Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Conservatives doublethink on change

The spectacular breakdown of the financial industry and the drastic economic upheavals that have followed, left most politicians struggling simply to keep up with events.

The exposure of a ramshackle, and slightly corrupt system of expenses in Parliament has hugely discredited the political class.

All of this left voters very angry, fearful and frustrated. The general feeling is one of contempt for politicians in general and -as they were in government- for Labour in particular. So, despite the fact that Conservatives were more guilty than most on the expenses farrago, and despite the fact that George Osborne has earned little more than mockery amongst business and financial leaders, the Conservatives could have looked a reasonably fair bet to take over the government.

However, even that would not have been easy: the electoral system, which the Tories still support, nevertheless has been working against them in recent years. The number of seats that the Tories need to win is quite difficult to gain, unless the Tory lead is very substantial. Only occasionally has it looked like Mr. Cameron would be able to gain to 40% or more of the votes that could make him certain of victory.

Then again, many voters are still not sure that Mr. Cameron and his colleagues deserve victory. The Conservative front bench consists of a clique of like minded political hacks who have little or no experience of life in business, or any other kind of administration. Young, generally public school educated, these careerists are focused on the mechanics of politics but not, most assuredly not, too much on the principles and ideas of politics. For their view, as was Tony Blair's, is that power is essentially a matter of pragmatism: to do "what works". The problem is that with no moral or ideological compass, "what works" soon descends into a cynical exercise in public relations as politicians attempt to spin that whatever they have done, is indeed "working".

In that sense Blair and Cameron are cut from the same shallow cloth of hype and spin.

David Cameron entered this election with proposals on deficit management that were not massively different in scale at all from the other two parties. Indeed the biggest difference is simply in the timing of the large scale cutbacks that are needed. The devil was rather in the detail. The Labour Party intended to raise taxes pretty much across the board in order to preserve what they could of their spending programmes.

The Liberal Democrats advocated re-balancing the tax system so that the poor- who are currently disproportionately taxed- would have a lower overall income tax burden and that taxes and benefits would be integrated so that the massive system of cumbersome tax credits could be phased out- reducing the cost of administration, amongst other benefits.

The Conservatives wanted to target their tax changes towards assets, in particular raising inheritance tax thresholds -or even scrapping IHT altogether The problem is that this primarily benefits the more wealthy, and does nothing to deal with the overtaxing of the poor, who have been hit the worst by the economic crisis.

Meanwhile the Tories propose to put the tired issue of fox hunting back on the political agenda_ in order to restore the right to hunt. Personally I don't care about hunting too much one way or they other- though it is not something that I could ever imagine wanted to do, and I would have followed Lembit Opik's amendment to allow hunting, but under a system of controls. What I do resent is that so much of the Parliamentary time that I pay for has been wasted on such a peripheral issue. I find it quite irritating that one of the few definite policies the Tories have proposed over the past two years, was to bring back fox hunting.

So when you get down to it, the Tories are not really offering much change. They want to keep the electoral system that allows them to take a Buggin's turn at power, they want to keep the poor over-taxed, and even reduce the tax burden further on the relatively wealthy. They want to continue the fairly unprincipled approach to politics pioneered by Tony Blair. Oh and they want to bring back fox hunting (whoopee).

What change is this really?

Within six months we would be as heartily sick of the Tories as we are of Labour now.

In fact if the British people actually want change, then they must change the system.

The political system that allows cliques and cabals to control parties with little say-so from members and voters alike. The political system that closes down debate as open as it airs it. The political system that ignores a near majority of the votes cast. The political system where newspapers work covertly with the political parties they support in order to misrepresent and distort the policies of the other parties, The secretive, dishonest and increasingly corrupt political system presided over by Tories and Labour alike for decade after decade.

The Tories offer only gimmicks- such as absurd primaries- which they intend to keep tight control over. They do not offer the British people the far greater involvement and control over government that is the cornerstone of the Liberal Democrat agenda.

The British people deserve better than the half-baked ideas of the Tories. They deserve instead the well crafted and integrated programme of reform that the Liberal Democrats have drafted, based on clear principles of openness and accountability.

The British people deserve the economic competence of the the professional economist in Dr. Vince Cable, not the callow posturings of the out-of-his-depth George Osborne. The credibility of those who have worked in business at the highest level, like David Laws, Susan Kramer, Chris Huhne, not the inexperience of- well -virtually all of the Tory front bench.

The British people deserve to be respected and listened to when they express a view- not to have their views subverted so that they can then be ignored.

David Cameron offers no change to the system that has failed. He just wants to keep the roundabout going- and Britain will be the poorer if he and his clique of schoolboy cronies were to succeed.

This time, Nick Clegg has demonstrated that there is a choice and it is real radical and fundamental change. The transformation of our closed political system into something more open, more accountable to the British people. The death of the Labour government is certain, but there is another way. In the next 10 days I shall be campaigning to persuade the people in the North East of Scotland that Socialism is dead, Independence is a chimera, and that the Liberal Democrats -and not the Conservatives- mean what they say about overthrowing the current political system and bringing political and economic reform- real change- to this country.

1 comment:

Newmania said...

My god its a full blown case of waffle-itis is anyone here an editor ? .The Lib Dem Policy platform is collapsing already its Economic plans do not add up and on immigration its almost comic . How do you get rid of mice CS , plates of cheese ?
None of that matters much manifestos are not the truth , I am greatly enjoying Clegg’s outrage that he should be subjected to the same sort of abuse and partisan scrutiny everyone else gets though….

Amongst the people unprepared for the arrival of LDs as serious contenders for government are the Liberal Democratic Party