The sight of Grant Shapps (or is it Michael Green?) announcing as part of yet another rebranding exercise the other day that the Tories are now ‘The Workers Party’ led to gales of derisive laughter up and down the land.* For this he should be thanked: these are not good times, and humour makes things easier, doesn’t it?
Obviously the announcement was not supposed to be a joke, so let us consider it seriously (or as seriously as it can be considered) for a moment.
The Conservative Party has had, for a number of years now, the curious idea that it makes electoral sense to attempt to appeal to the sort of voters who make up the base vote of the Labour Party in most of the country.** This has always struck me as an utterly bizarre thing to do: a political party’s base vote is generally loyal for a reason (generally several reasons: Christ, a whole set of them as a rule), and in this case most dislike the Tories because, not being fools, they understand perfectly well who and what the Conservative Party stands for (i.e. not them) and therefore even when voting against type for whatever reason, few plump for the Tories. County Durham, Merseyside and South Yorkshire are not going to turn Tory under any circumstances, no matter the rebranding.***
Do I have a theory or an explanation for this? You will doubtless be pleased to learn that I do.
Have you ever noticed how nervous many (most?) middle class people are around groups of manual workers? I used to be very confused by this (honestly, my Dad isn’t about to attack you: he’s lovely. What’s to be afraid of?) but think I get the issue now, probably. And it links into this.
A lot of upper middle class people, it is my observation, seem to to associate ‘worker’ and ‘working class’ with masculinity. Hyper-masculinity, at that. I’m not really sure why this might be (there are working class women as well, you know), but it does seem to be the case. And, anyway, feel pretty insecure in comparison. Weak. Unmanly. Pathetic. Etc. And that therefore doomed Conservative rebranding ventures aimed at appealing to ‘workers’ are an attempt to assert their masculinity, by seeking approval from the (presumed-to-be) hyper-masculine.**** If this seems a little far fetched, you should note that the Conservative Party is led by a man who uses the word ‘butch’ unironically.
Moreover, the above explains the absurd sight of David Cameron and George Osborne in hard hats and boiler suits whenever the opportunity arises: a sight rendered significantly more absurd by their obvious lack of self-awareness regarding its absurdity…
*Mr Green-Shapps has form on this, of course. During the horsemeat scandal last year he remarked to the audience of the popular BBC political panel/bearpit show Question Time that the reason why people feel queasy about eating horsemeat can be explained by the apparent ‘fact’ that horses are carnivores. This man holds public office.
**Rank idiocy of this sort is, in fairness, not exclusive to the Conservative Party as anyone familiar with the dismally stupid end of the Progress faction in the Labour Party will confirm. No, Labour does not need to win Surrey (or wherever) in order to take power.
***Middle class liberals who hand-ring about how the Tories (or UKIP or the BNP or whatever) are ‘culturally’ ‘in touch’ with all working class people everywhere can go fuck themselves as well.
****While also implementing policies that fuck over working class people completely. Verily, it is true that many politicians do assume that the electorate is as brainless as Mr Green-Shapps. Happily this is not so. Thus the derisive laughter mentioned earlier.