07 May 2011

Rights and wrongs - could he be right?

In common with the originator of the blog, I've not always had a significant amount of time for the current Prime Minister, and whilst thoroughly enjoying the ridiculous overreaction from various humourless feminist prigs to his put down of the appalling Angela Eagle, his performances in the Commons have generally been well below that of even William Hague in the first post landslide Parliament of 1997 to 2001. That combined with his concessions to leftist opinion, attempting to woo the likes of Polly Toynbee had many of us concerned that he wasn't really a Conservative at all. Indeed very few UKIP supporters who have defected from the Tories since 2006 or ex Tories who were eligible then, of my acquaintance didn't vote for David Davis in the Leadership election that brought Cameron to prominence. Nevertheless, despite what appeared to be a disappointing performance in last year's General election, where faced with the worst government in recorded history possibly anywhere in the world, he failed to deliver an overall majority, being forced into a coalition with political opportunists par excellence the Liberal Democrats perhaps it will be the man from the Bullingdon club who has the last laugh. Although with serious misgivings in the end I think most reasonable people probably gave some thanks for his ending 13 years of quite literal hurt at the hands of the Blair/Brown administrations and reinstating a government which comprised at least a majority of Conservative MPs.

However, as some Leftist bloggers pointed out yesterday, he may have played the proverbial blinder, and it would appear to be his critics on the right who have misjudged both him and the public mood. Consider that even with a 400,000 strong march against the cuts(before they diverted to bash in the Local Santander), huge swathes of the populace dependent on state aid (either directly or indirectly), and a massively hostile media (at least the portion of it being funded by a £170 stipend on every household in the land) Cameron's vote has held steady. With the economic clouds worsening, he looks to have come in with 37 per cent of the vote. Given the state of the Tory Party even after Michael Howard's sterling efforts in 2005, this is no mean achievement, and even the most churlish naysayer has to acknowledge that the party probably wouldn't be here with Howard, Duncan Smith or Davis at the helm.

So, the question is, has Cameron's lurch to the left actually been a masterpiece of strategy? By inviting the Liberal Democrats into government he has enasured that they have acted as a lightning rod for much of the criticism from the usual suspects on the hard left. If I had one comment on the wisdom of his strategy, it was that he has spent far too much time trying (at least whilst in opposition) cosying up to the likes of Polly Toynbee and indeed the entire 'democratic left'. As Thatcher learned, basically trying to appease these people from a conservative standpoint is frankly as fruitless as trying to placate a crocodile by offering it your hand. The organisers of the so-called 'march for the alternative' would have us believe that a small group of malcontents were responsible for the violence that seems to accompany every such march in London. However, I think anyone studying Marxism or indeed Leninism as a historical philosophy will know that the use of criminal elements to undermine the existing system is a key aspect of Hard leftist philosophy, especially if the forces opposing the violence are 'reactionary elements'

Anyhow, Ed Miliband's dismal performance in Scotland gives Cameron an opportunity to press ahead with urgent redrawing of the constituencies maps to redress the balance which was skewed massively in favour of Labour over the past 13 years. One of the ironies of the left's portrayal of this government as extreme right is it suggests they see politics through the prism of the 1980 Inner London Education Authority, an organisation so barking that Trotskyites were considered 'the right'. If Cameron looks carefully at trying to limit the franchise, and adopts a more cautious policy towards Europe bringing disaffected UKIP supporters into the fold he might well be able to break the 40% mark, and as the aforementioned Miss Toynbee suggests:'A long period of Conservative hegemony' . One can only hope that this might indeed be the case and that Cameron continues to confound his right wing critics by delivering electoral success in spite of my significant misgivings. With any luck, it could lead Toynbee, the appalling Brian Reade and other members of the 'democratic left' to more amenable shores, perhaps even here if they're feeling the need for some comfort from 'ideological brothers in arms' .


Chris Brooke said...

It's not ridiculous to object to casual sexism (no more than it is to casual racism), and the "humourless feminists" jibe is not so much tired as thoroughly exhausted.

Hal Berstram said...

Well said, Chris.

David Davis - "Modern Conservatives". What a joke.

Cameron's vote held up largely because it was a hard right vote - about 36% or so of the voters. These people are very pleased with the idea of "smashing the state". And Labour doesn't nowadays have Tony Blair to steal some of the more centre-right Tory votes away.

But no matter. The collapse of the "Fib Dems" benefited Labour pretty much entirely in net terms. The Tory vote share was static, the Labour vote share went up about 10%, the Lib Dem vote share went down about 10%. It's as simple as that (in England; obviously in Scotland the Lib Dem vote went not to Labour, but the SNP, which created a very different dynamic.

My main point is this: I don't think Dave Cameron has the crossover appeal to get more than about 36% of the vote. Whereas I think Ed does. I think the most likely scenario for the next election is the Tories stuck in the mid-30s with Labour in the high 30s or maybe low 40s. With that sort of result, Labour would presumably emerge as at least the largest single party even after the boundary redrawing.

Of course, if it turns out that Cameron boosts Tory vote share into the low 40s and we get a 1980s style result, then I'd happily admit I was wrong. But the kind of voters who previously supported the Lib Dems before they got into bed with the Tories are not natural Tory voters. If you voted Lib Dem to stop Cameron in 2010, why the hell start voting Tory now?

By the way the insinuation that the half million march against cuts had anything to do with the anarchists smashing buildings up is ludicrous and shows a complete lack of understanding of what happened on the day. If you had actually TURNED UP, perhaps you would realise this!

Van Patten said...

Perhaps these two comments illustrate why Cameron's riposte was so entertaining. So as far as you're concerned to mock somebody because of their education, class or upbringing is spot on but the moment race or gender gets thrown into the mix it becomes unacceptable? I must confess that using Michael Winner as a touchpoint probably wouldn't be my idea of good debating technique but the outrage from Eagle (who appears to have been promoted solely on the basis of a combination of gender and sexual orientation rather than any perceivable ability)Harman,Cooper and other Labour harridans and columnists such as Toynbee and Alibhai-Brown suggests he got it spot on. Thanks to both of you for confirming my suspicion. for my next post I'll probably forego politics and post something less controversial - wouldn't want to upset your sensitivities too much...

Chris Brooke said...

It doesn't upset my sensibilities at all. It just makes you come across as a bit of an arsehole and makes me less likely to want to engage with the various contributions to this (otherwise excellent) blog. If that's the desired effect, do carry on. If it isn't, then perhaps a bit of a rethink on the rhetorical presentation front is in order.

Hal Berstram said...

Hang on, VP... who's said it's OK to mock someone because of their education, class or upbringing? FWIW I think the Labour "Tory Toffs" Crewe and Nantwich by-election campaign, which was probably the nearest they came to doing this, was totally misconceived.

I don't think the left is humourless at all, but I'd understand if it was; after all, when the entire fabric of our society is being destroyed by these ConDems, and when we have people dying because they've been thrown off Incapacity Benefit by ATOS Origin - well you'll forgive me if I'm not laughing in the aisles at that.

What do you actually know about either of the Eagle sisters' ability? To be honest I'd be surprised if you'd ever read a line of Hansard with them in it.

Hal Berstram said...

For example, I've just seen (via Tweetdeck) that 1 in 6 specialist domestic violence courts will close as a result of ConDem cuts. You'll forgive me if I don't start laughing out loud at that.

Van Patten said...

The subcontracting out of services to the private sector was carried on to a huge degree by the previous administration. Indeed it was Labour who subcontracted out the servicing of incapacity benefit to Atos origin in the first place! Furthermore, I think it indisputable that 'incapacity benefit' (the number of whose claimants nearly doubled in the past 13 years) was a technique whereby the Blair/Brown administrations could caarry on the process of massaging the unemployment figures (which I acknowledge started under The Thatcher and Major governments).

As for Angela Eagle's ability ,or lack thereof, my main memory of her contribution from Hansard was her reassuring that a Liberal Democrat claim that Britain was facing 'an extreme housing bubble' was dismissed blithely by her as 'a colourful and lurid fiction' just about 2 months before prices started to fall in 2008. Otherwise, you are correct in assuming that my knowledge of her ability might need some work, as I wrongly assumed she was one of the 'Blair Babes' who came into Parliament by notorious gerrymandered shortlists in 1997, when in fact she came in in 1992. However, as a minister in Brown's 'ministry of none of the talents', the worst government in recorded history in these and possibly any other Islands, I think her lack of ability should be self-evident.

