Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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The people will judge the mainstream political parties soon

As I have been writing for some time (here, here, and here) there is a major problem brewing for the traditional main three political parties, which are the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats Party. Their problem has been visible since David Cameron presented his “big, open and comprehensive offer” to the Liberal Democrats on 7th May 2010 which eventually led to the first Coalition government since the Second World War. Commentators are now suggesting this is what David Cameron was hoping for all along and his time in Opposition had been about reaching out to Liberal Democrat and Labour voters at the expense of his own supporters. If that is true, as I have written before, David Cameron will go down in history as the only Conservative leader to lose two General Elections in a row, as he surely will in 2015 unless he drastically changes course.

The problem got a lot more visible last week when UKIP – for the first time – overtook the Liberal Democrats to become Britain’s third political party in a YouGov poll for The Sun. Other polls have pushed the Yellow Peril ahead again but on the whole UKIP and the Liberal Democrats are level-pegging.

I believe on Polling Day this year for local council elections across the UK and the London Mayoral election on 3rd May there will be a) a low turnout and b) a large rise in the vote for smaller parties and independents. The bookmakers are already on to this with Siobhan Benita, the only Independent candidate running to become Mayor of London, having her odds to win the contest slashed from 500-1 to 20-1.

Outside of Planet London, the local election results are going to be very interesting. I predict a collapse in the traditional party votes which will result in some surprise wins. These being local elections, Ipswich is seeing only the Greens contest widely across the Borough with UKIP only contesting the Bixley County by-election.

But this does not mean that the traditional political parties in Ipswich will be immune from the political fallout which is heading their way.

The forming of the Coalition Government by Messrs Cameron and Clegg has severely damaged each party’s respective core vote or the ‘base’, as the Americans call it. The base is a better word as it signifies the party’s key supporters – the ones who cold call on doorsteps, who deliver the leaflets come rain or shine and generally put themselves out there to promote the party and the leader for free. As volunteers, they are not obliged to carry on working even if they are treated like dirt by the hierarchy, they just walk away. And that is what is happening in droves as a result of the way David Cameron and the Tory high command (Osborne, Maude et al) have sacrificed their supporters on the high altar of liberal elitism to show how thoroughly modern they are.

David Cameron has sacrificed his conservative values (if he ever had any) to show how the Conservative Party has changed and he has sacrificed and ridiculed his core supporters in a vain attempt to ‘detoxify’ the party brand. Just by Nick Clegg getting into bed with the Tories has been enough for his supporters to head to the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats are looking into the political abyss.

The Coalition has achieved one thing: both Conservative and Liberal Democrat membership is plummeting and the number of activists are dwindling. Each party is going to find it difficult to get people to drive old ladies to the polling station come 3rd May as their activists will either be on the golf course or will have decided to save their precious holidays from work for more important matters like sunbathing on a Spanish beach.

Then we come to the wider Conservative vote. Cameron promised so much in Opposition but a lot of floating voters were still not convinced and the base didn’t like the incoherent Big Society message which foolishly Cameron and Osborne put at the centre of their campaign without focus-group testing it first. The end-result was the Conservative Party couldn’t win the General Election – again. But hundreds of thousands of core supporters did come out and vote Conservative just to get Gordon Brown kicked out of Downing Street. But now we have had a Conservative government for two years with no Conservative policy actually implemented – either on the deficit, on Europe, on defence etc. etc. – the base won’t be hoodwinked any more. The only true Conservative policy is the Welfare Reform Bill, ably taken through parliament by Iain Duncan-Smith, but nothing will change in the welfare state until a very sophisticated computer system is developed and installed to administer the whole thing. The history of governments and computers doesn’t bode well for the Welfare Reform Act ever coming into fruition.

Peter Oborne, who seems to change his views depending on the day of the week, wrote this in his Daily Telegraph piece during the week:

The truth is that Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg did not choose to cohabit out of self-interest, but were driven by patriotic motives to join forces to confront Britain’s greatest economic crisis for a century.

Oh, don’t make me laugh! I don’t believe that for a second. Cameron wanted to tick off “PM” on his CV and Clegg is purely about power above principle.
I believe the ordinary voter has a similar view to me. In Bradford West earlier this month, Respect and hard-left politician George Galloway won over 50% of the vote and achieved a 10,000 majority over Labour. Some Tory voters must have voted for Mr Galloway. I’ll say that again: Tory voters must have voted for George Galloway. Not because they have had some kind conversion to Socialism but because they are fed up of their own Conservative Party and the other two traditional main parties and decided to send a message to David Cameron and the Westminster elite.

