Yesterday the deputy editor of Reason Magazine, Stephanie Slade, wrote an interesting piece in which she discusses some of the reasons why the pre-election polls for the UK general election were, in the end, so wide of the mark. Coincidentally, only last night I was myself pondering why the polls got it so wrong.
All of the polls – I read somewhere that there were about 91 in total – quite significantly over-estimated the Labour vote. After some thought a possible explanation occurred to me, which had also occurred to Ms Slade. She mused:
“One hypothesis is that in the U.K. people are sometimes “shy” about admitting they plan to vote Conservative. So they answer that they don’t know who they’re supporting, or they name another option, thus skewing the results away from the eventual winner.”
It’s a curious thing. Why might people feel ashamed of voting Conservative? Why in British society might openly admitting that you support the Conservative party be akin to admitting, say, that you secretly video your attractive neighbour or that you drown cats for fun? Why might it be met with silent disgust, angry disbelief or no more invites to parties?
Perhaps it’s because of what the public and the media largely believe the Conservative party and the Labour party respectively represent. The former, I would suggest, is perceived to essentially embody the selfish drives of the individual. Whereas the latter is believed to represent the altruistic side of us. Conservative is seen as ‘I’ and Labour as ‘we’, essentially.
Most of us want to be seen by others as kind and altruistic people who support political policies that benefit all and not just the few, and we all want to believe of ourselves that we are good people. After all, virtually all of us want to do what’s right and to be liked by others. Unfortunately, what makes us popular isn’t always that which is good – e.g. advocating socialist government policies. Thus the tricky thing is determining what social and economic good is. The only way to acquire this knowledge is through reason and evidence.
Perhaps, in the deepest recesses of the minds of voters, admitting that you vote Conservation feels like admitting that “I care more about my own well-being than others”. Whereas saying that you vote Labour implies that “I am prepared to sacrifice my well-being for others in order that we will all be equally well-off”. On the face of it, who wouldn’t want to be friends with a person like that? The Labour voter’s not only got your back, but he promises to give you a back rub every time he could really do with one. The Conservative voter, on the other hand, seems like a guy who will stab you in the back as soon as it becomes beneficial for him to do so. And never give you a free back rub.
The liberal media in Britain is now rather dramatically declaring that this majority win for the Tories will signal the death of health care, education and help for poor and sick people – the very end of society as we know it. They seem to truly believe that all the wonderful things that the virtuous State provides society with, which couldn’t possibly exist otherwise of course, are going to be smashed up, dismantled and torn down to be replaced with…nothing. This ominous declaration reveals that the media and indeed much of the general public – if what I’m seeing on social networks is anything to by – greatly overestimate the ideological difference between Conservative policies and Labour policies.
Contrary to popular belief, the Conservatives aren’t opposed to socialised health care and education, State childcare or welfare; they just believe they know how do it better. They believe they can concoct the perfect mixture of State run private-public medical care and education ‘partnerships’. They are convinced that they can intelligently combine the best aspects of free markets with the perceived benefits of State control to produce a hybrid system superior to anything fully free markets or full State control could provide. Furthermore, for the Conservatives to snuff out Britain’s shining beacons of State socialism would be political suicide in a society still very much smitten with socialist ideals.
The British public has developed what is a virtually religious believe that free education, medical care and a welfare system is a basic human right – like being allowed to breathe. If this Conservative government ever attempted to fully privatise education and medical care or abolish the welfare system in the coming years it would probably be felt by the British public as an act of tyranny. Significant social unrest would surely break out on the streets of Britain as the enraged masses fought for their ‘rights’.
When people resist an expansion of their freedoms and demand a shrinking of them, then that’s a sign that their nature has been corrupted. The tiger that has no desire to leave its cage is a sad sight indeed.
Whatever the Conservative government does to the NHS, State education, the welfare system and other State ‘services’ in the near future it won’t be anywhere near as radical or severe as much of the British public seems to be fearing it will be. The government will undoubtedly shift funding around, close down departments here and create new ones there, but overall I think it’s very likely that relatively little will change in terms of quality, quantity and how much the State spends on them. If there is significant change, and for the worse from the public’s point of view, then this Conservative government will very probably be deposed come the next election. The current incumbents of government are undoubtedly shrewd enough to realise this.
Several decades or more ago there probably was a distinct ideological difference between Conservative policies and Labour policies, but now with the State’s regulatory tentacles infiltrating every corner of society and the economy, no politician from any party would dare suggest that this is problematic or undesirable; because to do so would be met with almost universal disgust by a people so completely enchanted by what they believe to be the limitless virtue of government action. It may take the State collapsing under its own weight for this spell to be broken and for a truly distinct political party to emerge from the congealed mass that is Britain’s current ones.