Sunday, 1 October 2017

Why the Conservative Party deserves to die

If there is one perception I have of the Thatcher era then it is of a Conservative Party with aspiration at the centre of its thinking. Driving that was also a moral imperative - the belief that work was the fastest way out of poverty and self-reliance was a virtue in itself.

One would expect a Conservative government to be pro-enterprise but there was also something about Mrs Thatcher's values that made her version of conservatism the definitive one. There was something more than just the slash and burn free market instinct. There was still an underlying obligation to observe that, as citizens, we are custodians of a particularly British order where enterprise sits comfortably alongside the institutions of state.

I don't see that in the modern Conservative Party. For the most part I see the dregs of Thatcherism and the second generation Toryboys wedded to extreme free market dogma - which is no respecter of anything. If it isn't nailed down they will flog it and if they can't flog it they will demolish it.

It is this corrosive trend that is ultimately shredding the social contract. One such example, as BuzzFeed notes, is legal aid reform which made it harder than ever to get free access to a lawyer for those who cannot afford one. The result is that in courts around the country, growing numbers of people with no legal experience are fighting alone to hold onto everything from their homes and possessions to their right to stay in the UK or even keep custody of their children.

Increasingly citizens are finding themselves fighting off claims made by what are now wholly private authorities acting on behalf of the state. Long time readers will know I've had my own run-ins with the corporate state, fighting criminal bailiffs acting in respect of council tax.

This was quite an education. One always assumes that, as a generally law abiding citizen, you will have some recourse to justice, but what I found was a conveyor belt court system which is not in the slightest bit interested in upholding the law, nor are the police moved to investigate complaints. This is, incidentally, why I was never moved by remainer arguments about EU rights. Justice is for those who can afford it.

If there was anything that underpinned my belief in British exceptionalism it was that our society was underpinned by a timeless tradition of fair play and justice, having the best courts and the fairest law of all. I expect that was probably naive but I never imagined that the system was as debased as it is.

What I remember from that debacle was how isolating it was, knowing that when the system has you in its sights you are completely without recourse in the face of a cold, bureaucratic and indifferent - system - capable of taking everything you have. Ever since then I simply don't answer the door to anyone unless by prior appointment. I do not live in fear of burglars. I do, however, live in fear of the state and what it will do, entirely unchecked even by its own rules.

Mrs Thatcher was best known for her programme of mass privatisation. Certainly the privatisation of telecoms was the biggest success and I can still argue that privatising utilities was probably the right way to go. Ever since then, however, every other public service has been carved up and flogged off, or re-engineered for the convenience of the state rather than the public.

In some instances, it has vastly improved matters. Passports and driving licence application processes have been transformed, partly in thanks to the internet, but elsewhere the trend is toward ever more scare public services, of diminishing quality, where the needs of the service user come last.

There is a postcode lottery on GP services, dentistry is shambolic throughout and increasingly charges are creeping in all over the shop. Now, if this were consistent with Conservative free market dogma, we should at least be seeing some sort of corresponding tax cuts. And of course there have been tax cuts, but not for the likes of your or I.

It is, therefore, not surprising that a hard left Labour party is gradually gaining traction. Labour speaks to that British instinct that though we are pro-commerce and enterprise, some things are sacred. We do demand a base level of service provision and we don't want it run by Serco or G4S.

Meanwhile, though Labour have entirely the wrong solutions to pay and conditions at the bottom end of the job market, they do have a point about exploitation, job insecurity and the removal of basic guarantees. As much as it is already difficult to get a mortgage and save, you can't get a mortgage if even skilled workers are working on contract for an hourly rate.

Since Thatcher we have seen the commodification of labour, failing to understand that humans do have hopes and aspirations and need certain guarantees to progress. Now everything is geared for business to be able to account for every last cent and whittle down rights for the worker. It adds to the stress of life working from week to week knowing you can be terminated without warning or redundancy pay. Meanwhile we look at the pay culture of councils and we are still seeing six figure payouts for CEOs.

Now you can argue that a lot of this was set in motion by the Blair government, and indeed it was, but this trend has not been slowed or reversed in the seven years the Tories have been in power. Much of it is happening under the radar and it comes as no surprise that Tory MPs are on the payroll of  private interests.

In fact, the Tory approach to Brexit tells us everything we need to know about modern conservatism. We know that Labour has been hijacked by its Momentum fringe, but less is said about how the Tories have been captured by the free market zealots. They are salivating at the thought of unilateral trade liberalisation without a second thought for the jobs that will inevitably be destroyed.

Brexit has been their holy grail for decades now, not out of any genuine concern for democracy, rather as a tool to finish off a long standing ultra-capitalist agenda. It wouldn't be so bad if any of their ideas were intellectually sound, but they exist in a pocket of unreality where the last thirty years of global regulatory integration never happened.

It is not surprising that the youth vote is deserting the Tories. The Tories are locked into cultish devotion to an economic theory while having scant regard for any of the real world pressures that young people face. The housing issue being the long standing elephant in the room.

Ultimately this iteration of the Conservative Party is one that has no interest in policy or governance because ideology is their only master. There is no statecraft instinct in the Tory party. It is a party of unbridled greed, corruption and intellectual poverty.

I have no love of the left or any regard for the leftist politics of Corbyn, but left unchecked, the current trajectory will be irreversible. We will end up with a colder, more hostile country, where everyone is on the make, nothing is done out of neighbourliness and everything has a price. A vulture capitalist state where the only protection a man has from the privatised thugs banging on the door is a baseball bat. From there, the rule of law disintegrates.

For all that we are told that Labour are economic extremists, we are actually governed by economic extremists at the other end of the spectrum - and they are poised to impose their ideal upon us. It doesn't even look like we can stop them. And so if every action has an equal and opposite reaction, we cannot then be surprised if the next election puts Mr Corbyn in Number Ten.

At one time not so long ago I would have bee repulsed by the very idea. But then I imagine a Britain, led by Boris Johnson, where free market zealots are busy dismantling everything of value - destroying what is left of the British social fabric. Could Corbyn be any worse? I don't know. What I do know is that the line has to be drawn here. This far and no further.

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