A nice cup of tea is actually tea, a selection of cakes and a good old chat, it is something that I often look forward to. The culture within my family is one of inviting people around for such a social gathering. Indeed, as a family we regard it important to always have cake in the house because ‘you never know who might drop by’ (which i thought as a child meant the Queen!). My family love cake, hate ‘bought cake’ made by machines and we have a tradition of being avid home bakers and it can get competitive. We used to have family teas, where the children were encouraged in cake eating competitions! I digress.
Perhaps this desire for a nice cup of tea is what decides UK general elections. If it is assumed that UK general elections under the FPTP electoral system are decided by floating voters. So, what are floating voters? Incidentally, I met a genuine floating voter at the last election, which was fascinating. she had decided on UKIP this time, because although she regarded Nigel Farage as a bit of a fool, but she liked him and understood him.
I am a decided voter, I am someone who has spent time thinking about and forming my own political philosophy. So, there then seems to be a political party that most closely reflects my own philosophy, which I then generally support.
Floating voters are possibly defined as being those that vote for different parties at each election. There are lots of different types of floating voter, though perhaps there are two major groupings: Firstly there are the decided centre-right people. Because their political position is in-between the two major groupings, party politics invests a lot of effort in appealing to these people, who are trying to ascertain which party is most likely to bring about a centre-right government. Hence such people’s vote will change at subsequent elections. The second grouping are those who haven’t developed there own ideological positions, perhaps such people value pragmatism much more strongly than ideology or simply that they are more interested in things other than politics. I would argue that perhaps such people seek a strong, trustworthy, coherent leader who has a narrative for the problems in the UK economy and clear solutions to those problems, essentially straight talking yet polite with it. It just happens that these qualities are also very appealing as a potential tea guest. This all leads to the argument that appeal as a tea guest, is influential over who ‘wins’ UK elections.
Actually, reflecting back to the 1992 election this kind of makes sense. Personally, I would love to have tea and a pleasant, polite conversation with Neil Kinnock, the then Labour leader, however, I am a fellow Welshman. Commentators at the time made the point that Kinnock lacked appeal to many in England by being ‘too Welsh’. Upon reflection, I can see that John Major (the then Conservative leader) may have been more appealing as a tea guest to a wider proportion of the electorate and hence won the 1992 election for the Tories for this very reason?
Before Blair became branded as Bliar and a warmonger, he may well have been regarded as a suitable tea guest, or at least more so than William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Howeird (not really A1+ grade tea guest types in my book). In 2010, even the spineless wonder, Nick Clegg, would have been very appealing guest for a nice cup of tea with back then. Perhaps Gordon Brown was seen as a bit gruff and you would perhaps fear his stinging criticism of your coffee sponge. Actually David Cameron for all his faults, does still come across as someone you could have a pleasant cuppa with. Personally, the leader I would most have liked tea with at the last election was Nicola Sturgeon, I think that this appeal resonated throughout the British electorate too.
The criteria, I stated above: strong, trustworthy, coherent, ability to answer questions and decency, often don’t associate well with our perceptions of political leaders. whilst I don’t think Cameron gives the impression of these qualities, neither did Ed Miliband and Cameron won on the better tea companion front.
So, the Labour party are currently deciding which of four candidates, they think the floating voter would most like to have around for tea and perhaps a few drop-scones. It seems to be boiling down to a choice between Corbyn or one of the other three. Labour are suffering from what i call the ‘ghost of Blair’ effect. Blair pulled off a political stunt in Labour’s landslide victory in 1997, by repositioning ‘New’ Labour as an innovative centre-right party, thus widely appealing to the floating voters and could count on the support of those of the left and the centre desperate to end 18 years of Tory government.
The ‘ghost of Blair’ problem is that you can’t pull this same trick twice, because the centre and left seek a genuine re-balancing of the UK economy, and are reluctant/uninspired to support the compromise of ‘not being as bad as the Tories’ to win electoral success. Miliband lost credibility as he tried to appeal to both the ‘left and centre’ determined voters and the floating voters, so came across as incoherent (he would probably break the saucer, spill his tea, get crumbs everywhere, and he didn’t even offer to help clear up the mess or answer a simple question, I certainly didn’t make a fresh pot for him).
The ‘other three’ (Cooper, Burnham & Kendall) are not appealing as I believe most people want more in a tea guest than someone whose appeal is based on being not as bad as the monster that lurks in the woods, it’s just not an inspiring offer, even if it is the best solution for Britain in the short term. Which leaves, Jeremy Corbyn, who may not be everyone’s cup of tea, though perhaps he appeals to potential voters, so I feel he can win and be the next British Prime Minister. He appeals to the determined centre and left voter anyway, he can make a coherent case for re-balancing the economy which should appeal to enough of the centre right people. He can also appeal to the floating voters; he isn’t the slickest public speaker, or the snazziest dresser, he may not even be a great leader, but I would certainly be very happy to have him around for tea and I’m sure many other people would too. I may even consider voting Labour for the first time!