Alex Massie Alex Massie

Carrying the Country First

An excellent post from Blimpish, making the point that while Labour governments tend to be elected with great enthusiasm, voters are usually more cautious when choosing Conservative ministries. It was only in 1983 that Thatcher won her landslide (Reagan, of course, emulated her example in 1984). And as he says, you don’t need to win your party (completely) to win the country:

Thatcher’s latter-day hero-worshippers may believe the British people enthusiastically embraced the full-blooded Thatcherite agenda of sound money, free markets, union-busting, etc.  But it wasn’t the case; leaving aside that what became ‘Thatcherism’ didn’t really exist in 1979, inasmuch as it was articulated, people were generally sceptical – after all, Heath, Wilson and Callaghan had all promised to quell the unions and kill inflation…

…So it would be with Thatcher in ‘79, and in the US with Reagan in ‘80, Clinton in ‘92, Bush in ‘00 and probably Obama in ‘08.  In each case, a leader and their relatively small cabal took the reins of a party and, with the acquiescence but not always enthusiastic support of its members, took them into election-winning territory.  The age of mass politics, with vibrant member movements is over – this is a consumerised model for consumerised times.  The interesting point is that only some of those above definitively changed the minds of their membership – Thatcher and Reagan, yes; Clinton and Blair, no; Bush, ultimately perhaps broke the party; Obama – well, like Cameron, it’s too early to say. I think this a little unfair on Obama, in as much as he has not, I think, felt the need to remake the Democratic party in the way that all the others listed felt their organisations needed fundamental reform if they were to win. In fact everything that makes Obama an unconventional politician gives him room to be a conventional liberal (in American terms).

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