THE Conservative government in Britain has lost support on a massive scale for one simple reason: It has discarded the very British concept of ''Fair Play.''
In the 1980s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher introduced what was called ''the poll tax'' after a similar tax introduced some 600 years ago in 1381. She failed to notice that the tax, which demanded everyone to pay the same amount regardless of their wealth or poverty, led to a rebellion that nearly brought down the monarchy. (It ended only when the 14-year-old king met the rebels outside London and said, ''Let me be your leader.'')
Since then, Prime Minister John Major has put heavy taxes on home heating oil and introduced a higher income tax for married couples. The Child Support Agency has brought financial ruin to many divorced fathers on small incomes. The gap between rich and poor has widened fearsomely. Wages have been severely restrained while top executives enjoy handouts of millions of pounds. Reform of the National Health Service threatens the futures of many hospitals. And so on. Seventy percent of voters oppose the present government. Meanwhile, the Labour Party's new leader, Tony Blair, has increasing support for a simple reason: He's discarded socialism and adopted the promise of Fair Play.
THE Fair Play concept is likely to become the winning policy for governments all around the world. The reason is that virtually every country now faces serious economic and social problems for which there are no obvious solutions.
Populations are increasing. But there seems to be no new mass-employment industries on the horizon. Emigration is increasing. But there are no new empty lands for emigrants to go to and start their lives anew. Most countries are enforcing tight new immigration controls. Unemployment is increasing, although the extent of the increase is cushioned by the growth of part-time work. Crime is increasing, too, particularly in many inner cities where there are few, if any, factories today.
In almost every country the need for and demand for higher government spending is increasing. But real national income in most cases is barely rising at all. This implies still higher taxation. And that will reduce demand in the shops.
In these circumstances economic and social unrest can be avoided only if there is the feeling of Fair Play, the feeling that everyone is involved and that where sacrifices are to be made everybody will be expected to make them.
Socialism is finished. Communism is finished. Maybe capitalism will be too. Fair Play is the vital policy for the future.