What's behind Boris Johnson's fall in popularity?
December 16, 2021 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm watching BBC News. The anchors and talking heads are pounding the table about the Lib Dems winning the by-election in North Shropshire, and what it means for Johnson in particular and the Tories in general

I know Johnson has long been a divisive figure even in his own party. But in just the last few months he seems to have earned a spot on everyone's shit list. What's behind this change? Is it because of how he's handled Covid? Something about a Christmas party as well...

Hoping some friends from across the pond can explain. Thanks
posted by BadgerDoctor to Law & Government (30 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Phil is everybody's friend from across the pond. Try not to be put off by his camera's disturbing failure at colour balance; I'm sure he's not really a vampire.

Nov 13: Did Your MP Lie About Their Sewage Vote This Week?

Dec 1: Boris Johnson Denounced as Liar in Parliament
Dec 2: Johnson's Covid Rules Breaking Booze Party
Dec 3: Tories Hold But Vote Share Plummets
Dec 6: Johnson Misjudging the Public Outrage Over Covid Xmas Parties
Dec 7: Just How Corrupt Can a Xmas Party Get?
Dec 8: Ministers Hiding from Journalists This Morning
Dec 9: PMQs: Johnson Tries to Wriggle Out of Xmas Bash Responsibility
Dec 9: Johnson's Shameless Undermining of Covid Measures
Dec 10: Johnson Must be Finished Now
Dec 10: Johnson's Flat Refurbishment Broke the Law
Dec 12: Johnson Photographed at 'Illegal' Xmas Gathering
Dec 14: Why Not Drop Johnson Now?

Johnson has always been a complete arsehole, and lately even the normally supine British Press has got just about COVID- and Brexit-exhausted enough to stop propping up the harmless floppy-haired clown shtick he's always relied on to get away with it.
posted by flabdablet at 10:13 PM on December 16, 2021 [16 favorites]

COVID and inflation are ticking people off all over the place. Most people are not deep thinkers when it comes to politics, and blame whomever is in power for their woes, regardless of whether said leaders are actually responsible for them or have the power to fix them. Biden is facing a similar dip in approval.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:01 PM on December 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

From reading Daily Mail comments, people are pissed WFH but no parties when he himself is going to parties and vacations; energy companies failing and bills going up and Boris activity saying it is not his problem; COVID restrictions coming back in exactly when he is in trouble which to the conspiracy and non conspiracy minded seems a little to on the nose. Mind you, these are Tory voters, they will never vote labour, but they are tired of Boris taking them for a spin.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 11:01 PM on December 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: To know why he's falling it's helpful to know how he rose: he was London mayor for 8 years, then became an MP, then - and this is the biggest bit - made a decision to support Brexit (despite generally being considered a Remainer at heart) and became the most notable public figure banging the drum for it.

Most people in (for want of a better word) "the Esablishment" thought Brexit would never happen, which is one of the main reasons the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, was willing to appease the anti-EU block in the Tory party with a once-in-a-lifetime referendum on the issue. Boris took the opportunity to do the whole "man of the people" thing, thinking Remain would win, and he'd be left looking popular amongst the significant rump of people who voted to leave but without us having left the EU.

Then Brexit won. We'll gloss over the the bitterly polarised atmosphere afterwards and the horrendously tortured negotiations with the EU, and move directly to the new Prime Minister Theresa May putting a fairly soft Brexit deal to a vote in Parliament in late 2017 which kept a lot of the benefits of EU membership whilst getting rid of some of the things that Brexiteers didn't like. It didn't satisfy the Brexiteers and it didn't satisfy the Remainers, but it was about the best compromise we were going to get (and history will probably judge her much better than she was judged at the time for managing to get this)

At this point Boris and his mates went in swinging against the deal, but it had enough Tory votes to go through had the Labour party not played politics and refused to back it on the (frankly insane) premise that they could win the next General Election and magically negotiate something better. So now May resigns because she's been torn apart by her party and Boris stands promising to negotiate something more pleasing to the Brexiteers, and becomes our new Prime Minister.

