Beyond the Shy Tory phenomenon

11 May 2015


Over the coming week, analysts will be slicing and dicing the election results furiously to explain to the people why, despite all talk of ‘the closest election in decades’, we have ended up with a Tory majority government.


Some will apportion blame to the pollsters unanimously botching their predictions, some will blame the liberal realm of social media for shrouding perceptions of how right-wing the country actually is. Some may vilify the electoral system itself ("The injustice of it all! We’re a pseudo-democracy!"). But most will embellish the ‘Shy Tory’ thesis that seems to be developing rapidly as a new school of electoral thought.  


Fear not though, as I, a 20 year old politics student with no experience, am here to explain the real lesson of the election.  See, it’s not that these analysts are wrong, it’s that they’re not entirely correct at the same time.  If any lesson were to be taken from this election, it would not be that the pollsters are clueless, it wouldn't be that our democratic institution is not so democratic. The most important lesson to be taken from this election is to never underestimate how influenced the electorate are by the narrative of the hegemonic ruling force.


The sheer amount of people voting against their own interests is jaw-dropping, with any prompt for their reasoning returning statements resembling the average CCHQ tweet: 'they've got a long term economic plan let them have five more years'. 'We need to bring down the deficit' and one my Backbench colleague Noah Sinn overheard, "we want to stay in Europe but we want a better deal, it's a difficult one. They gotta do something." What this means is that the silent majority have bought into the Tory’s vision of the country and assimilated to their worldview.


What I see from this is the 21st century manifestation of Antonio Gramsci's fear: the ruling class presenting ideas as common sense, coercing the masses into believing their vision, a vision far from actually assisting interests of the people. For five years, we’ve constantly been fed the vision of the coalition (which was in practice the vision of the Tories), and with repetition being the mother of all learning, evidently most in our country now subscribe to this worldview.


What does this mean for the Shy Tory theory? Well it means that the Shy Tory is not actually a Tory at all. The Shy Tory is simply  a citizen who is impressionable through their environment and surroundings. Hegemony operates culturally and ideologically through the institutions of civil society which characterises mature liberal-democratic, capitalist societies.


These institutions include education, the family, the church, the mass media, popular culture, etc. The Tories had the apparatus and infrastructure in place as the hegemonic force to construct a simple narrative that would be repeated over and over, whilst Labour dilly-dallied over a) leadership b) policy c) a narrative. By the time Labour had their message it was too late. Long Term Economic Plan was the flavour of the day and Helping Working People was too enticing an offer to ignore for the average working citizen.  


Don’t misconstrue this article as another anti-Tory demonisation, far from it. This article is little more than a beyond the surface critical examination of the state of politics in this country; a real answer as to why the Tories won a majority despite all logic pointing against it.


For many, voting Tory was the sensible option: lower taxation/increase in personal allowance, shrinking unemployment improving prospects of a job, or a better job, and deficit reduction enabling state funds in the future to be apportioned to state institutions rather than debt interest. But for many it was against their interests.


A wrong result in a referendum on the EU could put this country's economic recovery at risk, those on minimum wage could have benefited from voting Labour with their promise of increasing the rate to £8, and those at risk of cuts could have found safer government hands than those of the Tories. This article is merely an attempt to explain why voters aligned themselves with a platform potentially not in their interests.

Via socialised norms guiding behaviour and thinking, the Tories infiltrated the viewpoint of the impressionable citizen presenting their platform as one of common sense, a viewpoint accepted by the impressionable citizen. It’s not that that pollsters were necessarily wrong, it’s that the voters across all demographics don’t identify as Tories by any means, despite consenting to their vision for the country.


The good news for Labour is that their loss is far from terminal, they can combat the Tories at their own game of dispersing ideas reflecting a positive vision for the country; the bad news is that the Tories hold the state apparatus for another five years, another five years for them to produce and reproduce a new message of hope home to the electorate, coercing their consent to the Tory vision of Britain.

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