Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tory Delusions

One of the nice things about politics and personalities is that you can like and respect an individual and yet totally disagree with what he or she says. For example I like and respect Tony Benn, but I think it is fair to say that I am a bit more right-wing than he is. One thing he said in the early 1980s which I disagree with (and which the facts bore out against him) was that, if only Labour was more left wing, so that they could counter the Conservatives monetaristic threat, then Labour's electoral salvation would be in sight!
But political events can sometimes repeat themselves and yesterday one saw it in two newspaper colums. One in The Times, the other in The Independent.
In The Times, William Rees-Mogg argued that last weeks by-election results were satisfactory for the Conservatives. He then stated that:

"The results of by-elections are usually very different from those of subsequent general elections.
Nevertheless, one can use the Rallings and Thrasher guide to calculate the results of a theoretical general election in which the swing of votes matched the by-elections. On that hypothesis, the Conservatives would be the largest party, with 281 seats, Labour would hold 243 seats and the Lib Dems would have 93. From the Conservative point of view that would not be a bad result, but for Labour it would be a disaster.

Being a Conservative, Rees-Mogg ignores one or two home truths. First of all, the Conservatives by-election results between 1989 and 1992 were abismal and the result for the Tories in Richmond in 1989 was nothing to crow about when one considers what the result would have been if the Owenite SDP and the Liberal Democrats weren't split from each other and at loggerheads! (Plus the Tories 79-97 period of power never won a by-election as far into power as Labour have now been in)
Secondly it would take a pretty large swing for the Lib Dems to gain thirty extra seats. There is no evidence of that swing happening as dissatisfaction with Labour is not as bad as it was for the Tories between 1992 and 1997, the last time they gained a substantial amount of seats.

Moving on to The Independent, Bruce Anderson mentions the similar fantasies the Conservative Party has over power:

"It has never been easy to lead the Tories in opposition. Tories regard themselves as the national party: the rightful British National Party. Modern Toryism combines the two great British political traditions. On the one hand, there is a belief in authority and a reverence for our glorious past: on the other, individual freedom and economic dynamism. If those are not potent ideas, why does Gordon Brown pretend to believe in them?
As the true national party, the Tory Party also regards itself as the natural party of government. Tories do not believe that any other party should be entrusted with the national interest. They could also argue that every non-Tory government after Palmerston ended in failure. Tories know they will lose an election from time to time. But defeat should be a brief respite for fresh thinking, not a 40-year schlep around the Sinai Desert. One Parliament should be enough to reinvigorate the party and persuade the country to return to its true allegiance.
Given all that, it is never easy to lead a Tory opposition. The troops are likely to blame any delay in returning to power on incompetent map-reading by the leadership. After 10 years, and during a distinct shortage of manna, nerves are strained and tempers frayed."

The admission of Conservative Party arrogance from a Conservative.
If one compares Labour in 1989 to the Conservatives today, one notes that Labour had already grounded most of their hard left into the ground, gone through some important policy changes, enjoyed better Opinion Polls, were starting to take seats from Tory no-go areas, and had only gone through three leaders. Yes there was the 1992 election, but that was the Conservatives put on Parole. By contrast, the Tories are three years or so behind, have just discussed ideas, have not dealt publicly and firmly with their problem-members (which is what they need to do if they want to win back public support), and have a no of grassroots who seem unsure of moving to the centre ground. The space that any aspiring Party for government needs to occupy. If anything thats because Labour have occupied that ground for a long time and the Tories were firmly to the right in the 1980s, thus making the centre ground an easy target for Labour. If the Conservatives hope to win, they need to totally radicalise their grassroots and not sit and wait for any possible bad things to happen. But that will put them in immense difficulty, because to succeed they need to go into a vacumn in the centre ground and that's pretty much occupied at present!


Miranda said...

An excellent post. The arrogance of the Tories never fails to astound me.

BaldockBaldrick said...

Long post Paul. You got a job? lol
Interesting post though, seriously.

Paul Burgin said...

Thanks for the compliments. I do have a job BB, it's my day off ;)

Man in a shed said...

I think you'll find arrogance is not providing a referendum on the European Constitution (re badged version) when you had it in your manifesto. (Mostly because you know it is against the wished of the British people and you would lose).

Just heard Gisela Stuart (Lab) MP on R4 saying there must be a referendum as little has changed from the treaty she helped create. [That by contrast is honesty and integrity - missing from Gordon Brown and his desire to hide the impact of what he says in small print].

Will you, in good conscience, be able to go out and campaign for the Gordon Brown personality cult (what was the Labour party when it had elections for its leadership) knowing that your manifesto is just a confidence trick to deceive the electorate ?

That's real arrogance, if you can !

In fact come to think of it Socialism is based on arrogance - the belief that you know better than other people and should use the force of the state to inflict your views on those poor unfortunates who don't know what's good for them.

Paul Burgin said...

The European issue is ongoing and I am just as keen to see a Referendum on this as the next person, particually as I do not support a single currency
I will also happily campaign for Labour at the next election because it is a Party which has, and which plans to, put forward a raft of policies which is beneficial to this country. I refuse to not support Labour on an issue, namely Europe, when we have done so many good things. To drive such wedges on this issue would split the Party and put it into opposition for at least a decade.
Socialism, in the form of Social Democracy, is not arrogant. It works as a check and balance against unfettered nationalisation and privatisation which is open to abuse and causing of widespread misery, given human nature and the World we live in.It does not want a Utopia on Earth so much as wanting to protect the vulnerable.

Man in a shed said...

Paul - I am always impressed by the calm and measured nature of your replies. Though I'm afraid not convinced by the argument on this occasion.

If a new state takes all the power from the existing one then its doesn't matter whom you elect to Westminster.

What I can't understand is why Labour is so keen to sell Britain out ?

Socialism hurts the most vulnerable by lower the performance of the economy and removing from people their self confidence and purpose and turning them into clients of the state.

Nobody is suggesting not helping those in real need - but the job pages of the Guardian and Independent are full of signals of those who have helped themselves in these days of the over bloated state.

Man in a shed said...

See on the European treaty today.

Man in a shed said...

Article by the Labour MP Gisela Stuart- who helped negotiate the EU Constitution here today.

Its title is " If Brown won't listen, how can we trust him?".

For the record I don't.

Anonymous said...

There was a quote in the New Statesman this week from a member of Tory HQ who admitted that the New Cameron Conservatives are more like Kinnock's Labour of the 1980s than the Blair/Brown version of the 1990s. It's all about spin and PR rather than serious policy.

Paul Burgin said...

Well I agree that we are seeing more spin and PR, but that shows how desperate they are for power without making the fundamental changes needed.As for Europe it is an ongoing issue at present and one which has pro and anti in both the Conservative and Labour Parties. As for Socialism hurting self confidence. There are various forms of Socialism, the one most favoured in this country seems to be Social Democracy, almost of the type that the SDP were at their beginning. Incidentally unfettered capitalism without responsibility can hurt and cause lack of confidence as well!