I cordially dislike political acronyms: they tend to be so broad as to be meaningless. All those Yuppies and Nimbies and Dinkies are usually nothing of the sort.
So it’s with some trepidation that I propose a new – or rather increasingly extinct – group. Wealthy, Old, White and Southern: the WOWS.
My main worry about this acronym, other than the strong likelihood it already exists, is that it only hazily defines the group its intended to describe, namely the core Tory voter for most of my 47 years.
I should state right now that to be amongst the WOWS, you need only meet – at most – any one of the criteria. You simply need to have been made more secure by the neoliberal policy of flogging off the publicly purchased assets of the state to enrich a small, cosseted, voting group.
And that doesn’t even mean financial enrichment. Whiteness alone is enriching, if your environment is made increasingly hostile to non-whites; and this government has – charitably speaking – hurled the doors wide open to underhanded (as well as overt) racism.
But the key things that define the WOWS are, unfortunately, hard to cram into an acronym: firstly, they happen to be on the winning side of a deliberate division engendered by Conservative policy; and secondly, they tend to be unaware their victory is a result of policy, and assume they’re morally, intellectually or racially better than the losers.
Until the 1979 election, the purpose of government was, within certain margins, to look after most of the population. But Thatcherism put paid to that, with the cynical recognition that fattening up a core demographic like foie gras geese allowed a government to rule with impunity, whilst impoverishing the majority. Yes, the actual majority, just not the majority of those visiting a ballot box.
The reason this could work was because that key group, the WOWS, did one thing the anti-Tory majority didn’t: they voted.
The WOWS have been made so, so much richer than previous generations, and told they earned it. If you’ve owned a home for 40 years, as most WOWS have, you’ve lived through eight property booms, and your average-sized 1977 £17,000 mortgage has given you a £420,000 nest-egg.
And this policy has proven very successful, electorally if not morally. It’s brought not only power, but the impossibility of seeing any other route to power. That’s why I can’t blame those who saw no way for Corbyn to win – myself included! The strategy of post-Thatcher Conservatism has been so successful it’s made any alternative seem mad. Labour, for years, openly aped the Tory strategy whilst quietly raising taxation on the City to fund various sticking plasters in the areas sacrificed to neoliberalism.
At the election, scales fell from my eyes, as they did from most of the (significantly more professional and well-informed) commentariat.
But now, at last, we see the flaw that has crippled the last couple of governments, and will ultimately destroy the current incarnation of the Conservative party: the WOWS have grandkids.
Those youngsters may be, externally, as white as their forebears: but they’re well travelled, internationalist in outlook, and massively less prejudiced than their grandparents.
They are richer than some, but 2 generations away from inheriting the property wealth of their grandparents; and because each generation spreads inheritance wider, they’re likely to be left too little to push them into a new iteration of property wealth.
Those grandchildren are socially liberal, with a wide range of gay, black, Muslim, immigrant, trans or – to core WOWS – “transgressive” friends. The essentially insular, monocultural outlook of older Conservatives is alien to their younger family.
And those grandkids are not dying. That’s a key.
64% of Tory voters in 2017 are 65 or older. By 2022, the date (don’t laugh) of the next election, half of those people will be either incapacitated by serious illness, infirmity or mental degradation; or they’ll be dead.
That’s half of the Tory vote unable to get to a polling booth in the next 5 years.
Their kids and grandkids have not been raised in a world where being Tory was just another way to improve the country for everyone. They, like me, were raised at a time when Tory meant Nasty. Greedy. Cruel. Destructive. Prejudiced, small-minded, discriminatory and insular.
Tories, to the young, have always been the people who persecute their disabled friends; the people who cut them off from the continent; the people who bring fear into the hearts of their Muslim colleague, and poverty to the nurses who delivered their babies.
It’s simply not possible for Tories to persuade enough of those people that their lifelong experience of Conservatism is wrong: not enough of them to replace their dying grandparents, anyway. No amount of tax bribery or enhanced local council grants can alter those bone-deep convictions.
The end is nigh. And the fear in the eyes of returning Conservative MPs, faced with 71% of 18-24s voting, proves they’re starting to realise it.
The end is nigh. And thats something to say WOW about.