However, the hearts and minds of the vast majority of the British public carry a view of the state that I characterise as being supportive of the nanny state. The relationship those people have with the state is either being a co-parent, or as a dependent child.
Those who see the state from the view of a child are scared they’ll lose “their benefit” “their NHS” “their school”. They can’t envisage looking after their own health care, selecting schools, selecting retirement plans or actually paying for what they use. They are the dependent underclass, and comprise perhaps as much as 15-20% of the population. People who don’t think there is any other way. They are brought up loving the Labour Party, almost in the mould of North Korean propaganda, that they owe their house, their education, their health and their employment to the Labour Party. Without the Labour Party paternalistically supplying all of this (who cares where the money comes from) it is a terrifying brutal world indeed.
The myth built around it is the classic Marxist binary view. Them or Us. Because the Labour Party pays for Us, and supports Us, then the Conservative Party must pay for Them and support Them. Labour gives the underclass money, so surely the Conservatives must make things so the rich get richer. This is the repulsive lie manipulated and used by politicians on the left.
Not for one moment is it argued that the tax paid by the wealthier is what pays for Us, or that businesses create the majority of jobs and the money that pays for Us. More insidiously, it is not argued that the “rich” (a catchall for anyone middle class and above) earned their money, but rather there is a focus on inheritance, and on privilege. That those who are financially successful somehow got there through luck, rather than through effort or intelligence. You see the overwhelming myth is that without Labour, you are nothing, cannot be anything and the rich will get what you are getting now – forgetting that the vast bulk of what the government spends comes from the “rich”. The dominant theme of the campaign in the past few weeks has been to concentrate on getting that base of supporters out to vote, purely out of fear of the alternative. The BNP caters for these same children, who blame the "new kids" for getting more with a sneering disdain for big business and immigration generally. The BNP comprises the local bullies, whereas Labour makes friends with the immigrant underclass and says "you can have some too".
While that is all understandable, what about the rest? What about the 40-50% of voters who also vote to the left. Well they are not children in the state-citizen relationship, but supportive parents. These are people who, on the face of it, would admit they can choose the school for their kids, they could buy health insurance and retirement incomes, and could pretty much make their own decisions for themselves and their families. However, they all would say "what about everyone else?"
That is the point, when the bulk of middle class voters think, the state needs to look after the "children" I mentioned before - the underclass. "You can’t leave them to their own devices." In other words, it nurtures the “what about the people who couldn’t” view, pointing at how so many of the underclass are living grossly unhealthy lifestyles, bearing in mind that they are demonstrably unable to look after themselves.
They treat their fellow adults as children, they buy homes to avoid the underclass, and want to give them opportunities at best, and to lock them away at worst. Meanwhile, they too also want “their share” of nanny state, in tax credits, middle class welfare and the like. They support universalism so they can get some of their taxes back, because you see, they DO pay for themselves indirectly. They advocate the nanny state, but want their cut, increasing the overall cost.
So you see, it is about the dependency of the infantile, and the belief by the self-appointed nannies in the wisdom of the state “sorting out” the poor and the feckless. That essentially comprises the majority of British voters, who are one or the other.
It is both these attitudes that believers in small government and individual freedom need to address. For the “children”, it is about a transition to encourage them to “grow up”, give them opportunities to make more choices, not tax them, and increase the incentives to abandon what should be a shift from the welfare state to self sufficiency and private benevolent initiatives. For the “grownups” who want to help them, it is about taking away their own middle class welfare privileges in exchange for tax cuts, and encouraging those who wish to help others to do so, more directly, and in this perhaps some of the elements of the poorly named “Big Society” of David Cameron may have some merit. If you are concerned about the homeless, then don’t let the government fix the problem, do something yourself.
How are both these attitudes confronted? I don’t know. I don’t think it is about surrendering, as the Conservatives have largely done. However, until both are confronted and the concerns and views answered clearly, there will be next to no chance of ever electing a government that will consciously have a mandate to shrink the size of the state.