Fast forward to 2019, and Boris wins an absolute landslide thanks to a combination of a simple promise to "Get Brexit Done" (because we are all just sick of it at this point) and a Labour leader (Jeremy Corbyn) who is deeply unpopular amongst the general electorate. He gets a deal which is pretty rubbish compared to May's deal (we lost quite a few benefits and gained nothing), rams it through Parliament with his large majority, and for a while is stupidly popular. It's really important to understand that a LOT of people feel like he understood their concerns, unlike most politicians, and thus there was a huge amount of good will towards him from large sections of the electorate (but forget Trump comparisons, Boris is a classic liberal Tory with a good bead on public opinion, not an authoritarian demagogue).

Then comes the job of actually governing, followed quickly by a global pandemic. You could, and many people will, write multi-volume books about how Britain did and didn't deal effectively with Covid, but one thing which became resoundingly clear is that Boris is a man who rides the political winds, rather than having a defined political philosophy. What we needed was a leader, and we got a follower, a man whose greatest skill is reading the public mood at a time when the public has no clue what to do. We looked into 10 Downing Street and essentially saw nothing looking back at us.

The links flabdablet have posted as all very relevant to his current polling numbers, but they are also a symptom rather than a cause. Essentially Boris' lack of attention to detail, his lack of leadership, his unwillingness to do the hard yards, and his ultimate failure to genuinely understand the sacrifices people have made during the pandemic have shone a harsh and very unflattering light on him. He's been shown decisively to be a person without principle - a flip-flopper - and a lot of people are starting to feel betrayed. His popularity soared quickly in his early days, but as so often happens a fast ascent can lead to a fast descent, and it feels like a balloon is deflating right now.
posted by underclocked at 11:04 PM on December 16, 2021 [98 favorites]

Not by any means the whole picture, but the politicians-throwing-parties stuff feels so personal and emotional. People by and large won't give a shit about how many billions of £ were funnelled to politician's mates without proper scrutiny, or they'll write it off as "doing what needed to be done" and any objection to it as whinging or playing party politics. But the photos of tories larking about having parties while regular people were locked down at home, unable to see family and friends, unable fo be with sick or dying relatives, seems to have hit home for a lot of people, even among tory supporters.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:47 PM on December 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

Short version. The Boris Johnson we got is not the Boris Johnson we voted for.
posted by StephenB at 12:11 AM on December 17, 2021

But he's still the same Boris Johnson he always has been.

He's corrupt and incompetent and irresponsible and shameless. The only senior politician willing to offer Brexiters what they wanted had to be. And of course nothing he promises actually gets delivered.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:21 AM on December 17, 2021 [27 favorites]

The drop in polling seems to be, according to analysts, largely driven by the constellation of scandals that the press has combined under the label of 'Tory Sleaze.' A good starting point there is the scandal around (now ex-)MP Owen Paterson, and the abortive attempt by the government to weaken ethics rules to protect him.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:27 AM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

COVID and inflation are ticking people off all over the place. Most people ... blame whomever is in power for their woes.

This is mostly it. British people also cannot just dislike a public figure - they have to actively hate them. I'm saying this as a British person. If it's not Boris, it's Meghan Markle. They love to hate and more so during confusing and uncertain times.

Add to that the fact that Boris a Tory. To many people the Conservatives symbolise privilege. Yes, most people voted blue but they mainly voted blue because the party promised to get Brexit delivered. They are a "proven" party (like Labour), so the public knows they can run a country, unlike UKIP. That doesn't mean their feelings about the Tories have changed.

Lastly, different people hate him for different reasons. There's something for everyone to hate. If it's not the Americanised anti-vaxxers who think their freedoms have been taken away, then it's the people who want vaccine passports and tighter restrictions. The hatred of Boris might be the only thing keeping this country united.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 12:29 AM on December 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

As a trans person I seldom endorse the Guardian as a publication, but this recent article on the current UK government's longstanding trend of corruption (and how this differs from the "sleaze" scandals of the 90s-era tories) gives a good overview.
posted by terretu at 12:53 AM on December 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

It may seem trivial in comparison to Johnson's long-standing corruption, lies and lack of any basic competence, but the Christmas party thing has achieved a great deal of "cut-through" with people who don't normally pay attention to politics. The charge that Johnson and his cronies believe they're entitled to ignore the rules they set for the rest of us is one most people know in their guts to be true, so when concrete evidence of it dominates the news, that hurts Johnson very badly.

