>The Tories Finking Aloud


A brief exchange of emails with a colleague on the merits ofTimes columnist and ex-Tory research director, Danny Finkelstein. My colleague is a fan of his take on the Euston Manifesto (impressive, but a waste of time he says given the nature of the Left – its supporters should admit to themselves they are moving right – a predictable enough conclusion part of the lost Owenite column of the SDP that made it into John Major’s Conservative party in the mid-1990s. But I’m reminded of more interesting Finkelstein piece, that appeared a couple of months ago on the new Cameroonian Tories and their relationship with the changing communities of the East End http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,21129-2074736,00.html
now a fractured mix of ethnic minorities, a declining traditional white working class and new incoming cosmopolitan professionals. The latter says Finkelstein – – hold the balance of power (in London?) and should be the Tories real concern. “Conservatives will never be propelled to power by working-class voters resentful about their share of welfare resources.”

“Enter the BNP” I thought, reading it back in March and, of course, enter they have. Finkelstein’s concluding comment that “In the East End it was the Liberals who won the votes of the angry white working class” seems both misplaced, complacent and disingenuous given that the National Front were already outpolling the liberals in the 1970s until Mrs Thatcher’s authoritarian populism did for them electorally.

Of course, strategically from a Tory point of view, Finkelstein is probably right. The political backdraft of local pockets of ‘welfare chauvinist’ BNP voting, even the BNP part running the odd town hall, probably wouldn’t upset the Cameroonian big picture Indeed, it might even be helpful, acting kind of fire ship running into parts of the Old Labour vote – provided it didn’t growth into a wider populist challenge, seeping into the UKIP-land in the West of England and the Home counties… None of this is really new. The political science literature on far right populism has an endless set of typologies and diagrams of political space, much of which emphasizes precisely the electoral and political limitation of the ‘welfare chauvinist’ variant promoted by the BNP. What’s fascinating is the bluntness of strategic choices revealed in Finkelstein’s piece and the sense of political dice being rolled…

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