Thursday 29 November 2018

Why the new generation of Tories simply don't understand old school Labour ire

I had a good conversation and a coffee recently with one of our newer Barnet Conservative Councillors (I regularly have friendly off the record chats with councillors etc of all colours, it's what you do if you want to write a well informed blog). As with all of these chats, unless given permission, the contents remains out of the public domain. The councillor did however make one comment that I thought deserved a little bit of thought. They mentioned that one of the veteran Labour councillors had been extremely rude and hostile towards them. This had rather shocked them, given that they'd never met said councillor before. They asked if the said councillor was always like that. I had to respond that I suspect the ire is reserved for Conservatives, as I've never been on the receiving end.
Image result for Prime minister in 1962
Harold MacMillan

What most surprised the newbie councillor was that tribal party rivalries should generate such a degree of personal animosity towards strangers. I didn't ask the age of the councillor, but for arguments sake lets say 30. That means that the Councillor was born in 1998. When I was born in 1962, Harold MacMillan was PM. It may or may not surprise you to know that I know the square root of BA about MacMillans reign. I know that the Profumo affair terminally damaged his regime (ironic I suppose given the alleged links between the US president and Russia). I know "Supermac" had told us we'd "never had it so good". He was succeded by Sir Alec Dougless-Home who I know even less about. I mention this, as the councillor I was chatting to would have been born at the dog end of Margaret Thatchers reign. They would have been eight or nine when John Major's reign ended and a long period of Labour domination began. For them the highly divisive policies of Thatcher, the Poll tax riots, the miners strike and support for the South African Apartheid regime (Thatcher famously described Nelson Mandela as a terrorist) are about as relevant and current as the Suez crisis is for me. A historical fact that was clearly a terrible thing but happened years before I was born.

For them, the things which shaped their view of politics was seeing New Labour wrap the UK up in a war of dubious legality and trash the economy with the crash of 2008, which we are all still paying for. These are hugely relevant. Their political views were developed under a backdrop of the the machinations of the Blair regime. Thinking it through from a rational perspective, if I was growing up through the Blair years, I would be totally antipathetic towards them. I am not at all sure where my allegiances may have ended up. I believe in social justice and I hope that would have survived Blairism. What us old timers simply don't get is that this generation of Tories have a completely different view of politics. Whilst we see Cameron as simply an extension of the Thatcherite attack on the worst off, the post Thatcher/Major generation of Tories see a completely different reality. They can excuse the austerity policies of Cameron as a necessary response to a huge financial crisis. Had Gordon Brown won in 2010, it is likely that there would have been cuts as deep as those of the coalition. They may not have persisted as long, they may have targeted different sextors of the economy, but the financial base of the UK needed rebuilding and there was absolutely no way that this could have been avoided. The chaos of the post coalition era is a different matter. I suspect that the new Tories are struggling to get their head around the fact that the party they thought was competent and capable has been shown to be a complete basket case. The strangest thing is the number of Tories who hark back to the coalition as some sort of golden era, whilst at the same time detesting the Liberal Democrats, who if nothing else, ensured the Conservatives didn't put their foot on the accelerator and drive off the edge of the cliff. If nothing else, what has happened since the 2015 election has demonstrated beyond doubt that if you have to have a Tory government, it only really can work if you have the Lib Dems to stop them committing suicide. It is interesting just how fratricidal the Tories really are, when they don't have grown ups telling them to behave. It is always worth remembering that Thatcher was shafted by her own party, not the electorate. John Major was constantly at war with "the Bastards". David Cameron had five years of competent administration when the grown ups such as Vince Cable were there to keep the Tories in line, but as soon as the electorate sent the Lib Dems to the naughty corner for sanitising such a bunch of basket cases, all hell broke loose.

Chart showing a comparison between inflation and wage growth
Earnings vs Inflation
Since the 2015 election, we've seen the true face of the Conservative party. Two leaders, neither in control of events. An economy where inflation is rising and will continue to rise, as a tight Labour market forces earnings up. Anyone who understands economics knows what happens next. Interest rates go up. When you hear there is likely to be a 2% rise over the next couple of years, it sounds fairly benign. When people realise that this means the cost of their monthly mortgage payments will double, maybe they will feel less happy.

My personal view is that after five years of administration, the point where you can blame the previous government for your woes has gone. A new government has three years to take tough decisions and two years to start building a popular platform for re-election. The Conservatives are eight years in (one way or another). The new councillors who joined Barnet Council in May are only responsible for the decisions in the council since May. I can understand a sense of bemusement about antipathy harboured from things that happened before they were born. I can well understand why mining communities still hate Thatcher and all she and the Conservatives stood for. I can understand why people of my age, who felt Apartheid was an abhorrant evil may think anyone who actively supported such a regime is beyond the pale. But by the same token, I can also understand why a 30 year old Barnet Conservative may be bemused. Of course I am sure that Labour members will quote injustices like the bedroom tax, universal credit and the other benefit changes that hit those at the bottom, but I doubt that the new intake of Tories are even aware at this stage of their effects. I'd personally take the view that blind hostilty is simply counter productive. A cup of tea and a friendly chat explaining why they joined Labour and why they believe in social justice would be a far better path to take, if you are serious about getting things done in Barnet.

The sad truth is that the Barnet Conservatives won and Barnet Labour was trounced at the Council election in 2018. Whilst I personally would have preferred a different outcome, if we are to do our bit for the Borough, we really need some fresh thinking from the Tories. This clearly will not come from the old guard, so the only rational way forward is to engage with the new intake and try and persuade them to moderate the ideological excesses of the old guard. One thing I am sure of is that any rational person would conclude that the polices the council have been following are failing and residents, especially the most vulnerable. That is why sensible dialog rather than animosity towards the new Tory intake is sensible.

1 comment:

One for the community said...

This is without a doubt one of the most sensible things I have ever read; don't blame the sins of the father on the son. All parties must work together to ensure Barnet succeeds.

Too much has gone wrong and we need co-operation from all councillors from both parties, old and new, to make the changes.

Please listen to the residents and listen to each other.