I have been thinking about the "strong and stable" mantra, in the context of my mum, who thinks Theresa May is great.
She is absolutely a product of post war Social democracy (born 1947), got 6 good O levels despite failing the 11+. Got a civil service job
Got into a mess due to creating me with my irresponsible dad, but then met my step fascist. Worked part time, had my sister, had 5 years out
Went back and did a local authority job until redundancy, aged 59. Her and step fascist paid off their mortgage in their early 50s.
Due to how law works re property they also ended up owning his parents home. So, 2 homes, both retired in their 50s. Endless holidays
Both on pension income before state pension kicked in, from working in public sector. He worked 33 years for the MoD. In one workplace.
She worked for the predecessor to DWP, 2 years out, 4 years part time in insurance, 5 years out, then 24 years local authority. 3 workplaces
there were 4 bad years for her (the me arriving/my dad leaving years) but we had a council flat. There were inflation years in the late 70s
But from the mid 80 had 2 incomes, 3 cars, me off their hands at university, on a grant so they had no expenses. Lots of holidays. Lots.
In the 90s they paid off the mortgage. In the space of a few years they both got made redundant but neither needed to work again. Or claim.
They then acquired another house, due to how the law allows property to be moved around. From parents who lived on govt pension for 30 years
Basically, in material terms, since the early 80s they've had no money worries. They've had stability. From their 40s to their 70s.
They also had stability in their earlier lives through full employment, the NHS, workplace/union rights, public sector employment, education
And although they were children in the first Austerity era (late 40s/early 50s) it was their parents who'd born the brunt of that
they had the stability of Post war social democracy. Then, from 79, when my mum voted for you know who, they got the income from the shares
they got the income from property prices. They got the dividends of Thatcherism and they've got the pensions from post war social democracy
So they've had a lot of stability. Stability was their era. So, if you appeal to them with "Stability" they recognise themselves
And because they did well, largely because of timing, out of the upswing of Thatcherism, the shares, the mortgage pay off (the MIRAS too)
and because this happened after the rockiness of the inflation years and the disruption and 'discontent) of 78/9 (when my sister was born)
they also identify with "strong", i.e. Thatcher putting a stop to disruption. Stepfascist hated her (misogynist) mum liked her, quietly.
"Strong and Stable" work for them. They've had a lot of stability and the "strong leadership" years is when their living standards went up
and of course, they don't have an analysis that sees this in terms of periods of "settlement". They don't see themselves as being stable
because of post war social democracy. And they don't see their having benefited from the rupture of that settlement as a historical thing
They see themselves as having the right qualities, the right approach to life. Their stability comes from the "working hard and saving"
even though they've had more holidays than anyone I've ever met. And were well into the bank of his mum and dad (i.e. civil service pension)
And also, as gleeful Brexiteers, they don't see any of the stability or material comfort as having coming from 45 year of EEC/EU membership
Nor do they associate the move from UK holidays (1970s) to EU holidays (1980s onwards) to be anything to do with being EU citizens
they see it all as being due to their personal ability to get life right. To save money through DIY, to look out for bargains and good deals
They see "strong and stable" as values they associate with their own characters, their being able to live right and get deserved rewards
And they see Stability as Strength. Their stability is because they are strong. The stability came under Thatcher because she was strong
and they see May, their contemporary, reflecting it back at them. Stability is a strength. A character strength. That people their age have
they overcame instability (bad marriage/no money, prices, strikes) by being strong. They don't see healthcare, education, housing, rights
and they see the struggles, failures & penury of their children - me, my sister, as failures of New Labour. Borrowing money, switching jobs
They had stability because they were strong. We have instability because we are weak, flighty, we get into debt, we can't keep a job. Weak
I can see how this works for them. "Strong and Stable: that's what we are." It resonates. It reinforces. Its a load of crap. But it works.
And now they come out with rubbish like "I'm sure we'll get a good deal because Theresa May is strong" and "we can trade with Australia"
My mum thinks Theresa May is "really good because I think she'll get us a good deal" Which is just faith. Faith that being 'strong' works
and faith that if you are 'strong' that this will restore Britain to what it was when they did well out of it. Strong will get you Stable.
Its delusional nonsense. Its the politics of Affect. But its a structure of feeling. It ignores history, it locks on to characteristics.
Also, of course, its difficult to counter it by giving your parents a little lecture on the Post War settlement and the neoliberal rupture.
But I think you can just guilt trip the fuck out of them. What about my child? What about my 13yo. She won't have what you had.
Is that "strong and stable" mum? Your granddaughter having to pay private health insurance when she might not even be able to get a job?
That's my tactics. I see your "strong and stable" I raise you "you have voted to make your grandchildren's lives unstable and precarious".
Don't mind me, mum, I'm Generation "You'll probably outlive me anyway". I'm a hopeless failure, an unworldly dreamer. Who needs stability?
So I think "Strong and Stable" works for many people (millions). And I don't think "its alright for you, you had it so good " will work
but I do think you have to have a go at it. "is this strong and stable?" (housing, in work poverty, debt, health, energy, rights)
but more than that, especially for my parents generation and all of that lot. How is your "strong and stable" going to help your grandkids?
because when I talk to my mum and I say "you know your grandchildren almost certainly won't get a state pension" she says "I know".
So, for me, we have to guilt trip them. We're fucked, they don't care. But happy faces on school photos? ... who will never know stability?