There are very few people that I enjoy discussing politics with. When I say this, I am not referring to the shenangans that happen in Barnet Council, I don't really see that as politics at all. That is more like watching chimpanzees let loose in a banana store. I am talking about sitting down over a beer or cup of tea and having a sane and rational conversation about what is happening in the country. I find it unstimulating listening to people who agree with me. when two people agree and have a similar perspective there is little of value ever likely to emerge that is worth keeping. As my views are left of centre, this means I really only enjoy discussions with people who are right of centre. I'm not talking about the hang them and flog them brigade. I am talking about, sane, rational and pragmatic people, who have settled on the Tories as the least worst choice. Such friends have an interesting perspective and are not wedded to any particula ideology. Some would have voted for Labour at the height of Blair years.
Such people are more than open to the idea that the Capita contracts in Barnet have been a disaster. Their perspective is that Barnet Labour would have mismanaged the council even more badly and point to the failure of Barnet Labour to put a coherent counter argument to what the Tories have done. Many such people think that the 2010-15 coalition was a period of sane and sensible government, and look back to it as a period when the country was put back on its feet. They view the subesquent period as a disaster for the UK.
I had a coffee today with one such friend. As often happens, I saw him in the Broadway, started to chat, ordered a tea and spent a bit too long having a chinwag. He asked me what I thought about the conferences. I gave him my verdict. To be honest, with Clare breaking her arm on Sunday, I have paid little or no attention to the Tories. I thought that the Lib Dems had a reasonable conference. It won't make much difference to anyone and I struggled to remember much of the press around it. My friends exclaimed, with an air of sadness "The Lib Dems have made a catastrophic mistake becoming a single issue party". It's not something I'd really thought about, but it does ring true. He went on "Under Cameron, they were responsible for the best ideas. Increasing the minimum wage has had a brilliant effect on the countries finances. It has massively lowered the benefit bill, as the government is paying far less subsidising bad employers. The Lib Dems have completely stopped being the party that comes up with radical ideas, that the other parties catch up with 20 years later".
Then we discussyed Labour. I said I thought that this was a conference where John McDonnell has started to set the agenda. I expressed my surprise that the Tories didn't even bother to respond. I thought this was a bad mistake, as it makes them look out of touch. To my amazement, he agreed. "Listen, I can't stand McDonnell and what he stands for. But what he has done is identify what ordinary people's concerns are. I disagree with his solutions, but if no one else is proposing any sort o solution, he will end up winning the argument by default, as it seems the Tories have no solutions."
I then enquired as to the Tory conference. He was DisMay'd (pardon the pun). He said that it appeared that the Tory Conference was more like a dressage show. He said that people expect Conservative leaders to have gravitas and pragmatic solutions. The public expects them to be listened to. With all the headlines being about Theresa May's jig, it was absolutely clear that she was a weak leader, who had been working tirelessly on a PR strategy to "woo the faithful", whilst completely forgetting that all the news would show is a rather plain, middle aged woman, dancing in a rather embarrassed manner. When you contrast that with the images of McDonnell and Corbyn delivering powerful, if completely wrong headed, speeches that resonate far beyond the left, you realise that the Tories are heading for disaster".
I asked if he saw any way that the Tories can dig themselves out of the hole they are in. He said "Not really. Brexit dominates every discussion and calculation. Whilst we rip ourselves apart, Labour are talking about fixing real issues which are affecting millions. It won't be enough to turn around the week before the election and simply say "Labour won't work".
We then discussed Brexit. He voted leave. I asked him what he thought now. He voted leave because he believed the EU to be a totally corrupt organisation, which is hugely bureaucratic. He had concerns about the issues around immigration and sovereignty. "I still think that leaving the EU is the right thing to do, especially in light of the popular vote. It is however clear that the government is making a total cock up of the negotiations. He works as a financial adviser, and discusses personal finances with three or four members of the public every day. He said "Everyone who has any degree of common sense mentions Brexit when discussing renewing mortgages or making any other sort of major decision about their finances. Several people who were planning to retire to Spain have postponed their plans until it is clear what their legal position would be. Quite a few are fixing their mortgage payments to protect against possible rises. The smart money is being put into offshore funds. From a professional perspective, we are making such a hash of the whole thing that it is obvious that it is causing real damage to the economy". He had read my log earlier in the week about why I believe that Jeremy Corbyn will not pull the plug on the Tories before Brexit is complete. He said "when I read that, the penny dropped about Corbyns strategy. It makes perfect sense. It really is very worrying. I think you are quite right. If the price of Brexit turns out to be a Corbyn government, then it will be far too high a price to pay for the UK. If that comes to pass, I think that I will admit that I should have voted remain, because it will open the door for chaos".
We then discussed what a Corbyn Labour government would mean. He said "What people don't realise is that there are a range of options. Just suppose Labour is the biggest party, but without an overall majority. Just suppose they need the SNP to prop them up. That would mean the end of the United Kingdom. The SNP are economically close to Corbyn. If they have a coalition with the Lib Dems, which seems unlikely, they might actually not be too bad. The Lib Dems would probably back renationalisation of rail and water, in return for a watering down of the loony left policies. I think if Corbyn had the choice between the SNP and the Lib Dems, he'd choose the SNP every day. Then if he has a tiny majority. He won't actually get much done, because he won't have the SNP pushing him. It is pretty clear that the Blairites will thwart him at every step. In those circumstances, we'd have a round of deselections and a fresh election. Who knows what that would bring. And then there is a Corbyn landslide, with a whole lot of fresh MP's with no experience who highly ideologically Corbynite. Heaven only knows what that would mean. I think I would leave the country, assuming anyone will have me and my money is actually worth anything. My one hope would be that they would be as ineffective as Theresa May is and that the civil service would thwart them at every turn as they are doing so effectively with Brexit"
After we parted company, I thought long and hard about our conversation. Perhaps what he said in the last paragraph was the most interesting. As a moderate Conservative he is terrified, but his hope is that the Civil Service will thwart Corbyn as they are thwarting Brexit. I hadn't really given any thought to how a Corbyn government may function. I think he is right that the government will be knobbled at every corner by the civil service and the establishment. When it comes down to it, we will find out just how much of a democracy we really are.