There are two reasons for this, the first, and most obvious is that failure to win mid-term elections convincingly is damaging for the official opposition. If people won’t vote for Labour in the relatively risk free environment of Local and European Elections and seek instead another party, then voters aren’t going to bet their future on them come the General Election.
However, the second reason is far more significant and far less obvious. In order to explain it I’m going to have to take a brief detour into Marxist theory and history. Writing in the 19th century Marx claimed that the proletarian revolution was both imminent and immanent within capitalism. Unfortunately for Marxist theory, by the 1930s the revolution seemed further away than ever in advanced capitalist societies, and where capitalism struggled national socialism, as opposed to the international socialism of Marx, had triumphed.
No Marxist could ever admit that Marx was wrong so various thinkers looked for explanations. The one who came up with apparently the most plausible was an Italian called Antonio Gramsci. He claimed that the revolution had not occurred because capitalism held a cultural hegemony over industrial societies that prevented the working class realising that their objective interests lay not with national loyalties, but with their loyalty to the international industrial working class. The way forward for Marxists was to create a cultural hegemony that would allow the workers to understand their objective interests and reject the false consciousness of national loyalties.
To do that, the left set out to dominate the developing mass media. Useful idiots in government helped them by allowing the establishment of a plethora of university degrees to promote these aims such as media studies, cultural studies and creative writing. They then spread into teaching and assisted in the creation of a left-wing anti-British, anti-capitalist history curriculum. The products of these degrees were soon in positions of influence within the media and began spreading their cancer throughout society. Now, people rightly challenge the left-wing bias of BBC News and C4 News as well as the obviously slanted Question Time audiences, but far more insidious than the obvious bias in broadcast news and journalism is the assumption of left-wing norms throughout drama and comedy entertainment programmes. When was the last time you saw a right wing comedian? Unfunny foul-mouthed scum like Dom Joly and Russell Brand dominate comedy schedules and before that it was the likes of Ben Elton and Rik Mayall.
Drama is even worse; if you watched the Crimson Field you would have thought that the vast majority of First World War British Officers were cowardly sadists and the Germans misunderstood underdogs. The programme conveniently ignored that Britain only went to war after Germany had violated Belgian neutrality and committed mass murders against civilian Belgian and French populations. (For a thorough analysis of these atrocities I can recommend German Atrocities 1914: A History of Denial by John Horne and Alan Kramer. If you also want to have the various left-wing myths about the First World War punctured then you could do much worse than read The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War by Adrian Gregory.) Gramsci’s theory was if the left managed to destroy the capitalist/nationalist cultural hegemony then capitalism and with it the allegiance the working class had to the nation state would collapse. So the left came to dominate the mass media. The mass media controls what people think and the left will go on to establish their own cultural hegemony.
Well no, the left have never controlled the print media and papers like the Mail and the Telegraph have done sterling work keeping the right-wing flag flying, that is why the Mail, in particular, is so hated by socialists of all persuasions. But that should mean when the print and broadcast media combine on a particular campaign the victim of that campaign should be blasted out of the water by the big guns of the print and broadcast media.
That was certainly my opinion but it hasn’t happened. The victim of the print and broadcast campaign media has been UKIP. They have had every allegation known to man thrown at them but depending on which poll you read they are either comfortably in the lead or neck and neck with Labour. There are two possible reasons for this, first that Gramsci was wrong about cultural hegemony and despite everything people feel a natural loyalty to their country, or “Imagined Community” as Benedict Anderson described it. The second is that, in the age of the internet, there can be no cultural hegemony. The elite makes a claim – say that Nigel Farage has a car crash interview with James O’Brien – and people who have heard the interview rush to their keyboards to refute it. This undermines any faith they may have had that the media is actually telling the truth and actually stiffens the resolve of any people who might have been tempted to waver in their intention to vote UKIP.
In short, if the idea of cultural hegemony ever did have any validity it now doesn’t. The internet and social media have killed the theory stone dead and this is VERY good news for the Conservative Party. It can and should stop appealing to the centre left vote. It should have the courage of its convictions once more. It should do a deal with UKIP prior to the next election. It should give UKIP a free run in seats like Grimsby where they have a chance of unseating Labour and in Eastleigh where they have a chance of unseating the Lib Dems. In return UKIP should agree not to oppose sitting Eurosceptic Tory MPs and not to oppose Tories in key marginals. At the very least the Conservative Party should encourage Toby Young’s vote swapping scheme.
I have no doubt if this happened the left would return to their yell of “racist” but that too has become meaningless. It is a label the left use when they want to close down a debate and the failure of the hysterical campaign to label UKIP as such has demonstrated that most people are now wise to the fact. UKIP have shown that you can bang on about Europe and immigration and win. That has to be good for both the Conservatives and the country. If UKIP win on Thursday they will have have done the Tories one hell of a favour.