Some weeks ago, Tom Harris MP wrote a blog post trying to suggest that ‘progressives’ are ill-at-ease in the Tory Party, and belong naturally in the Labour movement, whose raison d’etre is closely aligned with the ‘progressive’ agenda. As I responded at the time, there is a danger in this kind of thinking: electorally speaking, it might just alienate those very people who Labour need to vote for them in the forthcoming election.
Of course, why such bold pronouncements need to be made at all is rapidly becoming clear. Squabbling over possession of the ‘progressive’ label has reached ludicrous proportions, as each side seeks to outdo each other and garnish themselves with the adoration and praise of the small but influential ‘progressive’ oligarchy. The mad dash for such a crown has lead both parties to ignore, even actively persecute, those who tend not to set much store by such things.
The effect this manic dash has had on Project Cameron is becoming ever clearer, as shouts of ‘fraud’ and ‘pretender’ reach fever pitch amongst traditional conservative voters. However, the malaise is not confined to the right, and a similar disillusionment affects those who might naturally consider themselves to be on the left, too. For in seeking to unify the Labour Party and the ‘progressive’ agenda, Labour has risked forcing some of its most loyal voters into a socio-cultural agenda that actively antagonises against many of their traditionally-held beliefs and opinions (the BNP really is just one expression of this malaise).
Of course, stuffed full as it is with rather clever (if not wholly wise) people, the Labour Party is not completely ignorant of this fact, and despite all the support of the metro-left for the unencumbered advance of ‘progressive’ policies, Labour has tended to address the situation a little more soberly of late. They recognise the social conservatism at the heart of many of the working class districts they consider their own, and they realise that, this close to an election, they will have to cease antagonising it, and perhaps even consider representing it. The signs of this comprehension are clear enough – as Glasgow East illustrated, the ‘Catholic vote’ has become something of an electoral concern, and no-one can really doubt that Harman’s uncharacteristic retreat from a fight over the Equalities Bill was at least in part a reflection of this dawning realisation (or Brown’s recent astonishing praise of Catholics as often being the ‘conscience of the nation’).
Equally, the Prime Minister once again addressing the issue of immigration, even if he did play with the statistics a little bit, demonstrates that he grasps the fact that what for all these years has been declared the ‘progressive’ position on immigration did little for the most vulnerable in society – more, in all its gloriously middle-class condescension it essentially abandoned the ‘white working class’ to their fate, and denounced them as racists and xenophobes when they dared complain. The legacy of this is something we, as a country, may well live with for the course of more than just one electoral cycle.
As such, Labour will have to be brave enough to acknowledge that there is a certain electoral toxicity inherent to the ‘progressiveness’ of the metropoles, and its claims needs to be counter-balanced with those who might actually happen to see the world a little differently. This will undoubtedly be difficult: as I have stated previously, to my mind there are few movements so blinkered as the ‘progressive’ movement. So convinced of the moral superiority of its own narrative, the ‘progressive’ movement is absolutely unwilling to accept anything other than its own proclamations, implemented in full by an ever-authoritarian state, as the definition of ‘progress’. This sense of self-righteousness is wonderfully demonstrated through the new website ‘RateMyTory’, a site that pronounces ex cathedra on the progressiveness of any particular Tory candidate (‘progressive’ entirely defined according to the metropolitan middle-class bourgeois mindset, of course). For neutral observers, there is a remarkable resemblance to a similar resource on the website of the Christian Institute, which similarly rates MPs voting records according to whether they were ‘morally right’ or ‘morally wrong’ (in light of the traditional dictates of the Christian faith). For all those ‘progressives’ who might be rubbed up the wrong way by the certainty of the CI in its unflinching assessment of what constitutes the moral, spare a thought for those who fall short of ‘progressive’ accounts of the same. It seems, more and more, that Labour are finally beginning to.