A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cameron's Speech

Cameron's speech was obviously technically great and I don't doubt his sincerity, but it left me wondering what has happened to any idea beyond presentational of modernising the Tories?

Unlike New Labour which was a fundamental reappraisal of the ideological direction of the party and actually had buy in from at least a strong minority of party activists and a majority of the PLP, the Tory modernisation scheme seems limited to a few nods to environmentalism (even those have now gone missing from Cameron's speeches), a curbing of the worst bigotry of the past, and a leader who has clearly studied the Tony Blair guide to public presentation.

Cameron's speech and its context were as though Blair had got up to speak at his final pre-1997 conference without having abolished Clause IV (in the Tory case the analogous sacred cow is their anti-European stance) and made a speech aimed firmly at the prejudices of his core vote without confronting the party and asking it to change at all, following his Shadow Chancellor having outlined a repeat, with bells on, of their early 1980s economic strategy. It's as though Blair in 1996 had just marched his MEPs out of the mainstream Party of European Socialists to join the communist group in the European Parliament.

Cameron's parliamentary candidates are not modernisers, most of them are from the Tory right. His activists and members have certainly not changed (a nauseating mix of paranoid Daily Mail readers and the very, very posh defending their class privileges if the conference delegates who spoke were anything to go by), as unlike New Labour pre-1997 the party membership has slumped not doubled. The traditional pro-European Tory left such as the Tory Reform Group remain marginalised and bitter about the political cross-dressing of former Thatcherite Special Advisers pretending to be moderates without renouncing their 1980s vintage economic and European policies. Right-wing headbangers like Daniel Hannan are lionised and promoted and get to give the keynote speech at spring conference, not expelled as Militant were when Labour modernised.

I heard nothing today from Cameron that Thatcher or Major could not have said. Nothing that indicated any lessons learned from the 1979-1997 period. No apology for past mistakes or renunciation of past policies. No indication that "Modern Conservatism" is any different ideologically or in policy from its previous incarnations. Nothing to indicate the Tories have changed at all - just that they hope 12 years in opposition has dulled memories of their last period in power.

Given what those of us old enough to remember Thatcher and Major know of their record then, the failure of Cameron to in any way move his party on and renounce its past as "Old Tory" is warning enough of what he would be like in Government. Read in conjunction with Osborne's specifically Thatcherite prescriptions on the economy and public spending, we know where they are headed: back to the future.

Cameron's sudden discovery of poverty as an issue ("don’t you dare lecture us about poverty... I learnt all about it at Eton and in the Bullingdon Club") rings hollow when he and Osborne are proposing policies that would deepen the recession, increase poverty and inequality and replicate all the worst aspects of the regime of the woman who inspired him to come into politics, Margaret Thatcher.


Anonymous John said...

But most people opposed widespread nationalisation, wheas most people support a more sceptical approach to the EU, so it's not a very good analogy.

11:37 pm, October 08, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Yes most people are mildly sceptical about the EU, but they are also freaked out by the obsessiveness about it of the Tory Europhobes.

Most Labour MPs and activists I know are sceptical about the EU in the genuine sense of being uncertain about deeper integration and judging constitutional changes like Lisbon on their merits pragmatically.

I find both fanatical pro-EU stances and fanatical anti-ones odd and disturbing. The EU is a fundamentally dull political issue that is mainly about technical issues about voting weights, agricultural subsidies and trade deals. The extreme passions it arises from federalists and sovreignty obsessives are indicative of the wierdness of the people involved, such as Hannan, not the merits of the issues.

12:08 am, October 09, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I learnt all about it at Eton and in the Bullingdon Club"

Oh dear!

What a cheap shot.

But please Luke, keep reminding us all as to just who are the real Nasty Party now.

You seem to be forgetting (conveniently) that it was a Labour Government who removed the 10p tax band and it was under a Labour Government that the gap between the rich and the poor has WIDENED. That is "GOT BIGGER"!

