The Poverty of Conservatism



In poor taste
Dave the Chameleon has been knocked by the Brown bounce, but he’s back in the headlines again.

No, not the reshuffle that sidelined modernisers like David Willets and saw the appointment of Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, to the post of shadow secretary for security – that was a carbon copy of what Brown has been doing. (Although, admittedly, Brown didn’t have a huge falling out with his party over grammar schools and then bow to pressure from below…)

What’s Cameron’s latest wheeze? Poverty!

The Tories are to become the anti-poverty party. No kidding. After presiding over a massive increase in unemployment and child poverty in the eighties, the Tories are keen to pick up the pieces of the society they helped break. Rather like Tony Blair’s appointment as Quartet representative, sorting out the Middle East, the Tories will fight the next election on poverty in the UK – or so the BBC claims.

This talk of fighting poverty is all well and good for Cameron; he’s the consummate PR man, it is bullshit but he says it like he means it. It’s actually a recipe for more privatisation, outsourcing public services to the voluntary sector (which includes businesses). But what of the Conservative base? What do they make of their dear leader’s quest to glue things together, will they take it literally?

Shift for brains
A poll of Tories taken on Cameron’s leadership revealed discontent at the grassroots and Edward Leigh, leader of the right-wing Cornerstone Group of Tory MPs, has been pushing for an abandonment of the media-centric style in favour of traditional Tory policies. The Tory leadership has insisted that there will be no change in strategy.

Cameron will need to dog-whistle his own party on tax cuts, immigration, and the EU. He can’t come out for lower taxation lest the masses think they mean low taxes for working people; he can’t talk about immigration controls because the cheap imported labour is good for business; and he can’t talk about the European Union because the haute bourgeoisie that the Tories represent aren’t particularly vexed.

This bind means that he’s left looking completely ridiculous: all spin and no substance, a mere clone of Blair. Indeed, he wants to be the heir to Blair, is willing to invade Iran, and sees voluntarism as being the solution to poverty…

Hoodie versus the fist
He was able to trounce Brown at the clunking fist’s first Prime Minister’s Questions with ease. He’s had eighteen months of practice, though, and I suppose he was just as nervous back then.

You may recall that Cameron called for an end to yah-boo politics at that time. It’s a common refrain, a promise never kept – but that there is so little to differentiate the main political parties necessitates the yah-boo pantomime at PMQs.

I no longer fear a Tory government. It’s a strange thing to say, but the fear has gone. I lived through the last stretch, but I really don’t care anymore – it can’t be any worse than New Labour. Who cares if you’re being screwed over by people with red rosettes or blue rosettes? Either way, you’re still being screwed over.

Labour’s parlous finances might preclude a snap election, though Brown might yet decide he can run a tight ship and emulate the Liberals, who can win on a very low budget. He recently spoke to a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on this subject, and has the party on a war footing, ready for anything. I’d say Brown is being naïve if he believes Labour can copy the Liberals tactics – does Labour have the feet on the ground?

Membership and votes are in a downward spiral and the local party branches are as lively as the graveyard. At the last general election, the top Labour figures in my area – and I’m talking council leaders – were the only ones knocking on doors. I wonder what all those Labour councillors who were turfed out in the May elections are getting up to – are they sticking with the party?

Just read this on Labour’s finances:

Money men behind Labour
Bosses are pouring money into the Labour Party’s coffers. Gordon Brown raised £113,000 to fight his election campaign for party leader, even though he had no challenger.

Brown’s leading supporters include Lord Paul, a Labour peer and owner of Caparo Industries. This is an international engineering group registered in the Virgin islands.

Lord Paul recently defended his decision not to be domiciled in Britain for tax purposes. He is more prepared to donate to Brown than he is to pay tax. Along with Labour peer Lord Bhattacharyya he donated £50,000.

Paul Myners, the chair of Guardian Media Group, and Lord Gavron, the former chair, put up £14,700 between them. Myners is also chair of the Low Pay Commission which sets the minimum wage.

Other donors to Brown were Labour peers Lord Leitch, who heads the New Deal Taskforce (£5,000), Lord Gregson, a former president of the Defence Manufacturers Association (£10,000), and John Miskelly, recently appointed as a member of a government panel on public service reform (£2,000).

The private equity bosses have also rushed to donate money to Labour. Four businessmen gave more than £500,000 to the Labour Party in the run-up to Brown becoming prime minister.

They are Sir Ronald Cohen, the founder of Apax Partners, Nigel Doughty, chair of Doughty Hanson private equity company, the internet betting tycoon Peter Coates, and Jon Aisbitt, a former Goldman Sachs partner.

The massive profits of private equity bosses are already the subject of a review to see whether they should pay more tax. Labour insist the donations had nothing to do with that review.

Maybe a snap election isn’t unthinkable.


2 Responses to “The Poverty of Conservatism”

  1. Renegade Eye Says:

    It would maybe hard for you to subjectively understand, but your political situation is healthier than here in the US.

    Here the subject of poverty isn’t even discussed. There is token mention of it by Democratic Party candidate John Edwards.

    None of the major candidates are for universal healthcare.

    Atleast you can caucus in the Labor Party. The Democratic Party is not a party a true leftist can support.


  2. charliemarks Says:

    True enough about the situation in the US, but for those of us residing in countries which are imperialist — sorry, *industrialised* nations — the USA has it pretty much the worst on welfare and healthcare.

    As to acting within the Labour Party, you might be surprised but it in fact a bad thing that the labour movement is tied to a social democratic party in power. Brown is no change at all from Blair, and when one considers that were it not for the Labourite leadership of the big unions, united action against neo-liberal reforms would have been taken a few years ago…

    The Labour Party is not a party a true leftist can support.

    Having said that, if Welsh Labour deal with Plaid, there could be changes in Wales, at least, that are positive…

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