Thursday, 27 October 2005

Dave or David? What does it matter?

An article I wrote this week, explores the importance of the coming leadership election and how the Tory Party needs Cameron and centrism to move forwards to the next election:

You might not have noticed but they’re at it again. There’s another Tory Leadership contest. Again. “How many leadership contests does one party need in eight years?” you might be asking yourself. Frankly, me too. But this one is different. Apathy towards Tory leadership contests in past has been justified. After the ‘97 election and a series of disastrous leaders and reforms, the Party gave up the political ghost, the in-fighting began and the it became out of date, out of focus and out to the right. And that’s a member of the Party’s opinion. Of course not every one reading this will be a Tory or a Socialist/Blairite but there is a clear need, now more than ever before, for a strong and coherent opposition. That is why the last 3 weeks have provided so much excitement (and fear) in certain political circles. A time of awakening and renewal - Cameron or Davis?

The lament about a lack of an effective Opposition in Westminster is ground well trodden before now, however at last, there is something to capitalise upon after all this mulling, something stirring - the new big beasts of the Conservative Party. Why? Finally the Party seems to have finished its obsession with ideology.

Now let’s be clear on this point, all political parties need an ideology but it won’t win elections, which is why the new Labour project has been so successful in the short term but is fundamentally flawed in the long term. It has no strategy but to win elections at any cost. Hence the importance of the centre ground in modern British politics, the ability to appeal to the maximum number of people. Most people don’t care about ideologies so Hague, IDS and Howard may as well have been talking to themselves. The majority of people are urban dwellers who are interested in public services, personal freedoms and security. (OK – so you were expecting tax to be snuck in on the end there weren’t you? Yes it’s obviously important but not at the cost of discussing other more important issues. Cutting tax as opposed to the current reckless tax and spend policy which has shown little benefits to public services, is preferable but the aim should be effective taxing and effective, concentrated public spending.)

What this all centres round - excuse the pun - is the centre ground. You’d be surprised. The majority of Tories are not rabid, foaming at the mouth right-wing xenophobes. They are on the whole right leaning centrists. Nobody is denying that the Party won’t collect some of the far-right fruit loops - it is after all the oldest political party in the world and a broad church of opinions. Quite rightly so. It owes its success to this breadth, but these people are a fringe group who were, for too long, allowed to wield too much power for their size and importance. And let’s be clear on this. All parties have fringes. Even the Labour Party but theirs tend to be geriatric and roughly man handled. As unbelievable as it may sound I’m sure there must be some communists left in the Labour Party. You know, the ones who haven’t set up splinter parties (The People’s Communist Front, The Front for Communist People, The Communist Front People …and so on. Apologies to Monty Python for the comparison.). The difference being the Labour Party doesn’t let them set the agenda, well, not any longer - remember Liverpool City Council? The adults run the show and soon it will be so again in the Conservative Party. The last 3 weeks have served not just to demonstrate the wealth and breadth of talent within the party but also to reinvigorate lapsed Tories and those who wish to see an end to the current Blair mess. Hence the importance of choosing the best leader to fit and harness the mood of the nation.

The contest has also served to highlight the differences between the centre and right wings of the party. It is time to move clearly on from Thatcherism (Tony are you listening?). Thatcherism worked in the dark depths of the 80s and undeniably saved the country form prolonged economic decline and for that we have a lot to be grateful - cue mountains of whiney letters claiming how Thatcher personally wronged communities/miners/gays/everyone else a long time ago, just don’t, please. Instead think of the iPod, the home PC or the low unemployment (currently the lowest in the EU but only 200,000 lower than in ’97), unimagined luxuries in the dark winters of the late ‘70s. Blairism will be regarded as a passing phase - an attempt to recreate the effects of Thatcherism without any of the hard work (though that should not diminish Blair and Mandelson’s remarkable achievement of 3 consecutive general election wins). The Labour miracle is based purely on puff. Nothing is what it seems, whether it is the continuous spin and lying (allegedly - go on, sue me!) or the economy based on borrowing.

It’s all a sham and it will be us, as we try to find a job, get a mortgage and start a family or company, who will be hit the hardest by the fallout. This is where Tory centrism sits so well for the future - responsible freedom. Freedom from regulation and bureaucracy (have you filled out an LEA or a self-assessed tax return yet? Most of you must have filled out one or both…were they as much fun as mine?). Liberty as long as it doesn’t infringe the liberty of others. It’s that simple. What does this mean for the average student in the union? It’s never been easy getting a job, but it’s about to become a whole lot harder. As the bureaucracy (the civil service administration, not nurses, police offices, etc.) burden increases (523,580 employees UK wide in 2004 and rising, plus 10,820 casual staff!) and red tape proliferates, private enterprise picks up the cost. We must encourage growth in private enterprise to create new jobs and we need a reduction in regulation to achieve this. Neither the current government nor a Brown government will do this.

Dave Cameron or David Davis. What does it matter? Only a centre candidate can serve Britain and the Conservative Party successfully today and only Cameron can achieve this. He is media savvy, connects with the electorate, is under forty and seems reasonably normal outside of politics, little of which can be said for his opponent in the contest. These are the qualities that count more today than ever before. At the very least, we can all hopefully agree that he would lead a strong opposition at Westminster and at best, be the next British Prime Minister. That’s why it matters that Cameron wins.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

A moment of confusion ...

I have to admit to a rare moment of uncertainty tonight.

Watching Blair being heckled in the EU Parliament tonight on Newsnight left me with genuinely mixed emotions. Here is a man who I find reprehensible in many forms and yet I found myself sympathising with him as he had to grin at the backward European idiots who were refusing to listen to logic.

Blair in theory is quite right. The EU needs to reform, especially after expansion. We can no longer justify spending so much on CAP. Obviously this is going to upset the French but that's our reason d'etre in the EU, isn't it? But really, we need to reform and CAP is the logical starting place.

So whilst part of me enjoyed the heckling part of me also felt strangely protective of Blair. Fundamentally he is right, social welfare cannot continue without strong economies and jobs. Is he the most right wing socialist ever if I am agreeing with him or am I becoming more left-wing? Too scary a thought for this time of night!

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

The First Tentative Entry...

Hello and Welcome! Did you really want to be here or was it a typing error? Well now you're here you might as well come in and read a bit......

The idea is to post writings, musings and even the odd rant about today's political climate and, frankly, anything else that takes my fancy - purely because I can.