Even Ant & Dec, the normally apolitical hosts of a big TV reality show, are regularly attacking him on this, as are the nation's most featherweight of light entertainment comedians. Nothing's hit as hard among the general public since Johnson's key aide Dominic Cummings created a similar mess with his own heedless and arrogant behaviour over Covid about a year ago.

Finally, bear in mind that most Tory MPs have no illusions about Johnson either. They held their noses and made him Conservative leader purely because they thought he'd be an election winner, which in 2019 turned out to be true. He's never bothered to build any friendships in Parliament - there's his trademark entitlement and arrogance again - so now that winning sheen is gone, there's no personal loyalty among Tory backbenchers for him to fall back on.

The second they think he's a liability in trying to retain their own seats - by far the most important concern for any MP - they'll chuck him over the side. All it takes is 50 Tory MPs (about 1 in 7 of the total) to demand a vote of no confidence in Johnson, and that vote has to happen. With backing from Labour and other opposition parties, he could be removed and a new Tory leader installed in his place. Yesterday's by-election result in North Shropshire, which overturned a huge Tory majority, may mark the moment they decide such action is now inevitable.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:28 AM on December 17, 2021 [10 favorites]

forget Trump comparisons, Boris is a classic liberal Tory with a good bead on public opinion, not an authoritarian demagogue

I think Johnson is less liberal and more authoritarian than you’re giving him credit for, given his government’s eagerness to clamp down on protests, judges, the BBC, and indeed parliament. But I don’t think any of that stuff has cut through with the public the way the Christmas parties stuff has, and the general perception of corruption.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:37 AM on December 17, 2021 [17 favorites]

This twitter thread is a good summary of the by-election result vis-a-vis Johnson's position overall, and Ros Atkins' series of videos (latest here) have itemised the 2020 Christmas party situation in great detail but, as noted above, it basically boils down to a wailing siren screaming 'rules are for other people'. This is Johnson's mantra for life, but it seems the proliferation of parties in Tory circles as many could not contact dying relatives etc. has made this an issue that has finally got people thinking that might not be such a great way of leading a government.
posted by robself at 1:37 AM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, agree with a lot of the other commenters.

I think it can be easy to answer as someone who thought Corbyn was alright but a little too right wing. I have a very poor sense of public political opinion since I care deeply about tax policy and can get quite exercised about NI raises and UC withdrawal rates and don't care at all about "parties" that don't even seem to be proper parties. But... that is what is making people who were Johnson supports (the group that matters for this purpose) angry. I think a lot of people were also not happy about the Patterson thing.

Also, his own MPs don't like him and never have. He had a lot of power as someone who won a massive election victory for them and was more popular than the party but as soon as that shine comes off...
posted by atrazine at 2:11 AM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have the same politics as atrazine, & so very much the same sense of bafflement about how anyone ever bought the floppy-hair schtick. One thing that makes me an outsider in my own country is that I take politics (& a lot of other stuff) very seriously. It's a typical English* characteristic, apparently, to think that it's all a bit of a lark & none of it really matters much in the end. Johnson once guest-hosted a satirical news-quiz show on TV & told a couple of jokes, and of course he has that terribly amusing hair. So for many people, that was enough - he's Good Fun. That will get you quite a long way here.

But one major change over the past few weeks - which is the sign of the gloss finally having worn off - is that various other Tories (Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, etc) are starting to make their own first tentative moves towards a potential leadership challenge. Up to this point, the whole right wing press has been more or less unified behind Johnson as the only game in town, but as soon as you have a few others jockeying for position, then various commentators & influencers will start to lay bets & take sides - part of which involves pointing out the very obvious failings of the incumbent. So the illusion of Johnson as unquestioned leadership figure might actually fall apart very quickly, & he'll be gone.

Wishful thinking on my part, probably.

