Friday 14 April 2023

Conservative Conscience

The Conservative conscience is a rare thing. Consider the last six months of Rishi Sunak's premiership. From the outset, the Prime Minister who was feted as a so-called adult-in-the-room has played the most grotesque politics over immigration and asylum and slotted in the repugnant Suella Braverman to do it. There's no point pretending he wasn't aware of the Home Secretary's BNP-adjacent politics. She was given back her old job because of them. Now, it is true she did face a bit of opposition from the Tory press to begin with, mainly because the press barons and their editorial satraps wanted to impress on Sunak the necessity of considering their power to frame British politics, but this quickly melted away as Braverman set about her appointed task with alacrity. As we know, the press loves a good scapegoat.

Meanwhile, there were little to no consciences troubled enough to speak out. But now, after weeks of bigging up the Rwanda plan, trying to accumulate racist political capital by eliding paedophile gangs with Asian men (and Labour getting in on the action), some brave Tory souls have cried "enough!". Sayeeda Warsi, who in the last decade has gone from Cameroon class warrior to openly despairing of the Tories resorting to the dirtiest of racist tricks has, quite rightly, argued that Braverman is not fit to hold office. Though her name and blame doesn't extend to Sunak himself, who "looked uncomfortable" when asked about the Home Secretary's choice of words. Tobias Ellwood, taking time out from his dreams of re-enacting Operation Barbarossa with NATO forces, made a similar point. This, apparently, does "do not sit well with the new, pragmatic and cooperative approach which the prime minister is now injecting into Number 10 and is seeing us improve in the polls." If only Sunak was in a position to stop Braverman, eh?

These aren't the only ones who aren't happy. Steve Baker, the former hard man of Brexit turned briefcase sensibilist has, via "allies", let it be known that Braverman should be focusing on the job instead of peddling culture war rubbish. And so it goes. No one is forthright in their condemnation. No one is willing to hold Sunak responsible for the monster he installed. But clearly, Braverman's antics are troubling for some. But why? It's not the first time the Tories have run with racist campaigns. Recall much chuntering from the Conservative benches when Theresa May, also initially hailed as a "grown up", sent her racist vans around London's streets encouraging curtain twitchers to grass up their "illegal" neighbours? Or how the Tories spectacularly mishandled the Covid pandemic, causing many more deaths than need have been the case? Or the rise in premature deaths as the Tory cuts during the Dave/Osborne coalition bit into the social fabric? No, I didn't think you did. Because it didn't happen.

The Conservative conscience tends to come into play only under certain circumstances. You might recall how Iain Duncan Smith resigned as social security chopper-in-chief when Osborne came again for the disabled in his last budget. And how some Tories got very concerned about Boris Johnson's authoritarianism as he wriggled out of any kind of accountability. Was it that their principles were offended? Their sense of fairness? No, the conscience kicked in at the moment the Tories looked set on copping damage. Funny that. Being seen to ostentatiously trample over the most vulnerable? Make a mockery of constitutional conventions to the point of threatening a crisis of legitimacy?

The Braverman jitters are no different. There has been an improvement in Tory polling reported by most surveys over the last couple of weeks, but this represents a consolidation of their vote. Handy ahead of the local elections where those most likely to vote skew toward the Tories, but not much chance of reaching beyond those layers. In other words, what we're seeing is classic Tory short-termism. Sunak desperately needs these local elections to show a glimmer of a chance, and so appealing to the base might flatter the Tories, see them do not as badly as might be supposed, and show the next election isn't a foregone conclusion. The problem our Bakers, Ellwoods, Warsis, etc. have is the price paid is toxification that millions of people won't forget in a hurry. Not good when some of them would, at other times, be part of the coalition they need to win. Hence the worries and attacks of the conscience, for it is not their values that are troubled but the electoral viability of the Tories themselves.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Warsi is actually the clearest and most honest speaker on racism and has been so for some time. She has been also the clearest speaker on Palestine. Her motivation is