This leaves the Labour Party as the only home for those patriotic left-wingers who might fall into the “Community” tribe. And even there, they find themselves under continual assault by the sneering middle class clerisy which is loathe to give up its stranglehold on policymaking. Jeremy Corbyn answers some of this tribe’s concerns, but not all. In fact, one might consider him equally dissatisfactory to the “Democratic Socialists” as to the “Community” tribe, rubbing each up the wrong way.

Even if the parties of the Left could hammer out an uneasy truce and electoral alliance, why would they? Despite the overblown leftist rhetoric, Theresa May’s Conservative government hardly shows signs of being a radical right-wing government in the manner of Thatcher (more’s the pity), so why attempt a political merger which is almost certainly doomed to failure, just to thwart a very non-threatening centrist Tory government? Leftists’ hatred of the Evil Tor-ees is certainly irrational, but they are not that irrational.

Besides, whatever faultlines currently run through the British Left, the headline numbers don’t lie. And despite the fatuous claims of opportunistic smaller parties that greater Westminster representation would enable them to participate in a progressive majority government, the votes simply are not there. They never were.

Of course, none of this is surprising – except, apparently, to London-dwelling metro-left members of the political class who never actually get out and talk to normal people. Anyone who actually does so knows that Britain remains a vaguely conservative country, shot through with a fairly strong authoritarian streak and a deeply ingrained suspicion of success.

We Brits will happily sign petitions for Things That We Don’t Like to be banned and made illegal (the authoritarian bit), light ourselves on fire outside Downing Street in protest at The Great British Bake Off moving from the BBC to Channel Four (the conservative bit) before going on a long, satisfying rant about how evil it is that the inventors and producers of that television show want to receive market-rate compensation for their creation (the suspicion of success). That’s just who we are as a country. I certainly didn’t need the Social Market Foundation and their “eight tribes” report to know that Britain is a small-c conservative country.

That’s why David Cameron was able to guide his wishy-washy, Coke Zero Conservative government to one and a half general election victories – by appealing to these instincts in us. Lord knows it wasn’t because we were excited about his agenda for government (whatever that may have been).

Anyone who pays the remotest bit of attention to British politics ought to be able to sum up our national character fairly succinctly in a manner such as this. In fact, the only ones unable to do so – who laboured under the hilarious misapprehension that there was some great progressive majority yearning to break free and assert itself, installing a wind turbine on every roof – were the deluded metro-leftists.

Perhaps now they can disenthrall themselves of this sweet but futile notion.

 

Postscript: This review of the report in Conservative Home is also worth a read.

 

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The Green Party, 60% Income Tax And Lessons From The West Wing

 

Natalie Bennett and the Green Party decided to use (or rather, waste) one of their rare moments in the media spotlight this weekend to announce their grand plan to levy a 60% marginal income tax rate on anyone earning over £150,000 a year.

The Greens are not even approaching the issue apologetically, with the tired old claim that confiscatory rates of income tax are necessary to fund public services. No, now they are suggesting that wealthy Brits should be hit with punishing rates of tax because apparently Britain’s brightest minds, shrewdest investors and most successful entrepreneurs “take too much” out of our society:

The highest earners would face a 60p top rate of tax under Green Party plans to make the richest “pay back” to society and deter companies from paying “excessive” salaries.

Britain’s top earners currently face a 45p rate on income over £150,000 but Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader, claimed that they deserved to pay even more.

“What this 60p is for is really to identify the fact that some people are taking too much out of our society, they need to pay back,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

You read that right. The Green Party actually believes that the people who invent things, make scientific breakthroughs, create jobs, run Britain’s top industries and make our art and culture the finest in the world take stuff out of our society. The people who already pay the most tax and keep our precious public services ticking over are nothing more than parasites, according to Natalie Bennett and the Greens.

Clearly Natalie Bennett is not a fan of hit US television show The West Wing. If she was, she would know that even starry-eyed left wingers like fictional President Bartlett’s speechwriter, Sam Seaborn, accept that it is unseemly to bash the rich while taxing them to death at the same time.

In one very memorable quote (see the video above), Sam Seaborn says to a union boss:

“Every time your boss got on the stump and said it’s time for the rich to pay their fair share, I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left [my old job before going into politics] making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share. And the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I’m happy to, because that’s the only way it’s going to work. And it’s in my best interests that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads.

But I don’t get twenty-seven votes on election day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty-seven times hotter. The top one per cent of wage earners in this country pay for twenty-two per cent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying”.

Hard to put it much better than that.

Of course, the Green Party delight in the fact that their radically “alternative” politics place them far to the left of even staunchly left-wing opinion.

But given the harm that a 60% top rate of tax would do – and it would be a catastrophic act of economic self-harm, based on Britain’s historical experience and the cautionary tale now underway in France under President François Hollande – even supporters of greater wealth redistribution may well think twice before endorsing this ruinous policy.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to wonder exactly what kind of twisted mind convinces itself that success is a bad thing, to be punished and discouraged at all costs?

The West Wing Green Party Natalie Bennett Sam Seaborn - Taxing The Rich - General Election 2015

Natalie Bennett, 60% Income Tax And The Dark Heart Of The Green Party

Natalie Bennett Green Party Income Tax Top Rate 60 Per Cent General Election 2015 2

 

Imagine an economy that gives everyone their fair share.

That’s what the Green Party website asks us to do, as they pitch their alternative, brave new world to the British electorate.

