A deeper lesson goes to the heart of the Blair-Brown years. They did all this good mostly by stealth, unsure that social programmes aimed at the poor would win re-election. They walked the walk, but talked the talk only to the party faithful. This government gets away with demolishing what Labour did because the social democratic idea behind it was never embedded in the national psyche.
The only place to cement social change is in the hearts and minds of voters. Blair and Brown were defeatists, convinced Britain was essentially conservative, individualist, imbued with Thatcherism. Confronted with the Mail, Sun, Times and Telegraph, the culture looked immutable, a force to be appeased. Not even when ordinary living standards plummeted as banks were bailed out did Labour seize the chance to make a stronger social democratic case. Ideas matter. Had Labour changed the political climate (as Cameron briefly thought), this government could not dismantle the social state. But like tumbleweed, Labour policies put down no roots to anchor ideas of collective provision and social protection.
England just isn\’t a broadly social democratic nation.
I\’m willing to agree that Scotland and Wales are more so, but not that England is. Which is your basic problem with the desire that we should be more like Sweden. We, the hoi polloi, just don\’t think that way, we\’re simply more individualistic. Nothing particularly right or wrong about our being so, we just are. And I have a very strong feeling that it\’s our desire that has to come first, we have to want to be socially democratic, redistributionist and all that, rather than have it imposed upon us.
I\’ll also agree that there are many who do desire that all embracing State. It\’s just that they\’re not a majority in England. And I think we can see that from our newspapers: which, recall, chase the prejudices of their readers, not form them. As you so often point out, the majority of the papers, the vast majority of sales of them, are of the \”right\”. That\’s reflecting, not causing, the basic opinions of the people. We\’re just not a naturally social democratic nation.