*English, not British - Johnson has never had much appeal outside England
posted by rd45 at 3:10 AM on December 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The traditional print media is one of the most powerful influences of the overton window and public opinion in the UK, though I'm English and should probably focus on England specifically. Most of the (Murdoch-owned) media skew towards the right and there is a very murky relationship between government (the Conservative party in particular) and media. It's not a monolith but no one can rely deny the influence of the traditional right-wing press on public opinion, in my publicly stated opinion.

The counter-point is often the BBC (which is broadcast media and is subject to different standards). To try and be brief; the BBC is hampered more by impartiality rules and therefore has to report on events determined by the right-wing press in a neutral manner ("views differ on the shape of the Earth!"). They also rely on governement for funding and whilst independent in an editorial sense, there is a lot of murky government involvement in the BBC, here's an incident where a BBC reporter was reprimanded for talking about how a government advisor broke the rules during COVID lockdown .

Anecdotally, I remember around 5 or 6 years ago people were obsessed with unemployed people because the Conservative party and the newspapers were constantly going on about "skivvers" and "benefit cheats" as well as "hard-working British families" (standard us vs them stuff really, also particularly clever in the aftermath of a financial crisis in order to deflect blame). Any detailed analysis showed that this was not an economic problem (rather, the lack of government investment during a recession was) but the facts didn't matter, it was controlling public opinion that mattered. I remember hearing people in the local corner shop talking about how people without jobs were taking benefits and our money etc etc, as opposed to say, how the government were cutting funding to public services and privatising services for profit under the guise of "paying off the nation's credit card debt".

Nowadays people don't talk about this stuff much, it's all been about Covid (before that it was the EU, before that it was European migrants, prior to that was was Muslims, prior to that was the unemployed, prior was disabled people, prior was kids on council estates in hoodies). Of course, you still hear it and I'm sure people still believe it, but the press and government talked about it so everyone talked about it and made opinions on it (and all those different groups) where they probably barely had one before.

My point is that it is generally the traditional press that have a huge influence on what people talk about. In the UK this space is dominated by the conservative print media (though not necessarily "Conservative political party" print media). Simon Wren-Lewis has been examining this kind of thing from an economic perspective and has a few basic overview articles that are helpful, here is a summary.

It seems to me that Boris Johnson is a corrupt and incompetent megalomanic . Yet he has always been charasmatic and has been a bit of an antidote to the image of the traditional Very Serious greying old man of the conservative party. I would argue that because he is popular and because his incompetence are generally well-known, people write him off as harmless or bumbling at worst, but actually he could be argued to be the head of the most dangerous UK government in our lifetimes, which should not be normalised . People just think he's a bit of an idiot at worst, thanks to the media, which to me is just normalising a national abuser (in a long line of abusers). Even if you actively shit all over the poor and cause death and misery to vulnerable people, people will still vote for you because the rich news corporations want those things too, and his public image is as I've stated above, at worst a bit of a "buffoon".

None of this matters if the press are on your side though, these kinds of scandals would have brought about ruin for Conservative governments of the past, but the press aren't that bothered because I assume their goals align with that of the tories and there is a shady relationship between them. Ironically, more tangible and surface level details may have started to turn public opinion against him (rather than the many lies he has been caught in). He gave a bumbling speech that seemed a bit weird , his government were caught in (another) breaking lockdown scandal , he seems to spend a lot of his press time denying he knew about things or defending something controversial in a gaslight-y way by pretending it's fine. I'd arguing his perception is changing to someone on the defensive rather than the swashbuckling "get Brexit done" type of bullshit that people admire him for.

Finally, large portions of the north of England has traditionally rejected the tories due to Thatcher's reign of terror, but the changing political landscape gave Johnson an opportunity. He talked about "levelling up" the north of the country by building a high-speed rail link (naturally his team would come up with a crappy video game analogy, which often involves killing rats for hours just to increase the number of your sword from +1 to +2, the fact that serious newspeople and politicians say the words "level-up" with any degree of seriousness makes my brain implode). Even my dad, a Northerner who in his youth, perhaps did some possibly illegal damage to Conservative property and was involved in many protests/riots etc, and hated Thatcher, said he likes how BJ talks about "the north" now that my dad is old and lives in the countryside where the world is piped through to him via newspapers. Anyone with any real insight could see if was bullshit but hey ho, talk bullshit and get places is the way of politics.... Anyway, he recently backtracked on the whole infrastructure thing for large parts of the north of England so there's that as well.

