Monday, 29 September 2014

Cameron and the Tory death-wish

Alas for Dave.  His conference is overshadowed by defections and a retro-Major family values storm in the proverbial teacup, with lukewarm backing from the rampaging blond ego and prospective candidate for Uxbridge.  Over the last decade, Cameron's modernisation has been the stone cladding over the rotting frontage of a party whose reason for existence is increasingly hard to fathom.

There is an intellectually-unarguable case for a centre-right party.  Indeed this position has been inherently successful, as Angela Merkel and Tony Blair demonstrate.  For those of us with more radical tastes, this is unfathomable but it does appear to command a modicum of support, not least from the business community and from the ranks of the comfortably-off and fretful.  This would be a legitimate and intelligent position for the Tories to adopt, but instead there appears to be a squabble with Farage for the dregs of the far right.

Capitalising on this self-imposed marginalisation should be the priority.  Paradoxically, despite the predictable self-interested whining from the usual fellow-travelling suspects, Miliband may even have got it right by not highlighting the deficit in his conference speech, preferring to concentrate on the issues that affect the individual.  The narrative of the individual and the community struggling in a world where everything is down to "global forces" and the dead hand of the neo-liberal reconstruction should be one that resonates - and the Tories have missed this by parroting Austerity, gruesome Gideon cheered on by gormless Beaker and the Orange Book Liberals, as a substitute for a genuine political and economic programme.

Watching UKIP's gathering last week was akin to mainlining George Cole at his most spin-like.  Farage's claim to be a party of insurgency is risible, he is merely another tool of the plutocracy and, as can be seen by the calibre of defective Tories he attracts, his claim to be an alternative to Labour is the kind of slurred boast that one encounters at chucking-out time from Wetherspoons.

Labour missed a major trick last week by not tapping into the genuine insurgency that could have spread virally from Scotland to the rest of Great Britain.  The rejection of much of what both Blair and Cameron stood for is clear, and the urgent need to replace the current oligopoly on political power and the client state that decimates accountability, democracy while sucking out taxpayers' resources in the name of profit should be the fighting-ground for the next election.  Instead we have a dull consensus of the need for slow, imperceptible change.  No wonder there is no sense of momentum for Labour at the moment.

So Cameron could steal some of these clothes.  Instead he prevaricates on Scottish devolution - creating the perfect storm for the 2015 General Election - and runs for cover through military adventurism at the coat-tails of the United States.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current situation in Iraq, the timing of British engagement looks cynical and short-termist - no-one has learned from the Blair/Halliburton invasion that there needs to be a clear target for a post-crisis settlement.  Sowing the wind is no substitute for a policy.

Instead, he will spend most of the week trying to mollify the swivel-eyed and shore himself up against internal challengers.  Yet the Tories should be looking to external factors if they are to survive.  Electorally they are nowhere in huge swathes of the country, and only because of democratic  representation do they wield any parliamentary presence in the devolved nations.  There are redoubts of the ignorance and bigotry that have sustained the Tory right, but they are gradually becoming too old, enfeebled or enraptured with the yellow-trousered pantaloon to form the rock upon which the Tories move forward.

A modern Conservative party would be prepared to challenge its own assumptions, including the idiocy and venality that creates self-sustaining moral corruption.  Many of its donors benefit from the privatisation of public services, and continue to do so.  In its former incarnations, moral probity and public duty were part of most Tories' make-up - nowadays the only dictum is not to be caught.  It used to stand up for local communities and smaller businesses, never entirely satisfactorily but at least from an instinctive distrust of centralisation and unaccountability, but now its denizens are in the pockets of the people who threaten democracy.

Real insurgency comes from understanding how the political and economic environment has been tarnished - largely since the triumph of the neo-liberals in economics since 1979 and the authoritarians and petty dictators in social and political spheres at the same time.  Taking back control of the state and the community should be the mantra - and a Tory party that is now fully-identified with these forces is part of the problem.  Cameron would have nothing to lose from refocusing on the citizen and the state, but the terms of debate will be bigotry, xenophobia and a further entrenchment of the wealthy.  This is not reaching out to rebuild any Tory links with the electorate - and another week goes by where the realities of the country are set aside in the interests of shoring up internal morale until the next minor tremor sets off a fresh wave of panic.

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