Samir’s Selection 06/05/2017 (p.m.)
How the Conservatives made it back: 12 years that changed Britain >>>
Most voters in 2005 shared Tory dislike of immigration, but not very passionately: in the last ICM poll before the election, only 8 per cent named it as their key electoral issue. So few cared about the EU that many Conservatives wanted their party to quieten down about the subject…
Then everything changed: terrorist attacks, the Iraq war’s endless horrendous afterlife, the financial crisis and a fall in ordinary people’s wages that has left the median British worker worse off today than in 2005. Meanwhile, annual net immigration jumped unsettlingly: it first exceeded 200,000 in 2004 and has stayed above that level almost non-stop since.
In 2010, an unhappy country punished Labour by installing the Conservative prime minister David Cameron. Then he accidentally initiated Brexit. That inflicted a distressingly emotional partisan divide on a traditionally apolitical nation. Brexit quarrels now break out at family get-togethers.
However, Brexit proved a gift to the Conservatives: suddenly, Europe became the key electoral issue. At last the Tories had their vision: they would honour the will of the people (and the Daily Mail) by executing Brexit and (here follows Theresa May’s political ideology in full) cutting the net migration number.
The enduring Tory promise to return to the past has more appeal now than in happy 2005. Vote Tory for grammar schools, fox hunting, stiff blue passports and bizarre colonialist sentimentality about Britain’s “age-old relationship” with India, plus fantasies of war with Spain over Gibraltar. As in a 1920s vicarage tea party in a Merchant Ivory film, the whole enterprise is overseen by that timeless British figure, the clergyman’s daughter. (The rule of thumb of UK elections is that the party leader who looks most like Middle England wins.)
Today’s Britain was unimaginable in 2005.
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