In summary, his party/goals align with the overly powerful press so they've backed each other, he is charasmatic and not afraid to pull PR stunts, he was a champion of Brexit, he was London mayor albeit a not-good one , and so he had name recognition and was popular. At worst his image was made out to be a bit disorganised and chaotic but this was seen as okay by the press (see Jeremy Corbyn for what happens when the press don't want you in power) and so that narrative fed into the public's perception of him. The background of corruption, subverting democracy, and just doing awful shit didn't really matter to the press so they didn't really make a big deal out of it, but it did build a bit of heat for him and start to give the public an image of a prime minister denying knowledge of things or defending his party. Then he did some personal and tangible gaffes that made peope question him on a surface level, his "levelling-up" bullshit was exposed as bullshit, and the most heinous crime of all; some ministers had a christmas party at Downing Street during lockdown.

Don't get me wrong, breaking lockdown rules is a really bad thing to do, particuarly for the government enacting those rules. The fact that it takes people to be able to relate to something in a selfish manner ("he had a party! I couldn't!") to start to be questioned, rather than being a lying, selfish, megalomanic who actively subverts the law and democratic process says a lot about the state of the UK (I do acknowledge that a lot of people are seeing that in this latest scandal but it stil ltakes those selfish elements to start to change public opinion and that makes me despair at the state of our democracy).
posted by captaincasserole at 3:18 AM on December 17, 2021 [25 favorites]

For all the deep analysis of his leadership style and underlying trends and Brexit and long-term opinion shifts, to me it feels much simpler. All those underlying things have enraged some of us for years, but they never, ever seemed to dent his popularity in the wider electorate.

Then he held a Christmas party while everyone else was locked down and suffering. Then he lied about it. Lied again and again and again. Lied to Parliament. Lied to journalists (and therefore to us on our sofas watching at home). Then his staff laughed about it and continued to lie.

That's something so personal, so directly relatable, that people have dropped him like a stone.

Everyone lost something last Christmas. Whether it was a loved one whose hand couldn't be held as they died, or just the chance to have an office party at the end of an immensely tough year. And there they are, not only blind to our sacrifice but laughing at us. Knowing they did wrong and not caring and laughing in our faces.

Much as we'd like to think that people all over the UK are conducting in depth analysis of the economy, I honestly think they are just immensely pissed off about the party.
posted by penguin pie at 3:45 AM on December 17, 2021 [26 favorites]

I actually find it *extremely* funny that someone who has made so many miss-steps, a lazy self-indulgent swine who has none of the characteristics required for high office, who has blundered his way through the pandemic and was essentially politically saved by those elements of the response which he had nothing to do with, is now getting it in the neck for parties that - let's face it - barely meet the definition.

Oh, and the only person who has so far resigned didn't even attend! It's UK politics at its most howlingy dumb.
posted by atrazine at 4:49 AM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

The New York Review has an article by Fintan O'Toole on this. (Paywall)
posted by scorbet at 4:52 AM on December 17, 2021

And there they are, not only blind to our sacrifice but laughing at us. Knowing they did wrong and not caring and laughing in our faces.

The thing I still struggle to understand is how anybody could possibly believe that conservatives in general are not doing exactly that, all the fucking time, whenever they believe that nobody they need to bow and scrape to is watching.

Then I remind myself that I'm one of the very small minority of people who take politics even the slightest bit seriously, or who see any actual connection between what most people seem to perceive as yet another reality TV and/or sports series and real consequences for real people in the real world.

Most Conservative supporters identify as such in much the same way they identify as supporters of their chosen football team: it's a purely tribal thing that has very little to do with what the Conservatives actually do. But what Boris has been up to lately is the rough equivalent of having the camera catch the team captain squatting to drop a huge steamer right in the middle of the pitch during a match that might get his team relegated if they lose. Even for the rusted-on diehards, that kind of behaviour is a bit on the nose.
posted by flabdablet at 5:07 AM on December 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

Then I remind myself that I'm one of the very small minority of people who take politics even the slightest bit seriously, or who see any actual connection between what most people seem to perceive as yet another reality TV and/or sports series and real consequences for real people in the real world.

