“My job is is not to worry about those people”: Mitt Romney, filmed on 17 May 2012.
Mitt Romney has yet again shown that he is unlikely to win any prizes for running a decent campaign. Fair enough, he says his sentiments were badly expressed (though, given he was at a fundraiser from which his campaign apparently got at least $7.5 million, it would appear they were well-received). And let’s even give him the benefit of the doubt on whether he believes that societies should share and support their members, but that individuals in return have a duty to do as much as they can for themselves.
The real problem is that line about not worrying about ‘these’ people. It absolutely IS his job. It is the job of all elected politicians to make decisions for the greater good, not merely to consider their ‘own’ interest groups.
One of the key drivers of voting intention is whether voters think that politicians care about ‘people like me’. No-one thinks of themselves as rich. No-one thinks they are undeserving or have a perfect life or don’t need a bit of support and help every so often – it’s a fundamental part of our UK political settlement that it’s there for us even if we never actually use it.
A big part of how voters perceive politicians is how they treat ‘others’ – even in these tough times, we do want to be fair, both at the top and at the bottom.
I’d like to do one of my periodic delves into the less reported aspects of polls (these are mostly YouGov).
- 50-odd per cent of voters in the UK believe that the Conservatives only appeal to one section of society rather than the whole country.
- 64 per cent of people think the cuts are being done unfairly.
- When the Coalition was first formed, 30-ish per cent of people thought it would be bad for ‘people like you’. That figure is now well over 50, and continues to rise.
- Despite the encouraging finding that by 60 to 31, people would prefer David Cameron to Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, only six per cent of people think the Prime Minister is ‘in touch with the concerns of ordinary voters’. (Please note – these are two different polling companies, field work dates and samples)
- One final statistic. The numbers believing a majority Conservative or a majority Labour government next time would be best for Britain are basically the same.
The election in 2015 is still open. But there is an existential threat to the Conservatives as a party of government which is this: if people mistrust our motives and our actions reinforce and ingrain that mistrust, we will not be able to win the kinds of numbers we need to win an election outright.
That 47 per cent does matter. It matters to politicians who govern in the interests of one nation, and it does matter to the people who make up the 47 per cent and the other 53 per cent. Yes there is, as we have argued over and over again, a debate to be had about the size and the scope of the state. But to write off almost half your countrymen is not the action of someone who deserves their trust.
As an interesting sidebar, David Frum notes: