I wrote earlier this week about British student protests against the Tories and how they reminded me of the 1980s. Right on cue, Yael Friedman reviews the work of British photographer Chris Killip, whose pictures show "the de-industrialised north in the 1970s and '80s, where the stark landscape, massive unemployment, and history of radical political defiance combined to pose as the underbelly of Margaret Thatcher's reforms." But visuals don't always mirror political fortunes. Paul Goodman points to favorable Tory poll numbers:
On welfare, schools and localism in particular - as well as deficit reduction, the crux of its programme - the Coalition's doing the right thing, and Tory Ministers are in the lead. The only workable explanation of the Party's present poll ratings is that the voters sense this, and like it. Which is why the best response to [this week's] disgrace is: keep calm and carry on.
UK politics is often characterised as a contest for the centre ground, but that misdescribes the nature of the quest. Centrism implies banality, but I don't think voters want their governments to be mundane. There is a willingness to endorse radical action if it is explained and if it looks practicable. It worked for the left under Attlee and Blair; it worked for the right under Thatcher; and it is working so far for this government.
That a large number of people oppose what you are doing, very strongly, can become a strength, so long as they are seen to be opposing something rooted in a kind of imperative. Eight years ago almost half a million people marched through London with the aim of blocking the hunting ban and to their dismay, the public took the government's side. The miners' strike, the Iraq war examples are legion. Half a million people and more will probably be marching against the budget cuts soon, and will feel just as strongly that their solidarity brings invincibility. They may be proved wrong."
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