Friday, May 15, 2015

The worldview of the shy Tory

Another thought-provoking article in The Guardian comes courtesy of American novelist and now English resident and Guardian columnist, Lionel Shriver.
Her starting point is the lamentable inaccuracy of British political opinion polls in the run-up to the recent general election. But the main thrust of her argument concerns the concept, which I had not come across before, of the "shy Tory".
Shriver sees this phenomenon as responsible for a systematic under-counting of Conservative voting intentions in pre-election polls. This may well be true, at least to some extent, although Ms. Shriver then goes on to use the idea to score a few cheap political points.
The stereotype of the shy Tory refers to differences in the extent to which the left and the right admit to, and are proud of, their political convictions. Generally speaking, left-wingers tend to be "political extroverts", more than happy to share and broadcast their views, secure in their implicit assumption that these views are common-sense, fundamentally right, and almost certainly shared.
Conservatives, on the other hand, tend, again speaking very generally, to be more socially cautious, tend to feel out their audience before sharing their political views out loud, and typically start from the assumption that other people will not agree with them, and that their views are at best unhip and at worst downright offensive.
While both the right and the left believe they are right (as in correct), Conservatives tend to be much less confident than the Labour movement that they are right (as in just). Shriver, rightly or wrongly, suggests that this is because voting in accordance with self-interest is only acceptable nowadays for people of less than a certain income. She further points out that this situation is a relatively recent development, and a contemporary inversion of the old order in which Tory privilege and sense of entitlement was contrasted with the radical and outsider status of the left.
I don't agree with all of Shriver's analysis, and some of her reasoning I found a little trite and self-serving. But I found the base idea of a shy Tory a very interesting one. Unlike Ms. Shriver, though, I see it as a rather damning condemnation of the Conservative worldview.

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