2 November 2019

Two worldviews collide


Judging by the opening few days, this general election may be even less edifying than the one we had in 2017.

Here at CapX our approach throughout the campaign will be to focus not just on the ‘horse race’ of polls and predictions, but on the costs and effects of the parties’ policies.

But let’s be under no illusions, this is not just an election about competing proposals or personalities – important though they might be. It is also about fundamentally different worldviews.

On the one hand, a Labour’s leadership who seem to view anyone who owns a moderately successful business as a combination of Genghis Khan and Scrooge McDuck, dividing their time between oppressing their workforce and counting their ill-gotten loot. If only businessmen weren’t so greedy, the tale goes, Britain would be an oasis of fairness and prosperity. On the other a Tory leadership that, while offering less radicalism than some might like, still appreciates that a well-regulated market economy is the only game in town.

Even by the low standards of recent years, this is likely to be a particularly unpleasant six weeks. The campaign’s opening shots suggest Jeremy Corbyn has embraced the most rank kind of leftwing populism, an ‘us vs them’ narrative fuelled by endlessly repeated lies about the future of the health service and attacks on various bogeymen, be it Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley or Rupert Murdoch.

Of course, this is old-fashioned base-rousing, geared at setting out clear blue water between Corbyn and his main opponents. But it goes beyond mere messaging. Everything about Corbyn’s political past and that of his inner circle suggests a sincere belief that the world is actually run by a shadowy cabal of ‘vested interests’ bent on keeping down the masses. It’s no surprise that anti-Semitism finds such fertile ground among the Corbynites, as mindless tropes about nefarious Jewish or Israeli ‘influence’ fit neatly into their worldview.

The party’s newfound focus on billionaires attests to this. It’s a fiendish attack line, of course, designed to lure the Conservatives into defending the hyper-rich and therefore reinforce Labour’s ‘party of the rich’ narrative.

How do the Tories respond to this kind of rhetoric? As I’ve written before, going after Corbyn as an extremist, a Venezuela-enthusiast or an IRA sympathiser has little resonance with a public far more interested in their local bus route or whether they can expect a pay rise.

Their best bet may be the most simple, shifting the debate relentlessly back to Brexit, a topic Corbyn dances around like a political Rudolf Nureyev (albeit one more sympathetic to the Soviet Union). The fact Labour are painting in broad strokes and trying to focus on the NHS is both playing to the party’s perceived strengths and betraying its weakness on this crucial issue. It’s truly mindboggling that Corbyn is calling for a second referendum – with all its incumbent messiness – but won’t say which outcome he would campaign for.

So buckle up for the most important general election of a generation – or if it’s another hung parliament, the most important general election until the next one.

CapX depends on the generosity of its readers. If you value what we do, please consider making a donation.

John Ashmore is the Editor of CapX