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Shortly after the 1885 General Election, the young Joseph Conrad wrote to a friend, bemoaning the result:

Where’s the man to stop the rush of social-democratic ideas? The opportunity and the day have come and are gone! Believe me: gone for ever! For the sun is set and the last barrier removed. England was the only barrier to the pressure of infernal doctrines born in continental back-slums. Now, there is nothing! The destiny of this nation and of all nations is to be accomplished in darkness amidst much weeping and gnashing of teeth, to pass through robbery, equality, anarchy and misery under the iron rule of a military despotism!

This, it is safe to say, is the most OTT reaction to a minority Liberal government in the whole of human history. Yet it is not a million miles away from the weeping and gnashing characteristic of Britain’s left today.

For example, Lord Blunkett argues that Mrs May “seek[s] complete hegemony in which difference of thought and the challenge of normal democratic counterweight to the establishment will not be tolerated.” North of the Border, Nicola Sturgeon has written of Mrs May’s “jaw-dropping” arrogance with respect to the Scots, which is “unprecedented, unparalleled and utterly unsustainable”, and “If we were to look anywhere else in the world and witness a similar situation, we would be aghast”.

As well as destroying democracy, the Tories are out-Thatchering Mrs Thatcher. The leaders of the Greens think the main electoral task is to “stop the Tories from wrecking our country for generations to come”, while their erstwhile head Natalie Bennett wrote that “the Tories have gone further than Thatcher to the extremes of British politics”. This is not a new theme – Polly Toynbee long ago accused David Cameron of “going where Thatcher never dared” and running “the most right-wing of postwar governments.”

Our cultural representatives do not demur. Johnny Marr, the Engels to Morrissey’s Marx, recently wailed that “In Thatcher’s day it was just plain old bleak. It was no future and no jobs. But now they’re trying to make it more difficult for you to even afford train fares, bus fares and education. There’s a lack of genuine democracy”. Dr Lisa McKenzie of the London School of Economics predicted that the “Tory manifesto will be same as it always has been- to look after the rich, sell off public services and kill the poor”, though, surprisingly for an academic, without citing her sources.

This is decidedly odd, even allowing for poetic licence. Mrs May is a moderate figure, somewhat indecisive, socially conservative, with mildly interventionist leanings. She hasn’t even done very much. Between them Mr Cameron and Mrs May have increased public spending in absolute terms, or, as a percentage of GDP, have reduced it to the level of 2008 (as opposed to 1908, or 1808, as many would have you believe). Yet already a theme in this election is whether, and if so how, the ‘progressive forces’ can gang up on the evil ones and somehow keep the candle of democracy alight in the face of these cataracts and hurricanoes.

Owen Jones has swallowed his distaste for Jeremy Corbyn to join Lord Blunkett in calling for everyone to “unite and do our very best to prevent a Tory landslide that would be calamitous for the country” by voting Labour. Tim Farron suggests voting Lib Dem for more or less the same reason, while the leaders of the Greens, as noted above, think voting Green will do it. Paul Mason, on the other hand, wants us to vote tactically for the best-placed anti-Tory candidate. “Our aim should not be a narrow majority: it should be to wipe out hard Brexit Toryism for a generation”.

This seems to be self-defeating. The problem for these parties, surely, is that the Tories have too many supporters (at least according to the polls), so the solution is to siphon voters away from them, isn’t it? Yet the ‘progressive forces’, having written off the Tories as rich, selfish, greedy and evil, are all trying to poach each other’s dwindling stocks of voters instead – the metaphor of rearranging the Titanic’s deckchairs seems remarkably apt. Lynton Crosbie’s Manichaean mantra of ‘strong and stable’ vs a ‘coalition of chaos’ almost writes itself.

I don’t have any particular desire to see a Labour or a Lib Dem government, or even to avoid a Tory landslide. But beyond June 8th, this is a political problem. Many people vote Conservative because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Tories provide such basic political goods as support for authority, realistic economic assumptions, national security and defence, and a willingness to protect the private sphere from interference from the state. The ‘progressive forces’ have demonised the Tories so effectively that now no other party dares cater for that constituency. Isn’t this madness?

For the ‘progressive forces’ are no such thing. There is no force, just a load of people who disagree about most things (or, in their terms, a ‘rainbow coalition’) who have conjured up a terrible but non-existent bogeyman (or bogeywoman at the moment) to unite them. If they succeeded in deposing Mrs May, whether in coalition or within a single party, they would have no consistent policies, except to stop doing what the Conservatives have been doing, good and bad.

Currently, those who broadly value our existing political and economic arrangements (including those who, like me, would want to adjust them in various ways) only have one party to vote for, while those who wish to kick the table over have a deliciously wide choice. I can’t think that that is a happy situation in which to find ourselves.

Kieron O’Hara is an associate fellow of Bright Blue and associate professor and principal research fellow at the University of Southampton.The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.