I don’t think the Bradford West result was a one-off. We will see a similar trend on 3rd May and although this election won’t effect who runs the country on 4th May if the trend continues it will do come 2015.

People are fed up by being led by a liberal elite whose only aim is to appease the chattering classes in metropolitan London at dinner parties in Islington and Notting Hill. These people do not represent ordinary Britons – they do their best to stay away from us ordinary folk in their exclusive streets and gated communities or in their country homes miles from the “dirty” towns. Most people don’t want gay marriage (even most homosexuals), most either want less interference from Europe, which will allow us to deport extremist cleric Abu Qatada on our say-so, or they want out of the EU altogether.

Britain, despite the best efforts of Labour through uncontrolled immigration, is still a conservative country with Christian roots and values. Tony Blair managed – through clever political smoke and mirrors – to pretend to the British people he was leading a ‘Tory-lite’ government but of course behind the curtain Gordon Brown was pulling the economic levers of destruction causing immense damage over 13 years which created a client state consisting of millions dependent on handouts or in non-jobs in the public sector; he destroyed a pension system which was the envy of the world, sold our gold at rock-bottom prices and delivered the biggest peacetime deficit which is still crippling this country today because George Osborne is deliberately failing to get on top of it to appease his liberal chums.

The chickens are about to come home to roost. The tectonic plates are being crushed together and they will soon break apart – this could happen on 3rd May or may take longer but it will happen. The British people have had enough.


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We want our Conservative Party back

The last couple of days have seen a flurry of commentators from the so-called centre-right press round on David Cameron and George Osborne as out-of-touch public schoolboys who have open contempt for the party they lead.

MPs and activists have grumbled for years that they were being sacrificed by David Cameron to demonstrate to the metropolitan chattering classes that the Conservative Party had “changed” and was no longer the “nasty party” it supposedly once was.

As Iain Martin said in his excellent piece for the Daily Telegraph yesterday, this “modernisation” of the Tory Party has been a “electoral and philosophical dead-end”. It has never been a successful ploy. Let me remind the Tory high command once again: the Conservative Party has not won a General Election since 1992!
And, as I have written before, it will not win the General Election in 2015 unless the leadership start to listen to its core supporters: the thousands of party members and its backbench MPs.

The Conservative side of the coalition has done some good things. Michael Gove is expertly executing the Government’s education policy with the introduction of free-schools with terms and conditions for teachers set by the school not by the Trotskyite local education authorities and Iain Duncan Smith has managed to do what even Thatcher could not achieve by getting the Welfare Reform Act on to the statute book, which, if implemented, will allow work to always pay more than benefits. These two reforms will help to reverse some of the enormous damage inflicted on Great Britain by Labour between 1997 and 2010.

But on the economy, the Government is failing to tackle the mess Gordon Brown left behind. We must go faster and deeper on public spending cuts to reduce the deficit not penalise hard-working people who will get us out of the mess we are in. Public spending is only being taken back to 2005 levels: it was those levels that gave us the biggest deficit in peace-time history and a national debt the size of Greece with only our higher GDP and the fact we are not in the Euro saving us from oblivion.

In the Budget on 21st March, George Osborne had the opportunity to help out the strivers and prudent pensioners who also just happen to be the people who vote Conservative. But instead the “modernisation” agenda took precedent and those very people who contribute so much in taxes, which are frittered away on benefits, non-existent global warming counter-measures and helping the Indians buy fighter jets through our international aid payments, were told to dig deep and give the Government even more of their cash.

The “granny tax”, whereby the personal allowance for pensioners will be frozen from next year, was a policy on a par with Gordon Brown’s doomed 10p tax band removal. Then VAT was whacked on to working people’s lunches with tepid warm pasties and sausage roles being levied with the tax. Do Cameron and Osborne have a political death-wish?

If it wasn’t bad enough that the traditional Tory voter was rubbished by Cameron and his inner circle to demonstrate at dinner parties with Guardian and BBC journalists how thoroughly modern they were, they now think it is a good idea to ignore the same voter now they are in power.

As the old saying goes, you reap what you sow. And so it came to pass when the last week turned into the Government’s week from political hell which started with the Budget and ended with the Conservative vote decreasing by 22% in the Bradford West by-election won by George Galloway.

