Dead Men Left

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Ongoing Tory decline"

Sensible post from Shuggy on the latest ICM poll (PDF file), which reveals the Tories lagging behind Labour in all the issues - bar immigration - voters take seriously:

We've just been watching Howard make exactly the same mistake as Hague who focused on asylum seekers/immigration and the Euro.

But the lesson that no-one on the Howard team seems to have taken on board is that while Joe Public tends to agree with the Tories on these issues, they simply don't care enough about them to return a Tory government.

I think he's correct to put this incorrigibility into a narrative of continuing Tory decline. However, that doesn't prevent them thrashing around and churning up unpleasant waters as they fade. What's unsettling is how weak the centre-left is when confronted; the knee-jerk reaction when facing the Sun and Michael Howard at their worst is to tut and scowl, rather than to tackle the issues. Every dismissive wave of a hand confirms the existence of the "liberal elite", and fuels the cycle. Jonathan Freedland makes the alternative case:

So a progressive, populist case for immigration would note the success of the recent BBC2 series Who Do You Think You Are?, in which celebrities traced their family roots. Nearly half had immigrant stories to tell. Audiences were moved by the courage of Moira Stuart's forebears, and Meera Syal's and David Baddiel's. The implicit message was clear. These immigrants might have been spat upon and reviled at the time - but look at the contribution they have made to this country, embodied by their children and grandchildren. Ironically, the man who personifies this case best, the son of an asylum seeker, now an alternative prime minister, is one Michael Howard.

What Freedland doesn't mention is that it is the liberal-left who started this whole process, playing a dangerous (and, for the left, unwinnable) game by shoving the posturing, macho idiot, David Blunkett front-forward to spit and snarl. There was no good reason for him to talk about schools being "swamped", or brag about establishing camps for refugees.