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Friday, 10 October 2014

What About Heywood and Middleton

Labour has held the parliamentary seat of Heywood & Middleton, located historically in Lancashire.
I grew up in Lancashire, in the last days of powerful working-class protestant Toryisn. The Borough of Darwen, before its incorporation into Blackburn, was pretty solidly Tory because it was working class and protestant. Nobody works as hard, or as repetitiously, now as the majority of men and women did only fifty years ago. Darwen parish registers show whole pages of marriages between men who are described as 'Collier' and women who are either 'Weaver' or 'Spinner' [to differentiate workers in spinning mills from soft southern non-employed women who could be decribed as 'Spinsters'. The working class that I knew has effectively been abolished. Similarly the identification of more than 80% of the population as affilliates of this or that chrch or chapel is absolutely a thing of the past, with Muslims the largest active religious group.

From the 1950 General Election until now the slowly-declining Tory party competed with Labour - which first emerged as a credible party of government only in 1945 - to bribe the electorate with competing packages of handouts. Thus the two parties divided office between themselves over the years: until the stalemate that resulted from the General Election of 2010,

Since 2010 the awfulness of both 'major' parties [and the unspeakable shuffling of the LibDems] brought disillusion with politics to a new peak. Labour and Conservatives are both planning to run their next election campaign on the basis of what they can give away; mitigated by scarcely-credible 'plans' to pay for the handouts. The phenomenon of 'economic growth' means an increase in total spending in the economy: Osborne has achieved the fastest growth in the developed world simply by increasing government spending and borrowing, and mainintaining conditions in which people individually borrow ever more [both for house purchases and lifestyle spending]. To compound those follies the balance-of-payments remain seriously in deficit, adding external debt to the burden that has fallen on the state.

If a vote for 'none of the above' could make a significant difference to politics, people would take it. Now it looks as if UKIP is better than nothing. But they are not just attracting protest votes: they are tapping again the deep roots of working-class conservatism, and also at the roots of pristine Disraelian conservatism. The cross-party politician Winston Churchill was anything but a Little Englander: he offered union to France in 1940, and looked forward to a European Union. But the true blue Tory would have nothing of Catholic Socialist Europe, and Old Labour were nationalists [as Foreign Secretary in the Attlee government, Earnest Bevin described himself as " friend of the jolly old Empire"]. Ukip much better meets these two traditions than any other party; and its leader's habits chime in wiith both old working-class and true tory behaviour.

The clever spin doctors and professional politicians still think in terms of swing between two establishment parties, with decision being taken on the Manifestos on the basis of handing different packs of goodies to the despised, alien hoi-polloi. Ukip meets a historical trend, which could overwhelm the entire system; just seven months from now.

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