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Principled opposition

There are two reasons why I not only am resigned to an impending Conservative victory but—slightly, very reluctantly—welcome it. The first is that when Jacqui Smith clears her desk she’ll be able to take with her as a souvenir the mock-up ID card she brandished at last week’s press conference, as that’s the only use it will be. That said, the Tories have now qualified their previously vigorous opposition to the cards; they don’t want to bring them in for British citizens but say they intend to follow Labour’s lead and make them compulsory for foreigners living here. Not quite such principled opposition as we may have led you to believe.

The second, and main, reason is that I am tired of watching the Conservative party trying to care. It’s almost as stressful for me as it must be for them. Education! The NHS! Social reform! The environment! Of course the environment is probably the closest to the heart of the true Tory, in a romantic Alan Clarke nature-red-in-tooth-and-blah kind of way, but, realistically, once they’ve clambered back into the seat of power and readjusted the headrest, it’s unlikely that, for example, their plan to scrap the third runway at Heathrow in favour of a high-speed rail line will last beyond the time it takes for the chairman of BAA to place a friendly call to D-Cam’s office. The sooner they stop having to harp on about the plight of the disadvantaged as if they think it’s a fit topic for conversation, the less likely the disadvantaged are to be fooled into thinking they have new friends. Also—admittedly less important but still a burning issue for this voter—I will be significantly less creeped out.

Those are, I hope it’s clear, the only reasons I would welcome an incoming Tory government. Beyond those two partial gains, it’s a depressing prospect: basically, about the same level of competence as the current incarnation of this administration but with even more tax-dodging and no public services. Unstrangely, there’s no suggestion that they would rein in any of the behaviour that has led to the current situation in the financial markets (“What do you mean, you were lying to me? I thought it was just me lying to you!”). They’re as slaved to the notion that the faintest hint of regulation would stifle financial “creativity” as any Blairite—as they should be; they started it.

Last week in a BBC interview, Home Office minister Tony McNulty asked rhetorically whether at a time of financial crisis the country wanted, quote, “little Georgie Osborne” at the helm, or the extremely experienced Gordon Brown and Alasdair Darling. In other words, the man who sold our gold too cheap and the man who has intimated strongly that he can make hardly any decisions as Chancellor because they’re still being made by the man who sold our gold too cheap. “Experience” on its own really isn’t enough of a selling point; after all, that guy who drunkenly piloted his ship into a 200-foot pier is still an experienced captain.

Currently Labour can only cling to the fact that the idea of George Osborne as Chancellor inspires even less confidence, but even that won’t last if Labour MPs, from the back and front benches alike, continue to sabotage and snipe at each other. You don’t have to be wedded to the idea of a Labour government to regret the spectacle of a government slipping and sliding at the exact time you need it not to. As my esteemed colleague said, “When the Tories tore themselves apart it was over Europe, a huge issue nationally and a faultline in the party. Labour MPs are just doing it over whether they’ll keep their seats at the next election.” It’s like helplessly watching your coach driver having a slap-fight with his colleague as you veer inexorably into oncoming traffic.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2008 11:23 am (UTC)
ID cards were a Tory manifesto pledge in 1997, weren't they? Round and round the wheel goes, where it stops, nobody knows!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
I think it's principled alright, I just think one of the principles is "We don't trust Johhny Foreigner".
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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