Tag Archives: the right

++ EXCLUSIVE: Clegg and Cable quit PoliticsHome’s Phi100 ++

I was planning to write a nice, leisurely blog post about a) why Lib Dems should be following Lynne Featherstone’s lead and resign from the Phi100 panel and b) the wider trend by the right to take control of the media agenda, but events rather got ahead of me.

There I was, doing my domestic chores, when I got a series of emails from a pretty unimpeachable source informing me that both Nick Clegg and Vince Cable had quit the panel already.

That’s all she wrote for now, but I’ll try to fit the article I was planning to write in later today.

Tory Dog Whistle Politics is Back! (did it ever really go away?)

I’ve been travelling back from my short break in North Yorkshire today but I have a headache. Tories have been blowing into dog whistles all day and the tinny noise has been reverberating from as far away as Whitby.

For years now, this blog has been reminding readers that the problem with Cameron is not Cameron per se but the fact that he doesn’t have any control of his party; indeed, the party has control of him. And that party is, to put it politely, out of control. As it stands, even when the CCHQ says one thing, there are enough hints and suggestions out there to make it clear that it simply isn’t going to pan out like that. I offer you two (and a half) bits of evidence from the past 48 hours:

Firstly, this John Bercow business. There is an interesting debate to be had about how the Lib Dems should respond*, but for the Tories their recourse should be obvious for four reasons. Firstly, Bercow is a Tory MP, for good or ill. They didn’t kick him out and he didn’t defect – in any respectable party that has to count for something. Secondly, as the party which has always positioned itself as the defender of Parliamentary convention, to oppose Bercow would be to politicise the role of the speaker to an intolerable level. Thirdly, allowing UKIP a foot in the door to the House of Commons will have consequences that the Conservative Party would be better off not having to live with. Broadly speaking, the Tories can afford to triangulate the anti-Europe right in General Elections for the simple reason that they have nowhere to go – just as Labour has successively triangulated the far left for two decades now. Once UKIP start getting MPs however, this all changes. Fourthly, as Farage himself happily acknowledges, he is the king of sleaze.

Yet this doesn’t appear to be happening. Jonathan Calder offers a good summary of the initial bloggers’ reaction to Farage’s decision to oppose Bercow yesterday. But the support seems to go much higher than just a bunch of rabid bloggers. Tim Montgomerie reported this morning that someone from CCHQ had effectively given a green light for Tories to support Farage, claiming that because Bercow wouldn’t be an official Tory candidate CCHQ would turn a blind eye. Eventually an official statement from the party contradicted this but it took them six whole hours to put it out.

Clearly the people that Eric Pickles likes to call the “boys and girls” at CCHQ have been feeling conflicted and decided to leave Bercow on the dangle for nearly two days before lending him his support. Conservative Home’s new poll suggesting that 64% of Tory members would prefer Farage over Bercow. If two-thirds of Labour members in 1997 had said they’d like a chance of electing, say, Arthur Scargill you can bet the Tories would have made something of it.

Secondly, we have Dan Hannan’s mysterious promotion. It is one thing for Cameron to try to disown Hannan as an eccentric on the fringe of the party, quite another if just weeks after causing him so many problems Hannan gets a fat reward. Hannan flexed his muscles this summer and it was Cameron who flinched, just as we saw back in 2007 when for a time the only thing resembling a Conservative Party policy on education was support for something called “grammar streaming.”

And my “half”? Well, I’d like to cite Kit Malthouse’s extraordinary intervention claiming to have taken control of Scotland Yard, except that, like Jonathan Calder, I’m struggling to see what the fuss is about. I’m very sceptical of the Tory idea of elected police sheriffs and if what Malthouse was suggesting was that they have effectively imposed this in London I’d be fearful. But what we have is a Police Authority and I’d rather see that have control over day to day policing than the Home Office.

With all that said, if Malthouse and Johnson want to claim responsibility for the Met over the last year, then they are the ones we have to blame for the appalling behaviour of the police back in April. If this is the sort of policing we are to see under a Tory government then we have good reason to be fearful.

All in all, what we are looking at is a Conservative Party that is very different to the one being projected by David Cameron. This is very different to the situation in 1997 when we faced a New Labour government with a firm grip on the remaining Old Labour rump. The electorate might think it is voting for a warm, fluffy, “progressive” party but what it will get is a fairly ravenous beast. The clues are all there, the headbangers are telling anyone who will listen and the Tory leadership are frankly indulging them in a hope that they don’t get their heads bitten off. The problem is, Labour has done such a poor job over the past couple of years, and the Lib Dems have failed to spell out enough of an alternative, that to a large extent I suspect that enough of the electorate is in the mood to vote the Tories in now and repent at leisure.