Traditionally during these tricky weeks, the Government looks to their Party for help. When Cameron and Osborne looked out into Downing Street for assistance, none was forthcoming. Instead of running to their aid the backbench Tory MPs who are ignored by Cameron, whilst he schmoozes up to Nick Clegg, hit back. The centre-right press, who are rarely phoned up by Conservative ministers, went on collective attack, and the party activists started writing letters to the Daily Telegraph saying they were fed up of Cameron and his chums.

Every mainstream paper rubbished George Osborne’s budget, which was easy to do as every measure had been leaked before hand leaving the Chancellor to announce all the bad ideas in one go. And then Unite launched a foray into enemy territory by announcing fuel tanker drivers had voted to put industrial action in their armoury. They didn’t announce a strike but said they might strike at a time of their choosing – but seven days notice is required by law.

Cue the Tory arch-moderniser, Francis Maude. Ironically it was his very unmodern discourse which got him and the Government into trouble. Mr Maude responded to the “cash-for-Cameron” scandal by saying they were only “kitchen suppers” and then proceeded to advise the public they should fill up “their jerry can and store it in their garage”. It may well be Maude’s mouth which sealed the fate of Cameron and his cohorts at the next General Election.  Because it is class which might do for Cameron what sleaze did for Major. As a commentator on Radio 4’s PM said last week, we now know the layout of Maude’s house: he has a dining room but his house is so big he can instead eat his dinner in his kitchen.

In addition, most people in the UK do not have a garage as house prices are so high that relatively well-paid professionals like myself cannot afford to live anywhere other than a terraced row in a provincial town. Therefore, we a) don’t have a jerry can and b) I wouldn’t have anywhere safe to store it anyway.

Maude allowed the chitter-chatter I was used to hearing in the bars at Conservative Party conference to invade the discourse of Government communications to the nation. He has no idea how most people live in this country. This is not how the Conservative Party behaved and spoke when it was winning three elections in a row. People can say (and they do) what they like about Margaret Thatcher but she was from a humble background who knew what it was like to strive to ensure food was put on the table. Her father was a grocer and it was only by marrying wealthy oil man Denis Thatcher she was able to go into politics: she didn’t see it as her destiny unlike some of those occupying Number 10 and 11 Downing Street today. Thatcher never forgot her up-bringing and knew how families went out and worked hard, had to budget for the weekly shop and wanted Government to help them get on in life not hinder them – she knew because she too had to work hard to get on and up. It wasn’t handed to her on a supper plate.

People want a Government to first and foremost to provide the environment for a strong economy through tax and spend policies. Despite what the Guardianistas say they also want to feel proud of their country and our standing in the world. Most people in Britain are conservative with a small ‘c’. Blair knew this and did his best to paint a picture of a Government that understood this but still all the time Brown was stealthily raising taxes and creating an obese client state that was completely reliant on the Labour party to eat and live. Eventually they were rumbled and Labour were driven from office. But Cameron seems to not even care about pretending he understands the British people.

This Government is more interested in counter-measures for non-existent global warming rather than policies to tackle high energy prices. Cameron would rather see our defence forces cut back to the bone than cut international aid to India who then use it to buy French fighter jets.
The “modern” Conservative Party in Government hammers pensioners and workers trying to buy lunch but spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to legalise gay marriage. And to top it all off, a Conservative-led Government wants to bring in a law (actually an EU law) to allow the security services to see every email you send, every tweet you post and every website you visit. Not even Labour dared do that.

Many Conservative voters and Party activists were willing to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt when they wondered was he really one of them during the first five years of his Tory leadership, as long as he won us back power. But when he failed to do this in 2010, Cameron’s blatant dislike of the ordinary party member became more of a kick in the teeth. Despite Labour almost bankrupting the country, the Conservative Party could not win a majority. One reason for this was because David Cameron could not communicate a coherent message on Conservative core values, including patriotism, toughness on crime and a small state, and instead bumbled on about the incoherent big society. There was also another reason: Tory voters could not see a Tory Party to vote for and so stayed at home, which was borne out by the Conservative vote only increasing by 3%.

Back in 2010, the Tory voter was still loyal enough to the Conservative Party to not vote against them. But as we saw in Bradford West last Thursday, the tide has started to turn. George Galloway’s share of the vote (over 50%) and majority over Labour of 10,000 must mean Tories voted for him. Conservatives aren’t just staying at home, they are looking to fringe parties to give Cameron a bloody nose. This alone should deeply worry David Cameron and his liberal elite.

It’s as if the Conservative Party has been invaded and occupied by a foreign force and now we must wait for the uprising to begin. This could come sooner than we think and, as Rafael Behr said in his New Statesman article, when it does the end will be “sudden, unsentimental and brutal”.