Oh yeah! . . . and this gap is now at the level it was in Victorian Britain.

Poverty at the same level as it was in Victorian times FFS! Under a Labour Government.

That's some F**KING record for Labour to be proud of . . . eh? Luke.

You people are going to be in the political wilderness for generations to come, with any luck.

I hope my kids are spared the corruption and sleaze of a Labour Government in their lifetime.

That's assuming Labour don't manage to involve us in any more ILLEGAL WARS!
In which case, I hope they aren't sent to fight and die in yet another pointless, unwinable conflict to make the leader of the Labour Party look good on the worlds stage . . . like Tony the LIAR.

12:34 am, October 09, 2009

Blogger J said...

What you need to remember, Luke, is that the Tories have always been a pragmatic project rather than an ideological one.

3:27 am, October 09, 2009

Blogger Unknown said...

Most Labour MPs and activists I know are sceptical about the EU in the genuine sense of being uncertain about deeper integration and judging constitutional changes like Lisbon on their merits pragmatically.

Really?.. why didn't they vote for the referendum on the Lisbon treaty when they had their chance then?.. too pragmatic about keeping their snouts in the trough to disobey the whips perhaps?..

5:02 am, October 09, 2009

Anonymous Carlo said...

I laughed last night at the young man in the 'Question Time' audience who seemed impressed by Cameron's fatuous waffle: "He knows what he is talking about!". Dimbleby did not ask him to elucidate, Robin Day certainly would have done. Another man was allowed to get away with a homophobic attack on Peter Mandelson. Surely its time this grotesquely one-sided programme was scrapped once and for all?

8:04 am, October 09, 2009

Anonymous Arnold said...

'Anonymous', I take it you are too young to remember the 80's when Neil Kinnock was Labour leader. Most of the Tory attacks focused on his nationality, rather than his views. The voters of England were brainwashed to think that a Welshman would not make a good P.M. When it comes to cheap shots, your beloved Tory Party wrote the book.

8:10 am, October 09, 2009

Blogger colonel_hackney said...

Well Kinnock was (and is) singularly useless - nothing to do with him being Welsh though.

9:46 am, October 09, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear old Arnold!

You are a sweetie.

In your simple world . . . those who are against Labour simply must be Tories eh?

I don't think I mentioned Kinnock did I?

Clearly you must be older than me, given your grasp on reality . . . and I remember Wilson! LOL

11:15 pm, October 09, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

It seriously lacked detail - and whilst I realise that this is to be expected, there remains enormous holes in the Tory approach

Most of all, the idea that if government stops doing things, that somehow others would just step in and provide instead. Where is the evidence? And exactly who is going to do this?

2:31 pm, October 10, 2009

Blogger Tom said...

I wish Blair had been to the left what it looks like Cameron is trying to be to the right; someone who can smooth over a deal with the country while maintaining that core world view held by the rest of the party.

4:23 pm, October 12, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

Most of Britain is skeptical about the EU, something in the region of 67% of people. The problem with the conservative policy is they want to renegotiate on the only things that make being part of the EU a good thing....for example workers rights. The EU is just another example of the way in which the political elite and big business see the world.

The UK has some of the worst workers rights in Europe so to relax them further by opting out will be very damaging to working people.

The conservatives are going to win by a huge land slide. I even think it is very possible for Labour to come third place in 2010.

So many things wrong with the way this government is operating now that I can't see how they are going to convince the voters, the press and their own MPs that they can win.

Why is the Labour government selling off public assets? Why are the planning on huge spending cuts. Surely it is Browns job to convince the electorate of the benefits of public expenditure?

Sit back relax and just prepare for the next conservative government. Hopefully Cameron will prove to be a good PM....who knows?

11:17 pm, October 12, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most British people are skeptical about everything, X factor and Westminster included.

If you interpret general cynicism as a specific anti- EU position you are deluding yourself.

In a referendum we would undoubtedly vote to stay in.

10:30 am, October 13, 2009


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