Saturday 9 July 2016

Andrea Leadsom and Tory Decadence

"In truth @andrealeadsom better suited to obscurity than high office" so tweeted backbench Tory Sarah Wollaston this morning. And I for one find it hard to disagree. Since Leadsom was touted as a potential leader in the early days of the referendum campaign, I've watched her rise to media prominence and for the life of me couldn't discern anything special about her. A pantomime Thatcher at best who could repeat her lines, but without the conviction and drive the aforementioned possessed. Then at one of the referendum debates, I forget which one, she prefaced her remarks about some issue with the killer phrase, "as a mum ...". I knew then this would be her schtick, and so it has proven.

Her reaction to Saturday's interview in The Times shows her up to be either a deeply stupid or deeply duplicitous individual. After raising the 'I'm a mum and therefore better than Theresa May' flag, she backpedaled saying her words has been misrepresented. See for yourself:
I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn't have children so I don't want this to be 'Andrea has children, Theresa hasn't' because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.
This is the new "innovation" test driven by the Leave campaign: make an outrageous or controversial claim, and then immediately take it back. Here Leadsom is making an unpalatable pitch to the yellowing Tory grass roots who are a touch less reconstructed than Dave and friends, and then retracting it immediately. But it doesn't matter. She's made her I'm-thinking-what-you're-thinking wink to the shires, and that's what counted. Job done. What will be harder for her to weather are the claims about her "finessed" CV, the reports about her non-performance in her present role, and previous positions taken around equal marriage and the European Union.

Does Leadsom stand a chance with the membership? It's difficult to say. Despite attempts by some, including Arron Banks, to organise an entry job on the Tories and swing the result their rules ensure anyone joining now won't have a say on the leadership contest. The potential difficulty for Leadsom is the membership drift that took place under Dave. Her base are in UKIP, effectively. Another problem is the blue collar wing, best exemplified by Stephen Crabb's candidacy and represented in the House by the likes of Anna Soubry. As the most pragmatic and arguably least unhinged section of the Tories (Crabb's endorsement of "gay-curing" notwithstanding), May has moved quickly to scoop up this bootstraps vote, which she adds to the Westminster wonk set, the activists interested in winning elections and, crucially, the Tories' money men. Apart from the rump backward brigade at the bottom of the pile, it's difficult to see where a Leadsom vote is going to come from.

In many ways, Leadsom is a perfect candidate for the Tories. Inept, clueless, economical with the actualité, she condenses in her person the decadence of her party. This is a theme visited here plenty of times previously. The Tories are a decadent party because they are structurally dysfunctional from the standpoint of the interests they represent which, traditionally, is big business. By introducing policies that price Britain out of international education markets, or give infrastructure contracts to foreign powers, or taking money out of workers' pockets, and now withdrawing Britain from the European Union because UKIP threatened to grab a few thousand votes here and there, the Tories are proving the greatest threat to the continued health of British capitalism.

It is therefore apt someone as obviously unsuited as Leadsom should come forward as a serious contender for the party's leadership. Though she would differ from the decadence of Dave and Osborne in one respect - they were prepared to trash the country for perceived narrow Tory advantage within the party system. With Leadsom we'd be skirting the abyss on account of her ignorant whims.


Personality not policy said...

She certainly doesn't have the charisma of say an Angela Eagle, who looks like the lovechild of a union between Jimmy Danville and Rod Hull (maybe with the emu included)

asquith said...

I'm glad this unpleasant woman has been seen off as I think May is the "best" on "offer". Someone who wasn't a Brexshitter is more likely to get a not-that-bad deal than someone who actually believed the vomitings of Farrago etc.

Unfortunately, May is a pretty obvious gift to UKIP.

With the option of Paul Nuttall, whom we both know would go down very well here in Goldenhill, and the utter lack of support for May or (apart from me) for Tim Farron places like Stoke have been thrown wide open, especially since our local MPs (with the exception of Tristram, who has achieved a lot for the city) are pretty uninspiring.

Yes, a lot of my neighbours who (rightly) valued Walley as a good local MP will be unlikely to turn out for Smeeth and will like that scouse bloke off the telly, someone who has thoroughly absorbed the lessons of the post-2009 era and the demise of the BNP. (Throughout his career, as documented in the reading list below, he was the one who campaigned for the kind of strategy aimed at disaffected working-class people that's just formed the bedrock of this "victory" and from 2012 Farrago definitely moved in his direction, or more likely just pretended to, but the language changed certainly).

The hierarchy of UKIP is ideologically wedded to Thatcherite "libertarianism" by Nuttall may subtly remove some of Farrago's followers from high places and work to John Bickley-ify the party. This would be the final nail in the coffin for Alan Sked etc but no one in Stoke much cared what they thought anyway.

May will be a gift to those who hate her and want a party that combines racism with socialism without any outright fascist connotations of the kind that dogged the BNP, something like 10 million people could potentially support such a force. UKIP never had the quasi-socialist edge that the Front Nationale in France and others have but it might under Nutter's leadership.

(A Suzanne Evans leadership would open up a different dynamic and I think it would put a brake on UKIP support due to her likely unpopularity in the north).

"revolt on the right" and "UKIP: inside the campaign to redraw the map of British politics" are the set texts here.

Dave Kirk said...

Again I have to take issue with the tory decadence thing. The tory party may at times do things that look antithetical to the interests of key sections of the bourgeoisie. However surely the relative autonomy of ideology from economics is just as true for the ideology of the bourgeoisie as it is for socialists.

The Conservative party like the monarchy has managed to make all sorts of dainty little side steps and co-opt, integrate and project completely antithetical ideas at the same time. It could make all sorts of elaborate little maneuverers to keep the coalition of voters and institutions it created as early as the 1860s going.
The only constants are:
- It always has managed to capture a substantial minority of working class people. By having something distinct to offer both ideologically and in terms of material interests to specific sections of the working class. Usually older and wealthier.

- It has a remarkable ability to ideologically renew itself from within its own ranks. Salisbury saw his life's work was to stop the tide of "democracy". Baldwin was all about making Britain 'safe' in a unknown age of universal suffrage and communist revolution , McMillan's was about making the tory party seem the heralds of Keynesian consumerism. Thatcher was a Authoritarian Populist. Cameron a socially liberal elitist. However tumultuous there politics were to everyone else the tory party itself it incubated these ideas, put them forward till they didn't fit the temper of the times and moved on. Ok so sometimes it took a bad election defeat but the institutions of Toryism (The party, its friendly press, the monarchy etc) quickly adapted.

- The Tories are almost unique in their ability to correctly gauge the balance of class forces and act accordingly. far better then any perspective document from Tony Cliff or Ted Grant they knew when to attack or retreat. Give concessions to the organised working class or go in for the kill. Baldwin's entire career was made on this ability. Thatcher's government were masters of it too. Heath is the notable exception of a Tory leader who got it wrong.

- The tory party is always seen as the patriotic and jingoistic party but its proved very flexible when it comes to foreign policy at various times Imperialists, Isolationists, Appeaser's, anti Nazi's, De-colonialisers, euro enthusiasts, Euro sceptics, Protectionist, Free Trade. Just look at David Cameron's smoozing of the Chinese government even as their relations with our erstwhile allies worsened.

None of these attributes are in jeopardy now. unfortunately the Tory party is much more hale and hearty then you think.