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In defence of the politics of fear

It is being claimed by the losers in this election that the winners campaigned on fear. Which they did. But what is wrong with fear? What is wrong with being scared? It is a very rational thing to feel, in the face of something scary.

The experience of the British electorate is that when the Labour Party promises to do stupid things, it is very stupid and you shouldn’t vote for it. So far so adequate. But when Labour promises to do only sensible things, that is when it is truly dangerous, because then it is liable to win, and to wreck the finances of the country. It does this every time it gets into power. Who wouldn’t be scared of that? Who, when campaigning against this wrecking ball of a political party, wouldn’t appeal to the fear that so many entirely sensible voters feel about such a scary thing?

Which is why, by the way, Ed Miliband is not the basic reason why Labour lost, this time around. The main reason was the recent bad experiences of the electorate. “New Labour” turned out even worse than Silly Old Labour, because New Labour actually did some serious damage. The more cunningly it (by which I mean Prime Minister Tony Blair) misled us about the damage it would do, and then flat out lied about the damage it was doing, the worse that damage became. So, what could Ed Miliband do? He floundered and waffled, not because he is by nature a flounderer and a waffler. Others, unable to separate what he was saying from how he said it, will disagree with me, but I think that had Ed Miliband had a persuasive case to put, he could and would have put it very well.

Tony Blair recently said that Miliband had turned left, i.e. opted for Silly Old Labour, and that Miliband would consequently lose. But had Miliband presented himself as New Labour 2, he would have done little better, given the electorate’s recent experience of New Labour 1.

Because of all those opinion pollsters, I was becoming very scared that Labour might win. Which was why, with all his and their faults, regularly explained here, I wanted Cameron and his Conservatives to win, and with as little help as possible from inevitably even more statist small party collaborators. Was I wrong to be scared? I don’t think so.

Luckily, it seems that a decisive slice of my fellow-countrymen shared my fears. Maybe all those polls were right and this slice of Conservative support only made up its mind at the last possible moment, after all the pollsters had ceased their polling. No doubt quite a few baffled pollsters now think that, or at least want to. Or maybe David Cameron, in some nefarious Prime Ministerial way, arranged for the pollsters all to say that it was going to be a dead heat, to scare his more indolent and unwilling voters off their bums or away from UKIP. Whatever. My point is, all those frightened people were quite right to be frightened of the prospect of Labour government (especially one in league with the Scottish Nationalists), and the Conservatives were quite right to speak to those fears. It was their best argument. For many voters, it was their only argument. It was also a very good and persuasive argument.

As for the supposed superiority of the politics of hope, well, if this means hoping that tax-and-spend-like-there’s-no-tomorrow statism will turn out better next time, then the less hope anyone can be persuaded to feel about all that, the better.

25 comments to In defence of the politics of fear

  • But had Miliband presented himself as New Labour 2, he would have done little better, given the electorate’s recent experience of New Labour 1.

    I am convinced that if a cloned Tony Blair Jr. had been running on a Blairite platform (i.e. RedTory scrotes largely indistinguishable from the current BlueLabour scrotes), that spoon faced pillock Cameron would have been crushed, because the downside of voting UKIP would be negligible, because… who gives a shit which of the bastards wins? But Ed Miliband scared the pants of a great many people, and rightly so. Anyone who was not scared by that prospect was not paying attention.

  • That the Conservatives highlighted something that was likely to happen based on the published polls, specifically a Labour/SNP coalition (either formal or informal) is not stoking up fear of something (unlike Blairs 45-minute claim), it is just stating the bloody obvious.

    The fact that vast numbers of ‘Shy Tories’ kept silent or actively lied about their voting intentions – how is this the fault of the Tories?

    Nicola Sturgeon was absolutely explicit about imposing her own agenda on the results of the election to lock the Tories out of power and even support a Labour party who would not otherwise be able to form a government.

    If the voters had any fear of a Labour/SNP coalition, it was fear of exactly what was coming out of Wee Jimmy Krankies fat mouth.

    Sure, the Tories exploited that, but they’d have been idiots not to.

  • If the voters had any fear of a Labour/SNP coalition, it was fear of exactly what was coming out of Wee Jimmy Krankies fat mouth.

    That prospect was exactly what I expected and it scared the hell out of me

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Still, it all comes down to keeping the wrong lizards out.

  • Pardone

    We’ll still be forced to pay for useless railways, shitty buses, and other shite, and most crminally of all the young will still be forced to pay the pensions of the greedy Boomers.