* I’ve given this some thought today and while I think fielding a candidate is certainly not something I would automatically rule out, I’m not currently persuaded that it would be a good idea. We could never afford to target it to the extent that UKIP will be able to (we’ll have considerably more target seats) and a half-hearted campaign will only serve to make Farage more credible. Things might change – if Bercow really looked like a dead duck we might have to reconsider – and I certainly agree that any party which supports democratic reform shouldn’t be too deferential to existing Parliamentary conventions (the existing convention couldn’t operate under a PR system in any case), but at the moment there seem to be far more cons than pros.

When rightwhingers demand nuance, count the spoons…

The Right isn’t particularly famed for its sense of nuance. The shenanigans going on in the US over healthcare rather suggest that and even the touchy-feely Cameroons are not exactly strangers to Mister Brickbat. Yet when lefties employ the same tactics (as is the nature of politics), they suddenly lurch up on their hindlegs and demand to be treated like sensitive, intelligent human beings. It won’t wash.

The current source of the UK Right’s distress is this #welovetheNHS twitter thing. Now, to most people participating in the meme, this was little more than a way of standing up and being counted and reacting against the nonsense happening in the US. That nonsense has been made all the worse by people like Dan Hannan spreading outright malicious falsehoods about how the healthcare system actually works. At one point Hannan even claims that our system is inefficient compared to the US system, despite the fact that it costs twice as much as our one and has measurably worse outcomes.

The effort has been a sucess. Yesterday, and to a lesser extent today, was informally declared LoveNHS Day by thousands of people. You had a choice: piss or get off the pot. It isn’t really something worth intellectualising; it wasn’t even orchestrated – merely a phenomenon. But boy have they been having a go.

None of the points being made are of particular merit. Apparently we are meant to be awestruck by the recognition that the NHS fails a lot of the time. Strangely, this is a point being made repeatedly by many of the #welovetheNHS crowd.

The Rightwingers who complain that they neither want the current US healthcare system or the NHS in its current form have a golden opportunity here. They could be telling us what they do want and why it would be better than either of the alternatives. This seems particularly appropriate because the Obama proposals seem to be more along the lines of mainland Europe than the UK. Lib Dem “Orange Bookers” (in this case the term is appropriate because David Laws’ chapter on health in the Orange Book was indeed about health insurance) could be singing its praises, or at least adding constructive criticism. Instead, they seem to be stuck in bleating mode about how dreadfully unsophisticated the argument is. The conclusion one draws is that either their own ideas aren’t actually much more sophisticated than “the NHS is a bit shit really” or their views are somewhat closer to the likes of Dan Hannan than they feel comfortable admitting. Indeed it is interesting how few friends Hannan seems to have. No-one appears to be rushing to his defence, and yet his views are surely representative of a significan minority. He did get elected by Conservative members in the South East at the top of their list after all.

I’ve got to be honest and admit that the lack of intellectual debate here is beginning to bore me too. The nature of these things is however that as time goes on, the debate will inevitably move on. Remember the expenses scandal? After that, we had a very creative debate about how to fix politics. A debate, it should be noted, that the usual forces of conservativism have been doing their damndest to stop ever since.

Having firmly established that the NHS is an institution the country supports, we really do now badly need a debate on why it isn’t better. We might have a better healthcare system than the US, but other countries are delivering more effective systems for the same cost. But you will excuse me if I spend just one more evening enjoying the discomfort of people whose ideas I’m pretty confident would leave us, and especially the poor, much worse off.

UPDATE: Sunder Katwala is also calling for a debate.

UPDATE 2: I take it all back Progressive/Liberal Vision Progressive Vision, of which Liberal Vision is a wholly owned subsidiary, and Liberal Vision’s Director of Development have launched a campaign in defence of the Dan Hannan position. Its supporters include Liberal Vision’s Director. Charlotte Gore of Liberal Vision is keen to emphasise that this is not a Liberal Vision project, but Sara Scarlett is being permitted to use the Liberal Vision Facebook group to promote it:

In conjunction with Nurses for Reform, Progressive Vision has launched the #no2NHS campaign.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=116255352868&ref=ts

Show your opposition to socialised healthcare by joining the #no2NHS campaign and invite all your friends! Our target is to make #no2NHS the No.1 trending topic on twitter and make the case against the NHS.

Warmest regards,
Sara

Director of Developement
Liberal Vision