Monday, October 02, 2006

Conservatives still lost


The Conservative Party conference has kicked off in Bournemouth with David Cameron saying he wont be promising tax cuts at the next election. He is saying this because the Tories have promised tax cuts before and lost – and because apparently a lot of Brits dont believe health and education can get better with tax cuts. Meanwhile, the honeymoon poll period he’s been enjoying is over. Labour and the Tories are virtually neck and neck, and one big reason is because people don’t know what the Conservative Party stands for. Sound familiar?
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In 2002, following three years of the Clark government, Bill English presented to the New Zealand electorate a lacklustre campaign which talked a lot about education, the economy and values, but said nothing substantial. He wasn’t prepared to talk about tax cuts, he wasn’t prepared to talk much about reforming the economy or the state sector and he certainly wouldn’t have said that the reason so many Maori have lung cancer is because they choose to smoke. National hadn’t learnt from 1999, when a bitter electorate was sick of the party that sold its soul to govern with Winston, and then sold it again to remain in power with the likes of Alamein Kopu, Tuariki Delamere and Tuku Morgan.
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Labour sold a message of three years of strong stable government, which saw big spending increases in areas the public likes (health and education), lots of booty for its supporters (Maori, arts sector, environment) and the union movement getting the repeal of the Employment Contracts Act. Labour was riding high on a growing economy, low unemployment and a sense of contentment. Clark was a formidable debater, she knew what she believed in and could articulate it strongly – English never could. Bill English is a hardworking and honest man - but he fears having strong convictions, and it showed. He never looked like he believed he could win the election – as a result, Labour increased its share of the vote, and the disenchanted voted for NZ First (revitalised with Winston’s “3 policy” pledge), United Future (also revitalised having adopted the Christian Future NZ party and being the media darling with his “common sense” cliche) and ACT (which got its best ever result).
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National suffered – it had its worst vote ever. Less than 21% of the vote. A year later, it was polling double that, with Don Brash as leader. Brash has been willing to take a stand on principle. Most notably he took a stand against Maori political correctness and the big elephant in the room of New Zealand politics – state privilege for Maori. He was saying what many thousands of New Zealanders had been saying, and what smaller parties had been saying. He also took a stand on tax – promising worthwhile tax cuts across the board. In 2005 the result was 39%, and near victory.
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The Tories have had a boost in support for two reasons – firstly, the public is fed up with Labour. The war in Iraq has bled support to the Lib Dems, and the constant scandals of the likes of Blunkett, Prescott and the Brown/Blair divide aren’t impressing anyone. Labour is now looking as sleazy as the Tories did in the Major era. In addition, Blair – who won it for Labour three times, is on his way out and is seen as an outgoing PM. Any support he could bring has withered away. Secondly, David Cameron is young and charismatic, and the darling of the media. His radical approach to matters such as demanding more female and ethnic minority candidates is pushing some buttons – basically he is moving towards the left, while rightwing Tories are going “shhhh don’t rock the boat”.
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You see Cameron has changed the party logo to the insipid tree at the top of this post - we have statements such as "hug a hoodie" where Cameron wants to "understand" why yobs are useless good for nothings. The answer is simple - because they aren't scared of the justice system.
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The party has released new "Aims and Values". They are hardly inspiring:
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Supporting the shared experiences that bring us together and promote well-being, like sport, the arts and culture, and reforming the National Lottery so that its proceeds are properly allocated to these purposes.
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Supporting families and marriage, and making high quality childcare more available and more affordable.
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investment in new light rail systems for cities
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Working towards the target of giving 0.7% of national income in
aid by 2013

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What party is this now?
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It is only mildly redeemed by:
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Further reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, abolishing all
remaining production-linked subsidies, scrapping import tariffs and
removing all export subsidies.
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Abolishing ID cards if they are introduced.
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Furthermore David Cameron's speech talks about "corporate responsibility" because, you see, business should feel guilty. Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth tops the vapidity stakes by saying "We accept that the economic cost of not tackling climate change will be infinitely greater than the cost of taking action now" . Infinitely greater? Really? So it will eradicate humanity? What utter rot - pandering to the eco tax lobby, surrendering to the recycling nazis who refuse to operate landfills on a for-profit basis, and complain that people throw so much away, surrendering to the economic luddites who leave local government running roads as parts of their personal political fiefdoms.
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Cameron's approach to foreign policy has also been less than inspiring, pandering a little to anti-Americanism as he seeks the anti-war vote. He may even be listening to former PM Mike Moore (yes our Mike Moore), you could do worse than follow him on trade.
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It is the job of the Conservative Party to wean people off the state - increasingly it shows little interest in doing much beyond stopping it getting worse. It should promote getting rid of corporate welfare, being innovative about infrastructure by getting out of the way, and letting social services be driven by consumer choice rather than bureaucracy. It should be aiming to shift from welfare and public housing to employment, growth and private property ownership. It can progress beyond the prejudice of xenophobia and conservative morality that alienates it from immigrants and many of the young – while not touting bullshit like “hug a hoodie”.
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Anthony King of the Daily Telegraph says the party should focus on being anti-waste and anti-regulation – that would be a good start. This should push some buttons, many are sick of being pushed around and an anti-nanny state campaign would be something Labour would find hard to rebut -and would be playing in territory that the Liberal Democrats long abandoned, since they took over the role of Michael Foot in 21st century UK politics.
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One can only hope they realise it. You see, only 18% want the Conservatives to commit to drastically reducing the size of government – 18%!!
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Britain needs the Conservative Party. It is the only party with a decent number of members who believe in less government - it is the only party that can confront the dark deathly socialist menace of the European Commission - the number one enemy of agriculturally oriented countries - and it is the only party that has any hope of defending fundamental freedoms. Cameron has made a few good starts, he isn't promising a hardline on drugs or censorship and has sought to get rid of the grey haired old men born to rule image of the party - but he has also been throwing out some political babies, as he courts the middle ground of political vapidity.
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It would be nice to think of him as being more than just "better than Gordon Brown". The British public deserve a lot better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pray tell, what exactly do you mean by "Anti-Americanism"?