  • Cal

    >Ed Miliband is not the basic reason why Labour lost, this time around. The main reason was the recent bad experiences of the electorate. “New Labour” turned out even worse than Silly Old Labour, because New Labour actually did some serious damage.

    Don’t agree. As I said on another post recently, New Labour just won a 5th election in a row. Don’t forget that Cameron explicitly said he was the ‘heir to Blair’. And Blair has seemed much keener on him than on the likes of Milliband and Balls and the other Labour left-wingers. In the public’s mind, Cameron’s party is New Labour, albeit a slightly less spendthrift version.

    As countless people have said, if Labour had made David Milliband rather than Ed Millband leader then their electoral prospects would have been much brighter. If Labour can go Blairite again then they can win again, but it’s not clear that there are enough heavyweight Blairite personalities within Labour who can drag Labour back from the left again.

  • CaptDMO

    Odd, in the US the politics involve fear AND hatred.
    progressives are fond of projecting their (fill in the blank)-phobia on anyone not in the room at the time, or that points out the errors in their “data”.

  • Nicholas (Self-Sovereignty) Gray

    Okay, let’s get this clear- is the name spelled Miliband or Milliband? I think that the single ‘l’ seemed foreign, and thus xenophobia may have done him in. And, while we’re at it, I wonder how Dave benefitted from the good vibes from Cameron Diaz?
    The voting public wants to know!

  • Richard Thomas

    I hear there are protests going on in London. Can anyone tell me if these are somewhat genuine or the kind where a wide-angle shot shows a half-dozen work-shy lefties hanging enjoying a free day out?

  • Thailover

    Richard Thomas said,

    “I hear there are protests going on in London”.

    As we would expect, the collectivists only understand mob rule.

  • Thailover

    “What’s wrong with fear?”

    Fear is not real. Fear is a reaction about what may or may not be in our future. Danger, on the other hand, is very real, but fear is a choice. Responding to danger with courage is not to succumb to fear, it’s to conquer it. It’s to command it.

  • robert

    Labour also used fear in their campaign,with all their scare stories about the supposed threat to the NHS. For them to criticise the conservatives over this tactic is typical hypocrisy.

  • AngryTory

    Well I just hope Cameron gets on with what he’s promised: hard and fast.

    Out of the EU. Out of the ECHR. 25% cut at least to benefits. Privatise the NHS.
    English Votes for English Laws. Drop the number of MPs to 600 or better still say 200.
    Redistributed the constituencies – so that Labour can never, ever govern England again!

    Boris Johnson will clearly win the 2020 election whatever the rump communists (Labour, SNP, Plaid, Greens etc) do. With luck 2025 can be a smack down fight between Conservatives and UKIP.

  • TDK

    Well I just hope Cameron gets on with what he’s promised: hard and fast.
    Out of the EU.

    Except (a) Cameron promised a referendum, not an exit (b) and more importantly Cameron has on many many occasions spoken out in favour of the EU.

    Be realistic. The Conservatives are promising reform only. They will get some irrelevant concession but claim a massive victory. This will lead up to the referendum wherein the majority in each of the the Labour, Conservative, Liberal, SN Parties will say stay in. The media with the possible exception of the Express will repeat that message. Add to that the fact that Polls have recently gone against exit and you can see what an uphill task is ahead. The result is inevitable.

  • Mr Ed

    TDK is right. Cameron promised to renegotiate terms of membership, then put the outcome of that to a referendum. All the rest of the EU have to do is refuse to negotiate, and there is nothing to put to a referendum. “I promised to put my renegotiated terms to the British people, but they declined to renegotiate, so I have nothing to offer and no referendum question to put, sorry…” or come up with either a token plan or an outrageous one, and Mr Cameron could say the proposed terms are either fine and dandy to accept, or ludicrous and not worth putting to a referendum, so he would drop it.

  • Roue le Jour

    The EU will probably experience some “bad luck” in the next five years anyway, rendering the in/out debate moot.

  • TDK

    @Roue le Jour

    I agree. England’s eventual exit will follow such “bad luck” rather than be driven by the politicians.

  • AngryTory

    There will be a referendum in within 18 months. That will be law by the end of July.

    A clear majority of Conservative MPs in this new parliament are in favour of BRexit

    What’s more a clear majority of English voters at this election are in favour of BRexit

    If you think democracy is preferable to civil war, it is your duty to work for this referendum result. If you don’t, well I guess your duty is otherwise.