Absolutely this. AFAICT, a huge proportion of the population are not at all politically engaged in any kind of informed or meaningful way - to an extent that I think many of the rest of us are oblivious to. I have a friend with a PhD who merrily and loudly admits that she doesn't know what left wing or right wing mean, doesn't know any of the colours or logos of the political parties (but if challenged will defensively say that she does vote! Not sure if that's good or bad...).

I found it really sobering a while ago seeing someone on the the news who was using a foodbank but thought he'd still vote Tory because he liked Boris. It made me realise how false my assumption was that most people do at least have an understanding of the basic framework that left wing = big government, high spending, right wing = small government, low spending, and all the implications of that for how to cast a vote.

Plenty of people either don't have an understanding of politics, and/or just think it's a largely irrelevant sideshow and that politicians from all parties are basically the same.

Loads of people have genuinely thought for years that Boris Johnson was just a bit of a laugh and made an entertaining change from greyer politicians. His fall from grace seems to be mostly because the "jovial, funny bloke" mask has slipped, rather than anything more complex or ideological.
posted by penguin pie at 5:32 AM on December 17, 2021 [9 favorites]

lately even the normally supine British Press has got just about COVID- and Brexit-exhausted enough to stop propping up the harmless floppy-haired clown shtick he's always relied on to get away with it.

With all due respect to flabdablet, I disagree that the British press is supine. In fact, my take is that Boris is in trouble because the press have just decided that it would be convenient for him to be in trouble, right at this moment - the press in the UK wields an almost unimaginable amount of power over public opinion and, by extension, the British political system. While there are factions (the Times is in Gove's corner, the Telegraph in Boris's), the press is also overwhelmingly rightwing and Tory-supporting. As my MeFi history makes clear, I thought Corbyn was an ineffectual leader with poor political instincts, but he clearly wasn't an antisemite or a Stalinist or any of the other ludicrous lies that were thrown at him to push Boris (a manifestly unfit PM who most of the British establishment personally dislike) over the line. What we're seeing here is the rightwing UK press simply taking away what they gave to him in the first place.

Look at the scandals currently assailing Boris:

1) Directionless speech to the CBI: this has always been his shtick. Look at this Jeremy Vine description of two speeches Boris gave around 2006 or so. We all saw him improvise the "I like to... paint buses" line on TV. Being unprepared and improvising has always been his mode of address, the papers have just decided to abruptly notice this fact after a couple of decades.

2) Parties: These happened literally an entire year ago and were not remotely a secret at the time within the lobby. In fact, it appears that lobby journalists may have attended some of the parties in question. They're being brought up now because the press feels like bringing them up now (perhaps with the encouragement of some within the Tories? Apparently Pippa Crerar has Michael Gove as a source).

3) Outside work: This one in fairness is kind of a genuine political scandal, at least the Owen Paterson part of it: he was openly breaking the rules in lobbying for his employers. On the other hand, the Tories (especially) have taken outside jobs with the potential for sizeable conflicts of interest forever and their roles are published, it's not a secret even from the general public. Also the last few years have been a festival of Tories breaking both the formal and informal rules with complete impunity, in large part because the press haven't chosen to make a fuss.

Boris's popularity and untouchability was a choice made by the press in the first place, and his abrupt fall from grace is just the same - suddenly the British media establishment have all simultaneously "remembered" or "noticed" a load of facts about him and his administration that they've all known perfectly well for years, and in some cases decades, and in the space of two weeks of doing their actual job have tanked the Tories by double figures in the polls. This is why the only non-Tory government that we've had in my lifetime was led by a man who was godfather to Rupert Murdoch's daughter.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:43 AM on December 17, 2021 [21 favorites]

I feel like there's also been a kind of hostage-crisis thing going on between the tories & their supporters. Maybe especially the recently-converted supporters. Once you've taken people to the level where they'll happily ignore food-bank usage & sewage in the rivers & flatly racist legislation on nationality - is there anything that they won't tolerate? How far can we actually push this? And the Boris fans feel obliged to go along with it, because after all - they've come this far, haven't they?

