I was listening to Denis Healey on Desert Island Discs today and he made an interesting remark. He reckoned that the reason that people were becoming increasingly disengaged from politics was because the parties no longer represented separate classes.
Now, it has always seemed weird to me that Labour was for the Workers and Tories for the Bosses. Even as a kid in the 60's and 70's I just could not square this simple branding. To me it seemed that Labour was for Socialism and that the Tories weren't. I could not see why 'class' came into it at all. This may be because I've never been very good at 'class'. The quality usually aren't and the workers are frequently ladies and gentlemen. In other words, folks is folks. Clearly there are some really desperate oiks out there but you are as likely to find them at Eton as the local Comp.
One of the great successes of the exchange free market economy is the opportunity it gives to everyone. The pent up demand for personal advancement was undammed in 1979 and millions were liberated to find their way. Self employment has gone from 750,000 to about 3m (2001) (see here for a good article). This rise in meritocracit achievement, which ignores class, has fundamentally changed the political landscape. It is now no longer class that divides politics and parties but government policies. One lot offer high taxes high spending and low liberty, and the other lot should offer the opposite. But they don't and that's the problem. That's why people are bcoming disengaged.
It is not the absence of the class argument that has turned people off its the fact that one lot say we'll tax and spend 50% of your pay and the other lot says we'll tas and spend 49% of your pay. People have given up. No major party stands up and makes the anti tax n' spend case, but the voter knows that this is what is required. So who does he vote for?
So I am saying two things. One, class is an out of date blind. If anyone bangs on about class he's just stupid. Two, the Tories are failing to capitalise on Labour's epic failure because they lack the courage and foresight to make the case for the small state. And without a well argued case voters have no choice, so they stop voting.