  • PeterT

    TDK is right. There was a moment there, at the height of the Cyprus crisis, when the public might have backed exit. But my sense is that that has passed. In order to leave the EU we need a prime minister willing to cause enough trouble for us to be either kicked out or put in a situation where the public backs exit. That person is not Cameron, but Boris might of course bring about a crisis by accident.

  • Alex

    Even if there is a referendum the Conservatives will be campaigning for the “stay in” camp as will all other parties save UKIP and possibly the Green Party of England and Wales. There will be dire predictions of deep recession and millions of lost jobs and the voting public will reluctantly vote to stay in. Should the Brexit camp win by some miracle there will be a token renegotiation – something like Thatcher’s rebate – and a second referendum held to ensure we vote the right way.

    Or they might pull a repeat of the 2009 trick, a ‘new’ deal by 2019 with Cameron signing us up to it and then whoever wins the 2020 election will argue against risking prosperity/recovery (as there may well be another recession by then).

    Call me cynical but I don’t trust the Conservative Party on the EU at all.

  • TDK


    I’ve given you a link to an EU Referendum posting wherein he quotes the poll result: 45% stay in versus 35% leave. You claim that a majority of both the Conservative Party and the public are in favour of BRexit. There’s a contradiction there, and my source Richard North is the primary exponent of BRexit. Please post your links.

    Personally I doubt most Tory MPs are in favour of leaving. I suspect that the truth is the majority of Party members are in favour and their MPs pay lip service. Even if you are correct you have to compare with the last vote on EU membership in the 1970s. Leading up to the vote the majority of Labour MPs and a minority of Tories were opposed, yet the leaders were united and they, together with the media, persuaded the people to vote against leaving.

    Incidentally your last line is just the remark of a sixth former. Please!

  • As discussion of the EU referendum has come up, I’ll comment very much along the lines I’ve already posted at The Boiling Frog.

    Beware: an in/out referendum will almost certainly result with an ‘in’ vote.

    What we really need is a 6-way set of options:

    1. Stay in on the current terms (ongoing ever-closer union), and join the Euro
    2. Stay in on the current terms (ongoing ever-closer union); avoiding the Euro
    3. Stay in on the newly negotiated terms; avoid the Euro
    4. Withdraw to EEA-like status (most like Norway) with free movement of EU citizens and goods/services
    5. Withdraw to EFTA-like status (most like Switzerland) with free movement only of goods/services; no free movement of EU citizens.
    6. Totally withdraw from any EU-oriented trading arrangements.

    The vote should be conducted along Alternative Vote lines (ie every voter ranks the options).

    The decent reason for doing it this way is to say what we want, rather than what we don’t want (which is too negative an approach). Also, with AV, what we prefer – even if we cannot have exactly what you want.

    The other reason is to avoid being stitched up by a forced bad choice, which IMHO is exactly Cameron and company’s plan.

    In my list of six, I think 3 can be interpreted as covering the ‘In’ vote of David Cameron, and 3 can be interpreted as covering the ‘Out’ vote of David Cameron. Thus I don’t think my itemisation (not an equivalence of exact wording) makes any attempt whatsoever to swamp the Cameron proposal with In/Out bias.

    I remain deeply suspicious of the shorter wording of the Cameron In/Out approach. It defines a question on what we run away from; not what we do in the future.

    The In/Out vote clearly allows the ‘in crowd’ to argue: beware, stay close and hold nanny’s hand all the time. IMHO, we have recently seen it twice, from the same source.

    I like to think we are grown up.

    Best regards

  • Paul Marks

    A good post Brian – but with one major flaw.

    The poor quality of my own tribe.

    Mr Cameron promised to reduce government spending by 1%

    Is this sufficient to avoid de facto bankruptcy?

    No it is not.

    Has Mr Cameron even presented clear policies to show how he will achieve a reduction of government spending of 1%?

    No he has not.

    Indeed the election promises require a big increase in government spending.

    We are bleeped.

  • Laird

    @TDK @Angry Tory:

    “There’s a contradiction there.”

    Not necessarily. The poll TDK cited was a survey of “2078 GB Adults“. Angry Tory stated that “a clear majority of English voters” favored Brexit. Both could be true (although I don’t know the source of Agrry Tory’s assertion).

  • TDK


    After last Thursday I have no choice but to acknowledge that Polls can be wrong 🙂


    To be honest my hope was that I could get AngryTory to reflect a little more. I sincerely hope that we do leave the EU but it’s well to understand that it will be hard work. The key is convincing undecideds. The other side will be accusing us of economic foolishness, xenophobia, and Little England-ism. I wonder if he understand how talk of a civil war comes across to a floating voting.