Something like a sunk cost fallacy, but with moral principles as the currency?

But then a shit christmas party wakes everyone up from the fever-dream. People are weird.
posted by rd45 at 5:46 AM on December 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

an understanding of the basic framework that left wing = big government, high spending, right wing = small government, low spending

That's certainly the conventional narrative, but it's not borne out by history. The Right always does its level best to spruik "small government" as some kind of ideal, but when in power it actually spends about as much as the Left does. The fundamental difference is that right-wing spending is generally directed toward people who already have tremendous amounts of money.

The Right is also much more likely than the Left to impose crushing social controls, despite the good game they talk on "freedom" and "personal responsibility". Again, those controls mainly affect people who command very few resources to begin with.

The actual basic framework is that the Right is devoted to preserving and intensifying existing concentrations of power, the Left is devoted to flattening and democratizing them, and the Center is devoted to pretending they don't matter.
posted by flabdablet at 5:49 AM on December 17, 2021 [10 favorites]

Fair enough flabdablet. I guess my underlying point was really just that a lot of people don't have any kind of framework or analysis on which they hang their voting decisions, other than who they like watching on telly. Which I guess is not a new thought - see Kennedy/Nixon and the black suit/grey suit Presidential debate. But still always surprises me when I come upon it anew.
posted by penguin pie at 6:21 AM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

When considering Johnson's fall in popularity, it's worth considering the difference between the Conservative's resounding political victory (365 out of 650 seats with 43.6% of the vote ) - and the fact that many people did not vote for them. For example 37% of the electorate did not vote at all - add the non voters to those who voted for other parties and you have a pretty large latent set of people who are either not fans or who were not won over by the original proposition. Some of that drop in popularity, I suspect, is these people taking more notice.
posted by rongorongo at 7:54 AM on December 17, 2021

I feel like there's also been a kind of hostage-crisis thing going on between the tories & their supporters. Maybe especially the recently-converted supporters. Once you've taken people to the level where they'll happily ignore food-bank usage & sewage in the rivers & flatly racist legislation on nationality - is there anything that they won't tolerate? How far can we actually push this? And the Boris fans feel obliged to go along with it, because after all - they've come this far, haven't they?

"supporters" is doing a lot of work there. There is a massive difference between conservative MPs to party members to people who genuinely agree with their programme to voters (some of whom voted Conservative for the very first time recently.)

I think among the Extremely Online and Extremely Political, there is a lot of bubble type thinking where there are a large number of "tories" in the country who resemble some kind of fever dream based on a vaguely recollected idea of what Thatcherism was. That's not really that accurate, most people who *voted* for the Conservative party, like those who voted for other parties, have a very vague sense of who the top three-ish people in each party and the kind of thing they stand for but only in a thematic and directional way.
posted by atrazine at 8:33 AM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Agree with much of the above. The 2020 Xmas parties story is just not going away. We all know that Boris cancelled Christmas for the rest of us last year because we lived through it and we're hoping he won't have to do the same this year. So we all know that they should not have been having Christmas parties and not only were they having Christmas parties they were laughing about getting away with it. The actual majority of the public is pretty rules abiding, we've had really good compliance with the rules on the whole and we're 70% double vaxxed. This majority (rather than other minority who also laugh about getting away with breaking the rules) are the one driving the drop in popularity.

Absolutely agree that it's the choice of primarily ITV, the BBC and the Mirror to run the story on Xmas parties and the rest of the press to keep it up. You can see the ITV and BBC journalists discussing the scoops on the Media Show (iPlayer).

I think the rest of the stuff is the backdrop - the Owen Paterson case, the handling of various Brexit and Covid issues, etc. If they were felt generally competent, and hadn't started out by lying about the parties they might have bounced back by now.
posted by plonkee at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

This new Jonathan Freedland piece sums up the situation pretty well.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:25 PM on December 17, 2021

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