Regarding the closure of specialist domestic violence courts, I don't think that's funny, any more than I found Ed Miliband posing next to one of his candidates wearing a 'Dance on Thatcher's grave' T shirt especially amusing. However, I'm guessing you probably did find that amusing. However, enough for this post. On to some Scifi.

Hal Berstram said...

I do know a lot of people planning to have street parties when Thatcher dies. I'd agree that's in bad taste... but then, so were the street parties for the royal wedding, IMHO.

Quite agree with you on ATOS Origin, who were indeed brought in by the Labour Government. That's the wonderful legacy of Jimmy Purnell. I also agree that IB has been used - since the 1980s at least, and maybe even before that - to disguise high unemployment. I'm actually doing a lot of thinking about this at the moment from an economic (quasi-academic) perspective; I think some kind of basic income which gets everyone above the poverty line may be the best answer. I think it's completely off the table as a practical policy solution at the moment but I want to come up with a costed proposal for such as system anyway, to get it on the table. Or at least, on somebody's table. The current benefit system isn't fit for purpose but most of the proposed reforms will make it even worse.

red two said...

"where faced with the worst government in recorded history possibly anywhere in the world"

I'm sorry? What?

When you open with such grotesque exaggeration it rather devalues anything that follows, VP. Brown's government may have been a dead duck, but you're not even in the same ball park as some of the jokers running African states now, let alone in the past.

Slate Brown if you must. But putting him on a par with the likes of Mugabe and Mengistu is just laughable.

Van Patten said...

It's an interesting question, Red Two, as perhaps testament to our existing consitutional settlement that Brown was not quite able to wreak the damage of a Mugabe or (to use an Asian example) Kim Jong Il. However, bankrupting a nation, turning us over to a foreign power (via the signature of Lisbon) and running (at least in social terms) a regime so Left wing even the Korea DPR or PR China would have considered it extreme. I'd call that a pretty woeful performance.

As you say, it lacks the 'body bag' or unburied body count of a Mengistu, Mugabe, Obiang or suchlike but had he and his rabble had the opportunity to do so, there's little doubt they would have committed such atrocities. Lest we forget, the SWC's claim that George W Bush, rather than Mugabe or Ceaucescu was 'the least welcome visitor to these shores ever'. Many of the current opposition and previous ministers were enthusiastic supporters of Mugabe against Ian Smith (under whom living standards, even for non-Whites were 99.8% higher)

Hal Berstram said...

The Brown regime did not 'bankrupt the country'; they actually saved it (at a time when the Tories, who initially opposed the bailout, presumably WOULD have bankrupted the country).

On Lisbon, from the UKIP perspective of course you have a point: but all other EU govts signed up to Lisbon as well. And the Tories would have done exactly the same. So why was Brown any worse than them?

You seem to have conveniently forgotten huge investment in NHS, schools, tax credits etc - presumably you don't care about people's health, education or inequality?

Van Patten said...

Ok, the canard that the Tories under Major and Thatcher 'failed to invest' in the NHS is old hat and proven wrong. During 1979 to 1997 almost every year Health was the subject of significant increases. Regarding increased NHS investment during Brown's tenure, I'd agree that they probably spent more but as so often your argument appears to be that spending more is axiomatically 'a good thing', as opposed to analysing what the money is spent on. A five fold increase in managerial positions may be a good thing, but it seems to me curious, that even taking to one side the 'Corporate power' led US, none of France, Germany, Japan, Canada, New Zealand or Australia choose to emulate the UK system, and all have somehwat better outcomes in terms of health than we do. Rather why the 'anti cuts lobby' when it presents an alternative says we'll increase public expenditure despite increasing it by 200% over 13 years not having achieved anything near as much in terms of results is something of an amusement to me.

Tax credits were and are to me seriously flawed. Why not look for lower tax rates so that people have more of their own money to spend, rather than impose a complex bureaucratic Labour which resulted in tens of thousands of people being underpaid (or even worse) overpaid?

