Monday 22 December 2014

The Tory Drive to Suicide

The Tory party is a peculiar beast. On the one hand, it's adept at getting the wealthy to part with their cash by open and less transparent methods. And all this money bankrolls a machine that has been and will continue to flood the key marginals with glossy, high production value literature. The troops are lacking so the Conservatives are trying to buy the next election, and in this respect they're doing a professional, determined job. Shifting your gaze to the control room of this cash-hungry, money-eating mechanism and you find pandemonium. The machinery's on autopilot, and it's a good job too. Were it under the personal direction of the leadership team the whole thing would fall apart like a clown's car. It's as if they took one look at the last few weeks' polling, some of which have awarded the Tories a modest lead, and set about wrecking their own chances. Let's take a refresher.

The so-called political genius that is George Osborne's come in for some stick. He's been caught lying about the deficit. Either that or he can't tell the difference between a third and a half, which is worrying consider his hand is on Britain's cash register. Then we have the gaping own goal of the Autumn Statement, which set out a vision of cuts so extreme the Institute of Fiscal Studies were moved to say that the government is driving public spending back to the 1930s. Okay, the truth is more nuanced than that but since when have the Tories respected the complexity of the issues they tub-thump on? Labour have rightly made much hay, and while it might be tempting to write it off as Westminster froth it will be effective among certain layers of voters. Lest we forget, public sector workers voted for the Tories in a slightly greater proportion than the general electorate in 2010. Let's not forget about the unfunded £7bn tax giveaway, a goodie surely now blown away by collapsing oil revenues. And then there is the small matter of upping his spad's pay to a cool £95k. Ironic that the unelected official credited with the government's austerity drive has done quite nicely out of it. Or hypocritical, you choose.

Missteps are not the sole preserve of the chancellor, however. Embarrassingly for Jeremy Hunt, in the midst of an A&E crisis that cannot be put down to flu epidemics or rough weather, his department has been caught discussing the possible lengthening of ambulance waiting times. Look over at the DWP and the Universal Credit debacle marches on while IBS himself is broadcasted chuckling his way through a parliamentary debate on the bedroom tax.

And lastly we have Theresa May. Tipped to succeed Dave ahead of Osborne and Johnson, here's another Tory determined to eat her own career. With an unjustified reputation for competence, she's now getting found out. Her desire to eject foreign students upon completion of their degrees typifies the dysfunctionality of this government from the perspective of British business as a whole. When industry is moaning about the lack of graduates with the right skills, what a brilliant way to address this problem by cutting off a ready supply of labour. There's also the incessant turf war between May and the Dave/Osborne entity. To have one spad debarred from applying to be a PPC is unfortunate, to have another is factional warfare. As it happens, I do have some sympathy with the suspensions. As a party person, I believe if you're too good to do any campaigning you're not good enough to sit in Parliament. It doesn't matter whether your anointment comes from on high or not. Yet in the context of overt post-Dave manoeuvrings (something we don't see among the Labour leadership team, at least not openly) it's another exchange of shelling that can only damage the Tories further. Good. Lastly, and perhaps most explosively of all, May has shown the most incredible incompetence with the investigation into the alleged Westminster paedophile ring - which was compounded over the weekend. Perish the thought that a Tory politician would want to delay an investigation into sexual abuse and murder allegedly involving living and dead Tory grandees. If Gordon Brown made the passage from Stalin to Mr Bean, then Theresa May has segued from Angela Merkel to Frank Spencer.

Okayish poll numbers, a burgeoning war chest, and significant leads on economic competence and Dave's personal ratings. Why then is the leadership beset with infighting, indiscipline, and a general abandonment of political savvy? Some of it can be laid at Dave's door. Attempting to square a circle encompassing recalcitrant MPs and members who wish UKIP was the Conservative Party, and core and potential Tory supporters who are resolutely anti-UKIP is guaranteed to keep any leadership off-balance. If only that was the limit of the Tory party's problems. Like Labour, the Tories are trapped in a spiral of long-term decline, of which UKIP's emergence is a late symptom. Adding to the mess is their break with a section of business, partly thanks to New Labour previously (and fleetingly) displacing them as capital's preferred party of government. Lastly, as it approaches the moment of its expiration the Tory party is politically exhausted. Because Dave hasn't reinvented the Tories as a moderate centre right outfit, they are monomaniacally locked into endless austerity and scaremongering. From a bourgeois point of view, while Thatcher's small state rhetoric was the ideological egg glaze for a fully baked and necessary class war assault on the labour movement, continuing to tread and retread those same lines are causing British capital to devour itself. Dependent on sections of business that either have immediate interests in keeping down pay and the social wage, or want to pocket more and more in the way of tax cuts, there is no material push toward a more rounded capitalism. As such it puts a break on Tory consciousness. Their brutal idiocy and petty infighting are symptomatic of this blockage.

Yet, regardless of all this and the Tories promise to continue playing Russian roulette with the economy and Britain's relationship with the EU, they could still be returned to power in May. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. The choice is between a Tory-led government and a Labour-led government. Which is it to be?

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