The Brittania Unchained Tories' attack on "lazy" workers and demand for even fewer workers' rights has been widely criticized. This prompts the question: why have the Tories been reduced to such drivel?
Here's a theory - it's because such policies offer one of the few ways of uniting the otherwise fragmenting class interests underpinning Tory support.
One remarkable feature of the Conservative party since the late 19th century has been that it has been the party of most of the rich.It has more or less successfully represented the interests of land-owners, rentiers, industrialists and commerce.
This was not always the case. Before Robert Peel, the Tories tended to represent (some) landed interests in opposition to Whigs' support for commerce; this most famously manifested itself in the fight over the Corn Laws.It was a miracle of political reinvention that converted the Tories from the party of the squirearchy to that of the beerage.
But this alliance of intrests of the rich is now fraying, in at least two ways:
- Business wants to build on the green belt and have a third runway at Heathrow. But many wealthy homewners don't want this. The commercial and property interests thus clash.
- Business wants cheap and plentiful money, but savers don't. QE is the euthanasia of the rentiers, which - unsurprisingly - rentiers aren't keen on.
In these senses, some high-profile policies jeopardize the alliance of interests backing the Tories.
And this is where Britannia Unchained comes in. Attacking workers might not make much economic sense, but it is one of the few economic agendas which could unite the otherwise fissiparous interests of Tory supporters.
I don't mean to say that Raab and his colleagues are consciously doing this - but then the Tories have often had a tacit, intuitive ability to shore up their support.
What I am doing, though, is raising a question. It's long been a cliche that Labour's class base - industrial workers - is shrinking and fragmenting. But might the same be also true for the Tories?