UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 9 October 2009

UNISON Active ANALYSIS: The Tories in Manchester- the Foul stench of Hypocrisy

Well after their conference in Manchester, one thing is perfectly clear. The Tories have a good conceit of themselves. They are fit for government, ready to be tested, and prepared for the way ahead. Every speech had some variation of that self reverential boasting.
This, they kept telling us is a new Tory Party, in their constant refrain of “We’ve changed, we’ve changed” In this they have been ably assisted by a compliant BBC, who have taken all their claims at face value and completely failed to exhibit any of their “legendary forensic journalistic skills.” on which they tell us they pride themselves. Come back Mrs Merton, your sharp interviewing skills are sadly missed right now.

For the Tories start from a view that Britain is broke and broken, peopled by warring tribes and feral youth. While posing as social campaigners, (“Iain Duncan Smith has been to Easterhouse don’t you know old boy”) they are the Party who “want to make Britain really great again”, perhaps by re-founding the Empire.

Well, how socially conscientious is it to introduce an up front tax on the elderly of £8,000 just in case you need residential care? For the average public sector pensioner, that’s two years worth of pension, but it is less that a year’s school fees for Eton, so on that comparison maybe it seems like a bargain.

Then there were attacks on the age at which pensions can be drawn, and attacks on those living on incapacity benefit. Let us state the obvious. There is a correlation between life expectancy, state of health and social class. So who are these measures going to hurt most?? That would be “the feckless, the wasters the benefit cheats”, as the working class is known by the Tory Party.

That would be the young people who are to be given a job, whether they want it or not, at £1 a day over benefit rates. What will that do for the minimum wage? Why pay it when you can have “youth trainees” instead? Sorry, we probably not supposed to call them that. It might bring back memories of she-who–must–not-be-mentioned. For younger readers, please now consult your idiots guide to how Margaret Thatcher destroyed a generation.

But it will be more socially just if inheritance tax thresholds are raised. In leafy down trodden Notting Hill (average property price probably in seven figures)they need that sort of thing.

Anyway, Iain DS has a cure for all social ills. Get them married. Now please don’t laugh at that because the thread runs through all Tory social thinking, and influences their economic policy. What they are preaching is a return, yet again, to family values as they understand them- think back to John Major’s government in the early nineties. Warm beer, bicycles in the park, cricket on the village green, as the ex premier was fond of reminiscing.

All families should consist of a god fearing, church going, uptight, strictly faithful, thrifty, honest, middle class mum, dad and 2.4 children. That will solve all of our society’s ills, and reshape so called "broken Britain”.

Yes they preach family values, but let us remind ourselves; just how many ministers had to resign in the last regime over the odd spot of marital impropriety, adultery or sexual misadveturism (not to mention fraud or taking back handers)? So that will be a case of do as we are saying, don’t do as we do.

To take one example, what was Boris Johnston famous for before being mayor of London? Was his nickname not Bonking Boris?

Like some of their extremist European allies, perhaps the Tories could readopt the slogan of Kuchen, Kinder, Kirche?

Well maybe the pose as the party of social justice is a lie. Are their economic policies any better? The Tories tell us up front will slash their way out of Gordon Brown’s catastrophic national debt calamity, cutting twenty per cent of bureaucracy and red tape, slashing the role of the state. Let’s start by asking a few simple questions.

What national debt calamity? The economic commentators, who have made the national debt calamity a headline, have one thing in common- a shared ideology about the role of government and free markets. Britain is not bankrupt. To repeat that again, to any commentator with any sense of economic history or decent knowledge of economics, our national debt is not a matter for crisis.

To spend in a time of recession is the only way to stimulate demand in the economy- a universal truth made evident by one John Maynard Keynes in his General Theory published in 1936.

Government expenditure stimulates demand to stimulate the economy. Gordon Brown has at least enough of an understanding to remember that lesson from history, and as Obama has done in the US or even most centre right governments in Europe, have done, has produced a fiscal stimulus package, to use the jargon.