Put aside the fact that the very idea of a “fair share” is completely meaningless, rendering itself open to redefinition and misuse in any number of ways. What matters is that the Green Party views the economy not as a diverse group of individuals with their own talents, skills and interests, but as a monolothic entity entirely separate from the people, a money-making machine to be cranked up and raided at will in order to fund the social objective of the day.

When you view the economy in this way, it’s natural to see the people who produce and contribute most to the “economy machine” as nothing more than resources to be raided and exploited for the greater good, not as human beings with their own hopes and dreams (and the ability to pick up sticks and move elsewhere if they find themselves being bullied by Big Government).

And it is partly this toxic mindset which drives the Green Party to propose a new 60% top rate of income tax, not just for the yacht-owning super-rich elite but on anybody earning over £150,000 per year.

From the BBC’s report:

The Green Party has announced it would put up the top rate of tax to 60p in the pound.

Party leader Natalie Bennett claimed the move would bring in an extra £2 billion a year for public services.

She said the Greens would like to see a “ten to one ratio between the top paid and lowest paid”.

Not contenting themselves with confiscatory rates of income tax, the Green Party also propose stealing peoples’ hard-earned wealth, which has of course already been taxed at the point it was created (and, in the case of inheritance tax, passed down the generations):

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Dispatch From Hampstead And Kilburn – Interview With Rebecca Johnson (Green Party)

 

When interviewing Rebecca Johnson, I asked how the Green Party would mitigate what would inevitably be huge transitional costs involved in moving the British economy from its current state to a radically different, more “sustainable” footing, particularly if the rest of the world did not follow suit. Johnson spoke about “growing different kinds of jobs, community based jobs, community based shops, localised, community based industry to supply the sustainable, renewable energy” and vowed to “change the architecture of how energy is produced”.

When asked about this upheaval, Johnson said: “there will be transitional changes. I see those as opportunities. With every opportunity there will be different ways in which jobs and industry and community responsibilities will change and will grow … I believe that very very quickly, people will find that they are happier, healthier, they have better communities and better living standards, they have better education and health which means better security”.

Rebecca Johnson continued: “I believe that the transition can be done in the lifetime of one parliament”.

 

Click here for interviews with each of the 2015 candidates standing for election in Hampstead and Kilburn, and a summary of the recent hustings organised by West Hampstead Life.

Rebecca Johnson - Green Party - Hampstead and Kilburn - General Election 2015

The Green Party Goes All In

A city to watch in 2014.

 

Interesting news from the city of Brighton, where the UK’s only Green Party-controlled local council is planning to put the question of a significant council tax increase directly to the people who would have to pay it. At an estimated cost of £100,000, the council plans to hold a referendum to ask citizens to approve a 4.5% council tax increase which is expected to raise £2.5 million per year more than the assumed 2% increase.

Consulting the people directly is entirely the right thing to do, and is actually very much in line with Conservative party policy under the influence of Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary. There is currently a threshold in place requiring local councils to hold a referendum to gain approval from constituents for any council tax increase of above 2%, but this has led to a rash of councils repeatedly skimming just beneath the 2% level year after year, continually cranking up the tax without having to gain the consent of the people. In fact, this has prompted some within the Conservative party to agitate for reducing the referendum threshold to increases in excess of 1.5%, a figure well below the current inflation rate.

Credit must be given to the Green Party for actually having the guts to stand behind their favoured spending plans and asking the local citizenry to sign off on them. I may vehemently degree with some of their specific goals or policies, but I will always respect a party that is willing to go directly to the electorate on an important issue over one that claims to speak for the people without having consulted them.

Of course, the referendum plan was announced with a predictable degree of sanctimony and victimhood from the Greens, as The Guardian reports:

Justifying the move, [Green Party council leader] Kitcat said: “The coalition’s cuts mean we cannot deliver the services we were elected to provide and which our consciences say we should provide. We have no choice but to seek the views of local people on funding these services through a tax increase.

“Westminster’s ideologically driven cuts to local councils are huge and relentless while demand for our services continues to grow. Vulnerable people who depend on our services are being threatened from Westminster like never before.

The Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, ladles it on even thicker:

Bennett said: “As Greens we believe that decisions should be made closest to the people who are affected. Instead of letting Whitehall impose cuts on vulnerable people in Brighton and Hove, this announcement takes the decision to the people.

I do find it slightly ironic that the Green Party should take this opportunity to boast about their supposedly-favoured tactics of localism and direct democracy when it is quite plainly apparent that they only turned to the referendum idea out of desperation once all other avenues to fund their big-spending plans had failed to deliver.

Nonetheless, this is a broadly positive development, and it will be very interesting to see how the people of Brighton vote if the referendum does take place. A referendum would require the support or abstention of the Conservative or Labour parties, as the Greens have only minority control of the council chamber, and I would hope that both parties would gladly consent to letting the people have their say – though this is by no means certain.

Not for much longer, perhaps.
Not for much longer, perhaps.

 

The denizens of Brighton are an interesting bunch in terms of their political leanings, having returned Caroline Lucas to Westminster as the only Green MP in Parliament, and so they can hardly be described as a bellwether city or constituency for gauging the national mood. But one thing is readily apparent: if the referendum takes place and it turns out that even left-wing Brighton isn’t willing to put up the money to fund high levels of public spending, then there will be precious little appetite to do so anywhere else.

Which would rather undermine all of the anti-austerity arguments so loudly proclaimed by the left since 2010, wouldn’t it?