Monday, 9 April 2007

I've Found Middle England !!

No, I'm not talking geographically but I found Middle England today - Bank Holiday Monday. It was in a huge garden centre on the Essex/Hertfordshire border.

Mrs Loadofoldstodge and I, having spent most of Easter being sick, were in much better shape today so decided to do what we had planned for Good Friday and visit a much-recommended garden centre. Just twenty-five miles from Stodge Towers and you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a different country.

As we sat enjoying our lunch, the first thing that struck me was the ethnicity, or rather lack of it, of our fellow customers. Whereas in East Ham, awareness of other cultures begins as soon as you step out the front door, here there was not a "foreign" face (including East European) to be seen. It seems that whatever claims there are made for mass immigration, it has not yet reached Hertford or Ware.

So, here was Middle England in leisure mode. Families abounded, for the very old and the very young alike this was a "day out" in every sense of the word.

Did these people look worried about the economy or the future ? Well, the bulging trolleys and the queues at the tills suggested otherwise.

Did these people feel what the collective sense of national sense or humiliation we are all supposed to be experiencing ? Again, not much evidence.

No, these weren't people hungry for radical change - far from it, they were content, possibly complacent, but certainly not angry. Then I begin to get what David Cameron was REALLY about - not change, not upheaval, not radical solutions at all but new management of the same. As with Blair in 1997, he will deliberately NOT offer radical change - this is not 1979, the dead are not lying unburied. People may be bored or angry with Blair/Brown but the flaccid democratic centralism concensus that John Major began and Tony Blair has continued reigns supreme. There is no appetite for anything new but a desire for a change of management and Cameron offers that - continuity with a new face.

This, of course, is what irritates many "traditional" Tories who yearn for a return to the Thatcherite era of continuous revolution but the Cameronites are a very different breed. Of course, while he succeeds and is seen to be popular, the inate Tory desire for power will overcome any doubts as was the case with Labour activits from 1995-97.

I wonder if Middle England will be as sanguine after a decade of Cameronite continuity. Maybe, the post-war concensus lasted from 1945 to 1979 and the democratic centralism concensus has endured since 1990 with no sign of ending. The "zeitgeist" is always difficult to perceive at the time but if I were a Tory strategist, I would paraphrase the great Bob Dylan and have as the theme for the next election "the times they are NOT a'changin".

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