The proposals from the Tories frankly stink of economic illiteracy. But then George Osborne, Tory Shadow Chancellor, knows better than Keynes, Galbraith, Krugman or Stiglitz, and many of the other giants of economics. George denies that public spending had any role in ending the depression of the thirties - which does lead one to wonder, how far have standards slipped at Oxford - this boy is supposed to have a 2:1 in History you know?).

To push the history a bit further, Tory policies will have the same disastrous consequences as the National Governments in the 30’s or Thatcher’s in the 80’s. They will not only prolong the recession. They will push the country into depression, sending unemployment soaring. Thatcher destroyed the manufacturing base of the British economy. The current Tory party can’t acknowledge that lesson.

And let’s look at little further at that statement about “Gordon’s debt calamity” What is the word that never passes Tory lips when they are talking about blame?

Go on lads. Spit it out. I’m sure you can. It’s B-a-n-k-e-r-. This crisis has one cause- the unregulated profit, the unbridled greed that led speculation of the bankers. Why has the national debt risen in the first place? Was it...

a) Because nurses salaries were too high?
b) Because standards in education were gold plated?
c) Or, because the banks went bust and needed bailed out?

99 out of 100 commentators would probably go for the last one.

But who will pay for it? Well no doubt the City of London is readying itself for a Tory victory. Financial services will continue on their merry way, untrammelled by a regulatory authority since the FSA will be abolished. Champagne and Charlie will flow and bonuses, based on our public money will be the order of the day: - money that could provide the civilised life the rest of us need.

The Tories will allow the banking sector off scot-free after they have taken billions out of the public treasury. Do the crime, accept the time? Not if you are a merchant banker. They know the old saying- never steal anything small. Rob the public blind and the self styled guardians of law and order in the Tory party don’t send Inspector Knacker of the Yard -they ask for a donation to party funds.

We won’t be so lucky.

So if there is no debt crisis, why the agenda of cuts and freezes? At least when Thatcher stood her agenda was clear. Maggie proclaimed that she stood for the defeat of socialism and the nanny state, traditional values and freedom, to the delight of her cheerleaders in the Murdoch press. Cameron and Osborne and their allies have no such honesty.

Look at gallant General Sir Richard Hannan, posing as the honest critic of Gordon Brown, when he has a promise of job as a Tory Party spokesman and a potential government post. He is typical of the new Tory party - never let the truth get in the way of political expediency.

Tory economic policy is still constrained by a deep ideological commitment to free market liberalism that Thatcher preached: - a system whereby government has no role in the economy, a system with no regulation, and no subsidization. The market is God and its effects on society unfettered.

This is the world where tax becomes a dirty word, where the labour market is unregulated and trade unions have no role. It is the system that sent manufacturing to the wall and left the buccaneers of the city to pillage the economy to line their pockets.

That’s why the Tories have not only failed to support attempts to regulate the system, but don’t see the need for them. Low regulation is their answer to the financial meltdown that threatens the livelihoods of everyone in this country.

Consistent with the low regulation in the economy however, is the belief that the boundries of the state need to be rolled back. That is the cornerstone of their economic policy. “Dealing with the national debt”, as Osborne and Cameron have proclaimed from the conference platform, is a flimsy cover for the basic Tory project.

No doubt the army and the uniformed police will do well under a future Tory administration. They always do. Education, the NHS, local government services, welfare benefits of all kinds, the environment will all suffer and the quality of public and social life. Those public commentators who feel like ”it's time for a change”, as if changing governments was a matter as simple as altering their hemlines to this years model, fundamentally misunderstand the earthquake comimg our way, or simply have no sense of recent history.

Most Victorian mill or pit owners would have described themselves as “compassionate conservatives” because they allowed child workers a Sunday off to attend church. For an alternative point of view, maybe download the Unthanks version of “The Testament of Patience Kershaw” and weep. Some things never change.

So be aware-Tories policies will destroy our communities, our culture and our souls - If we let them.

(Testimony of Patience Kershaw lyrics)