Sunday 3 March 2013

No "Lurch to the Right"?

I'm often struck by how quickly government pronouncements and promises come undone thanks to its own side. Take this morning's Telegraph as a case in point. It featured an article by Dave in which he rules out any "lurch to the right", as a response to his party's spanking by UKIP in Eastleigh. Dave writes "It’s not about being Left-wing or Right-wing – it’s about being where the British people are. The right thing to do is to address the things people care about; to fix yourself firmly in ... the 'common ground’ of politics." Unfortunately, even before the ink was dry on the copy, his lieutenants were busily contradicting Dave's line of march.

Chris Grayling came out with the bald assertion that a future majority Tory government would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights, leaving us to buddy up with the only other non-signatory, that bastion of democratic rectitude, Belarus. That the EU as an entity under the Lisbon Treaty is due to sign up to the ECHR, thereby making it a condition of EU membership hasn't troubled Grayling. But still, in all likelihood it's a difficulty the Tories won't be tackling post-2015, so why not score some populist points in the here and now?

The second awkward moment for Dave's new-found triangulation saw his foreign secretary peddling a particularly pernicious immigration myth. "Benefit tourism must end" thundered William Hague, this morning. With pieces like this stirring the pot, the media have gone out of its way to talk up the prospect of *millions* of new Romanian and Bulgarian workers pouring into Britain. And not only that, a massive chunk of them will make their way here solely to sponge off Britain's social security system. As anyone who's spent some time on the dole will tell you, an opulent existence awaits.

Never ones to let the truth get in the way of scaremongering, the Tory/media myth of 'benefit tourism' got a good kicking here and elsewhere when it was first floated over a year ago. There is no evidence *at all* that people get on the plane just so they can check out the fancy interiors of JobCentre Plus. Sure, there are overseas workers who happen to be on the dole because they find themselves out of work, but it's spin of the most cynical and politically obnoxious kind to suggest they're benefit tourists. As the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants put it, "why shouldn't migrants who've worked and contributed to the UK through taxation on their income be it as salaried or self employed people, claim benefits when they fall upon hard times just like anyone else?" Indeed, especially when you consider British nationals working in EU territories can take advantage of reciprocal arrangements should they need it. But this is simon pure dog-whistling, and Hague is playing a very grubby game.

So there you have it, within hours of Dave committing the Tories to the centre ground, two very senior figures indulge blatant populist opportunism in a panicked attempt to see off UKIP. 

How's that "no lurch to the right" coming along?


Anonymous said...

The impression I got from the last Tory conference is that many of the 2010 intake are not Cameroons, but much more right wing. They really hate Cameron for tying them to the LibDems (Yes, we all know the election result did that, but many Conservatives seem to blame Cameron for this, in some incomprehensible way) and are really keen to head rightwards -more on cuts and Europe, but also sometimes on "moral" issues. Weirdly, they don't seem to value actually getting into government as much, hence all the fantasies about Boris (which are particularly fantastic as they project a very right wing fantasy Boris when he actually probably is closer to Cameroonism politically). This urge to lurge rightwards is bubbling under all the time, but are being released by poor election results (which are themselves a product of popular disquiet about how right the tories already are - they ran a v.right wing campaign in Eastleigh). The good news is this rightward push could just lose them the election. The bad news is how much of our lives they could tear up in the process

Solomon Hughes

Phil said...

I agree with your observation about the Cameroons. I mean, how many of them fit into the nice, centre right mould as pioneered by the Canadians? Jo Johnson springs to mind as one. Jeremy Lefroy and Edward Timpson account for another two. But the rest?