Tuesday, 2 March 2010

An Unpatriotic Post: Ten Reasons Not to Vote Conservative

Yesterday David Cameron as good as said that not voting Tory was "unpatriotic". Needless to say, this is the biggest load of **** ever. I know it. You know it. Maybe even Dave knows it. But it set me thinking: if "patriotism" is the best reason for voting Conservative, what would be the arguments against? What are the reasons for voting "unpatriotically" as Dave would have it. So I have put together, quickly and off the top of my head, as it were, ten good reasons, as I see it, for voting against Dave's definition of patriotism.

I welcome feedback, and if you have other reasons (I'm sure they exist) for not supporting Dave, let me know and I might even add to the list. 

Ten Reasons not to vote Tory
The Tories do not understand the economy. The last time the Conservatives were in power they destroyed the British economy. Even more, they wasted the oil bonanza which could and should have sheltered the UK from the worst effects of the 80s economic storms, and could have provided the basis for a stronger and much better funded public infrastructure. Instead it all ended in ignominy on Black Wednesday. They have made the wrong moves at every turn in the current banking crisis and recession, and their plans for early cuts are the exactly what we do not need if we are to see the recession over and growth restored with minimum pain. If George Osborne had been at the Treasury this last two years, it would have been a disaster. If he gets the reins of power, he can still do much damage, see point 2, below..
They have the wrong tactics for the Recession. Public spending is vital in keeping the economy afloat until growth is strong enough to take on its own momentum, and government can step back. But the Tory philosophy is instinctively against public investment and government intervention, even in the most extreme circumstances. Cutting deeply and quickly, as the Tories want, will produce a much greater risk of the “double dip” recession that everybody fears. And George Osborne’s tactic of talking down the strength of the economy and publicly doubting our AAA rating is dangerous, and likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Conservatives do not understand or like the NHS. David Cameron was converted to the cause of the NHS because of the chronic illness of his son. While this is perhaps understandable on a personal level, it shows that Cameron has the typical Tory lack of imagination and empathy to put himself in the shoes of the majority. The rest of us know that the NHS is the jewel in our crown. We have no need of personal crisis to convert us to support of the most humane, and most important, institution in the UK. The Tories promise to protect NHS spending, but in Tory demonology the NHS is a Stalinist hangover from previous times: they will look for every opportunity to fragment, privatise and commercialise.
They will destroy the BBC. They are already committed to abolishing the BBC charter. They see the publicly owned corporation as an illegitimate competitor in what they see as a purely commercial TV and Media business. And they make no secret of their belief that the BBC is a left wing conspiracy against their own particular political philosophy, so it’s ripe to have its wings clipped... see point 5 below.
They are in Murdoch’s pocket. With the Sun’s switch to supporting the Conservatives, they are in hock to the Murdoch empire and constrained to deliver what Murdoch wants, or else. This is one reason they attack the BBC: so that Murdoch’s TV and web aspirations can be promoted in the interests of the Murdoch empire, not the UK population or UK institutions. Murdoch already exerts a malign influence on British public life. Imagine the effect of a Tory government which “owes” young James Murdoch: do we really need Fox News as a dominant force in UK public life? Isn’t the Sun and the dominance of the newspaper sector bad enough without a confident and expansionist News International running rampant, with the approval of a weak Tory administration?
Lord Ashcroft. Election law aims at limiting spending so that parties cannot buy an election. Ashcroft’s tactic of spending outwith restricted times and spending heavily on marginal constituencies, over a number of years, is designed to evade the consequences of the law: it is specifically designed to buy the election. His equivocation on tax and residence status over the last ten years is just the signifier to his character: it’s the attempt to buy the election that really shows the moral and ethical stamp of Ashton and his Tory party.
Public sector investment. As I say above, the Conservatives are allergic to investing in public services. Even with the oil money of the 80s and 90s, they let our hospitals and schools decline, and our teachers and nurses and doctors got fewer in numbers and poorer in wealth and income. If the Conservatives can be so grudging with our public services when they have the oil wealth to play with, how much stingier will they be in the depths of an international recession? If I was a public sector worker I would be fearful of the Tories getting their hands on my future.
Policy light, gaffe prone. The last year has seen a series of policy statements, many of which have subsequently had to be withdrawn or redrafted. The most comical was Andrew Lansley’s  policy of having all of our medical records available on Google, a data security nightmare if ever there was.   A few well-placed questions on Newsnight put paid to that ill-thought-out fiasco.  Then David Cameron reverses and reverses again the party’s position on tax benefits for married couples. Then a pledge to introduce 45,000 hospital single rooms is dropped. Then Chris Grayling  claims that Labour had presided over a big rise in violent crime. Sir Michael Scholar, the UK Statistics Authority chairman, says that Grayling is wrong and his use of the figures was 'likely to mislead the public'. More trouble with statistics, when they misplace a decimal point, claiming that 54% of girls in poorer areas have had a pregnancy by the age of 18. The true figure was 5.4%.
They don’t have the right people for the job. The controversy over Gordon Brown’s temper and alleged bullying has rebounded on the Tories for a simple reason: if character is the issue, then the spotlight shines on the characters of the top Tories. And it shows that they are weak. Apart from the double standard that David Cameron's spin doctor who was found guilty by a tribunal of bullying a colleague when he was editor of the News of the World, Cameron himself is a typical upper class and privileged Conservative. The leadership is his of right, not by any real strength of character or experience, and he wobble under pressure. George Osborne is just weak. He fails to impress, either on a personal level or on his grasp of economics. Andrew Lansley was supposed to be “untouchable”, until he foolishly suggested that your medical records should be held on Google!  Ken Clark can add up, but he is being kept in the background because he is a Europhile and liable to speak his mind on that and other topics. Off the top of my head I cannot conjure up any other prominent Tory politicians, which says a lot for their public profile.
They’re still the same old Tories. The Lord Ashcroft controversy shows a party that is not open and transparent, which keeps its secrets close to its chest and which is contemptuous of election law and democracy itself. Nicholas Winterton Tory MP, gives his opinion of the rest of us when he opines that  passengers in standard class train carriages are a “totally different type of people” . He cannot mix with them for the noise and smell, and must travel first-class or not at all. David Cameron’s rallying cry that it is our “patriotic duty” to vote Tory is a sign that the old knee-jerk, illiberal and inward-looking Tory party is still alive and well in hearts of its supporters.


  1. In the bullying section, you forgot to mention Cameron's spin doctor who was found guilty by a tribunal of bullying a colleague when he was editor of the News of the Screws.

  2. I love your list. I have my own, and Lord Ashcroft is on it too!