When I first became involved with politics there was a Conservative government in power.
Well, when I say Conservative it was the time of the last gasp of Ted Heath’s failed administration. It had started out with a clear Conservative vision in 1970, and came to an inglorious end drowning in semi-socialism. And it clearly wasn’t really in power. In 1974 Heath went to the country with a “Who Governs Britain” manifesto, and the answer was not him. It turned out not to really be his Labour opponents Harold Wilson or James Callaghan either, as the real answer to the question was “the trade unions.”
The unions had run the country into the ground and almost destroyed the Labour Party in the process. In the following ten years or so, the Labour Party was effectively taken over my insurgents from far Left socialists and outright Communists. They ran some of the biggest town halls across the country and from Liverpool to the GLC provided a stark Marxist alternative to the libertarian Right represented by the Thatcherites.
I had joined the Conservative Party in 1973, motivated by a young group of Conservatives who had had enough of Ted Heath and saw a better way ahead with Sir Keith Joseph as their leadership candidate initially, and then transferring support to his mentoree Margaret Thatcher. Heathite Conservatives were in retreat and soon to be defeated.
By the end of the decade both parties of power had been effectively taken over by their more extreme wings of Left and Right respectively.
Those of us enthused by this clarity of choice between the two key opposing political philosophies of the twentieth century knew what each could do, because we’d seen those theories enacted in practice. Regardless of which side we supported, we knew what we and the other side stood for.
In 2017, young people do not have such a clear choice, or have the benefit of having seen both sides in power to base their preferences upon. A real Left-wing Labour Party has not won an election since that second 1974 contest, and not achieved an overall majority since 1964.
All young voters have grown up through years of consensus and centre ground politics whether the name on the door of the government has read Conservatives, New Labour, Coalition and now (sort of) Conservative again. They have all pretty much been the same thing. They have all been believers in a mixed market economy, the real differentiator between the traditional parties of State versus Capitalism.
It is impossible for young voters to give their support to flag carriers for socialism with any direct knowledge or experience of what socialism means. The best they can do is to read the history books. To a lesser extent, the same applies to anybody who might consider themselves a Libertarian or even what socialists like to call neoliberals. It’s been more than 25 years since we’ve seen anything other than a very pale blue shadow of Conservatism.
The years ahead are an interesting time for politics in the UK. The big question must be whether a hard Left Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn or whoever they already plan to replace the old chap with, can be electable. Outside local government, that would be the first victory ever in the UK for the real Left. It would rival for significance the victory of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
It would seem more likely that there will be a Marxist PM in Number 10 than that there will be another Thatcherite.