Monday, 20 December 2010

The journalists wake up.

It has always puzzled me that people are taken in by David Cameron's "nice guy" act. I was never taken in. Cameron joined the Tory Party when Maggie Thatcher was at the height of her powers, when the mantra was "there is no such thing as society" and when Mrs T's policies were designed to back up that judgement with actions to cut "society" (read caring for your fellow citizen) down to size. David Cameron was Norman Lamont's (if it isn't hurting it isn't working) adviser on the day the pound collapsed on Black Wednesday. That's no background of  a caring and moderate "one-nation" MacMillanite wet.

No idealistic youngster would join the 1980s Tories to make things better for the majority. If you were willing to join Maggie in her crusade against all things "socialist" (i.e. decent and caring), you were no bleeding heart Tory wet.

It has been obvious for months to any sentient observer that Cameron and (at least) the Tory segment of the ToryDem coalition are no moderate modernisers either. That was the plot to get them elected. They are, in deep reality, still Mrs Thatcher's boys, and they were determined to move at breakneck pace to get their planned revolution implemented. They also saw that Tony Blair had been cautious in his first term and had lost some momentum after that, and they did not intend to be caught in that way.

The first indication was Michael Gove's dedication to getting his "free" schools established. Even before the legislation had been enacted by Parliament he was active, claiming 1100 schoos had volunteered (only 20 or so have actually decided to open next year, but that's another story...) and pushing local groups and local authorities to adopt his model.

The June budget with its immediate £8 billion in cuts was another signal, as was Eric Pickles "localism" drive to destroy local government, another example of a Minister being too impatient to wait for the legislation. Andrew Lansley at Health is eagerly cutting away at structures and abolishing PCTs while at the same time forcing GPs to take on organisational and budgeting responsibilities. Constitutional changes like fixed term Parliaments, cutting the number of constituencies and bringing in the Alternative Vote system have all been pushed through with effectively no consultation and very little scrutiny. The privatisation of university teaching  (disgiused as "raising tuition fees") is the latest radical Tory policy which has been railroaded through.

It's all rather breathless and uncordinated. Hit-and-miss might be a better way of putting it (the poor get hit, the bankers get missed).

Now the journalists are beginning to wake up to the pace and breadth of the revolution that is being carried out under our noses. Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer detects a "Maoist" backbone to the Tory programme. "In 5 years everything must be different. Everything". Steve Richards on R4 today judges that the changes are faster and bigger than 1945. The valuable Diary of a Civil Servant blog in the Guardian has a similar message, with (in his view) the NHS changes being particularly rapid, unformed and potentially dangerous.

At bottom it's about philosophy. Conservatives believe in the past. It worked then and will work now. Except it didn't work then. We have publicly owned and run schools and hospitals because the old system failed the majority of the population. We have (or had) publicly subsidised university teaching because the old system favoured (even more than today) a restricted and constricted class of applicant. It was unsuiatble for a modern democracy and economy. Parish councils are all very well in prospect (remember John Major's old ladies cycling to church on a summer evening), but they are not the vehicle for serious decisions and spending at any level of reality. As for giving GPs the responsibility for £80 billlion of commissioning in the NHS: it's frankly bonkers. They don't want it, there's no guarantee that they can handle it any better (probably much worse) than it is currently handled. The real expertise in budgeting and commissioning is meanwhile being sacked, the skills lost, the individual is no longer payng taxes while picking up dole money!

And we haven't even mentioned George Osborne's gamble with the economy.

Hold onto your hats, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!

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