Monday, January 31, 2005


The Guardian reports that Tory leader Michael Howard's populist attack on immigrants is failing to deliver any real political gains for his beleaguered Party.

Howard was attempting to gain some crucial momentum for the Tories at the beginning of a year which will see Britain head to the polls in about May, and Labour generally expected to win an historic third term in office. Despite a raft of Enoch Powell style pronouncements designed to whip up popular resentment against asylum seekers, the Tories remain a good seven points behind Labour (which amounts to an electoral drubbing under FPP).

In part, Howard is such an odious political figure that Britons are instinctively wary of any of his utterances, but on this occasion it also seems that they have consciously turned a deaf ear to his populist right-wing rantings. This would be significant, as the electoral logic in most western democracies in recent years has been that conservative parties can always pick up soft working and middle class support from social democratic parties by stoking up resentment against a minority group with perceived advantages. Maybe the Brits are finally seeing through the hollow, negative rhetoric?

Of course Brash's mutterings about welfare are in a similar vein - pick a vulnerable group, go for gold with the hyperbole and horror stories, and don't pay to much attention to the facts. The political effect here is not yet apparent, but maybe NZ voters are as fatigued by this kind of cheap stunt as their British counterparts.

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