As for Equality, I would recommend you read, 'Inequality, the Third World and Economic Delusion' by the late Peter Tamas Bauer, specifically the first Chapter, 'The grail of equality', which points out ~(and this was 30 years ago) that modern day egalitarians have gone from Equality before the law to equaility of opportunity to equality of result, or even more specifically equality of one quantifiable aspect of the result, income. Besides which on Brown's watch income inequalities between homeowners and tenants and the rich and poor have reached stratospheric levels that would not be out of place in the Third World country we increasingly resemble in the wake of what I think historians will agree was a catastrophically inept government.

Hal Berstram said...

Actually that's just plain wrong on the NHS - Labour wasted a lot of money for sure with ludicrous stuff like PFI, but they achieved record satisfaction levels by 2010, and anyone who used the NHS before about 2000 compared with now will recognise substantial improvements. There was chronic underinvestment, by the Tories' own admission, between 1979 and 1997. The fact that spending rose in real terms is irrelevant because cost inflation was rising much faster than that, and a host of new treatments and equipment were introduced. Current NHS outcomes - relative to the amount spent - are now pretty good by developed world standards.

This "give people more of their own money to spend" thing is such bullshit I don't even know where to begin with it but let's try anyway. The Fib Dems are particularly guilty of saying "we are taking people out of tax" - this is why I throw something at the TV every time "Beaker" (Danny Alexander) comes on. I'm on my 4th TV set now. Yes they are raising personal allowances, but at the same time they are hiking VAT - a much bigger tax increase (so far) than the tax cut represented by the income tax allowance increase, and VAT is paid by everyone, even those with no earned income. If the govt was really serious about taking people "out of tax", abolishing VAT would be the first step. Lowering income tax rates does nothing for the millions of people who don't earn enough to pay it in the first place. Transfer payments are the only way to seriously reduce inequality at the bottom end.

Regarding Bauer, he's pretty much 180 degrees wrong - one of the problems with New Labour was it wasn't really focused on inequalities of outcomes (it had a focus on poverty, but of course you can have huge and growing inequalities at the top end while reducing poverty).

Van Patten said...

You won't get an argument from me on VAT, a then EC imposition from the 1970's which probably loses more to carousel fraud than it takes, and which is, as you say, deeply regressive. The most disappointing thing about the coalition's economic policy thus far. In terms of whether transfer payments are the best way to assist people at the bottom end of the economy, I'd say that someone earning under £15K shouldn't really be paying a bean in taxation, and the fact that they are paying 20% on almost everything they purchase aside from VAT exempt items is wrong. Another reason to review our relationship with the EU I'd wager.

Interesting that as with so many critics beyond arguing that he's 180 degree wrong, you offer little substantive against Bauer, much like your dismissal of the excellent Christopher Booker as a 'Professional contrarian'. Sadly both have been proven right about their chosen specialisms, Foreign Aid and the EU (Booker also re: 'Climate change') so until you can offer me something more substantive, I'll stick to policies that don't penalise the productive at the expense of the non-productive.

Hal Berstram said...

On VAT - genuinely pleased you agree! I don't have a problem with raising the personal tax allowance per se - but it is a bit of a red herring in isolation. If you have means-tested tax credits or other transfer payments, the work incentive impacts of the thresholds and withdrawal rates for those payments ( about £6,400 per year, and 41% in the case of TCs) have to be taken into account. It's disingenuous to focus solely on the income tax allowance and rates. I think integrating the tax credit and tax system properly (as the Heath govt proposed in the early 1970s) would be a good thing.

On Bauer - I did point out why he's wrong - at least in the context of what you wrote. He said (in 1980 or thereabouts) that egalitarians were focused on equality of outcome. In New Labour's case (which to be fair to Bauer he couldn't have anticipated, writing in 1980) that simply wasn't the case. They were anything *but* focused on equality of outcome. I wasn't talking about Bauer's views on foreign aid or any of his wider writing - which I'll be honest, I've not read. Only about the 1 sentence summary of his views on equality you provided.

On Booker - I think he has a very valid point on the EU but he exaggerates it. On climate change, I think he's completely and dangerously wrong. George Monbiot makes the climate change point much better than I can so I direct you to www.monbiot.com for more.