You may not believe it given the current hype around David Cameron’s chances of forming a new Tory government in 2010, but in fact the level of support the Conservatives have attracted has been declining steadily for decades.
That is the longstanding perspective of John Ross who over at the Socialist Economic Bulletin has succintly updated his argument to take into account the current Tory lead in the polls.
As Ross explains:
with the exception of the immediate post-World War II period, when the Tory Party vote was particularly depressed due the massive defeat of 1945, each Conservative victory was secured on a lower proportion of the vote than previously.
Taking Tory victories after the immediate post-World War II period the Conservative percentage of the vote was 49.6% in 1955, 49.4% in 1959, 46.4%, in 1970, 43.9% in 1979, 42.4%, in 1983, 42.2% in 1987, and 41.9% in 1992. This trend would imply a further Tory fall, to slightly above or below 40% at an election held in 2010.
I would encourage anyone who has not yet done so to read Ross’ 1983 book Thatcher and Friends. There, he situated this decreasing support in powerful social trends in British society and explains how the Tories’ class base, rooted in the privileged position afforded to Britain in the world by its global empire, is now shrinking. With this information, he explains how the relative strength of the Tories in current opinion polls is down not so much to their popularity but the deep unpopularity of the Labour government. This in turns exposes the fallacy of New Labour’s bid to steal Tory policies – which it mistakenly believes is necessary to win it the next General Election. The truth is precisely the opposite.