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Cameron isn’t colonising the centre. That’s fraudulent spin

(10 Posts)
blacksunday Wed 07-Oct-15 21:11:06

Tories pose as progressives as they lurch to the right. But posturing can’t mask people’s own experience

Where once Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were the sultans of spin, David Cameron and George Osborne have now seized their crowns. At the Conservative conference in Manchester – a city that boasts not a single Tory MP or councillor – the prime minister and chancellor spun themselves into the political stratosphere.

This is a world of positioning and posturing unbound. Liberated from the Liberal Democrats, the Tories have reinvented themselves as “progressives” and champions of “working people”, crusaders for “social justice” against the “scourge of poverty”. In their most surreal flights of fancy, they even boast of being what until last month no Labour leader for a generation would have dreamed of claiming to be: the “workers’ party”. Their media retinue are dazzled by the cleverness of it all. Imagine, posing as your opponents, who could have ever imagined such a thing?

This, it is said, is the ultimate pitch for the elixir of politics, the “centre ground” (or “common ground”, when Cameron is trying to appease his restive right wing) – from which the triumphant Tories will command all they survey. and drive Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour insurgency to the outer fringes of the known political world.

Put on one side for a moment where this fabled centre ground is in fact to be found. In media and political class orthodoxy, it’s located somewhere between the main parties, anchored in an elite conception of regulated capitalism and social liberalism. If it were judged by the mid-point of public opinion, on the other hand, it would include support for public ownership and high taxes on the rich, as well as tougher immigration controls.

But wherever you choose to locate this centrist territory, Cameron’s Tories are clearly not colonising it. What they are colonising is centrist, or even traditionally centre-left, rhetoric. Osborne was quite frank about it this week. In 2012, after he was booed at the Olympic stadium, he made a “conscious effort to get out and communicate”. So now he talks about “governing for the many” and looking after “working people” with the best of them.

This is the playbook pioneered by Tony Blair, whom Cameron and Osborne revere. The difference is that when Blair and Gordon Brown promised light-touch regulation and low taxes on the rich, they meant it, and stuck to it. But when Cameron and Osborne wax lyrical about protecting working people, it’s strictly for the cameras.

When it comes to hard policy, that couldn’t be clearer. Instead of property developers having to deliver social housing for rent, Cameron revealed on Wednesday, they will now be able to build new “starter homes” to sell, out of the reach of those on average earnings in most of the country.

If prisons aren’t working, sell them off, the prime minister declared. As for Osborne’s “devolution revolution”, his abolition of the uniform business rate will only give councils the right to cut taxes. A few will be able to make capped increases, but only if they are signed off by private businesses. In other words, after five years of deep cuts, local authorities will be forced into a dutch auction in taxes to attract investment, while withdrawal of grants will widen the gap between richer and poorer areas – and north and south.

And for all his talk of a northern economic powerhouse, even Osborne conceded in Manchester that he didn’t know “if it will work”. The only other concrete expression of the supposed Tory pitch to the centre is the plan to increase the minimum wage to £9 an hour by 2020 for over 25-year-olds.

But since the only aim of the rise is to allow a far more savage cut in tax credits that will leave 3 million low-paid working families £1,300 a year worse off, while corporation and inheritance taxes have been slashed for the wealthiest, it hardly qualifies as any sort of shift to the political centre.

On the contrary. A Conservative party funded by bankers and hedge funds that now claims to represent working people is preparing to drive down the incomes of supermarket workers and cleaners, deepening inequality in the process, while its multimillionaire health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, insists that losing the cash from the public purse will give them “dignity and self-respect”.

Add to that the trade union bill now going through parliament, which will not only effectively outlaw most strikes but will strip Labour of the majority of its trade union funding, and the authoritarian, anti-worker inspiration of the Cameron-Osborne administration can’t be seriously doubted.

“You head back to the 1980s”, the chancellor told Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party on Monday. But that is exactly what his own government is doing. Cutting public services and benefits, passing anti-union laws, selling off social housing and overseeing vast privatisations: it’s like an action replay of the Thatcher years.

If you look at what they’re doing, rather than what they’re saying, the Tories aren’t occupying the centre at all, however defined. They’re clearly moving to the right. The fact that they feel it necessary to give that a sort of social-democratic veneer reflects a recognition that their own social base is fragile. Cameron won the election, after all, with the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate.

It also helps to explains the extremism of the prime minister’s attack on Corbyn as a “Britain-hating terrorist sympathiser”. The Tories are determined to fix a grotesque caricature of the Labour leader in the public mind in case what he stands for starts to resonate more widely – a danger recognised in debates on the Conservative conference fringe.

But their real problem is that rhetoric won’t cut through unless it’s reflected in people’s experience. Polling shows the public already regards Cameron as having moved further to the right since the summer. As the next phase of cuts in services, benefits and tax credits bite in spring, affordable housing becomes further out of reach, economic recovery continues to falter and Conservative divisions on Europe erupt, no amount of “progressive working people” posturing will mask reality. The Tories have reached the outer limits of spin.

claig Wed 07-Oct-15 22:09:20

'This is the playbook pioneered by Tony Blair, whom Cameron and Osborne revere.'

I agree with that. They are modernisers, Blairites.

'If prisons aren’t working, sell them off, the prime minister declared. As for Osborne’s “devolution revolution”, his abolition of the uniform business rate will only give councils the right to cut taxes. '

Yes, but this is only the Blairite agenda continued. Lots of their policies are lifted from the Labour manifesto and lots of Blairite Labour luvvies serve as their "czars". The business rate devolution is a Labour idea initially.

Economically they are moving right (just as Blair did, who also didn't undo trade union legislation) but socially the Conservatives are progressives, they can hug a hoodie as well as a Labour luvvie could. The soft social policy hides the hard economic policy, like Blair who sucked up to the rich and bankers. Of course it is all spin, just like it was for Blair.

They are "all the same", all "modernisers", "all in it together". They and the Blairites share the same centre ground and always did along with the LibDems. The one difference from the Blair years is that there is now real opposition to the Blairite progressive centre - Farage and UKIP on the right and most importantly and worryingly for the modernisers, Corbyn on the left.

Corbyn and Farage are not in the club which is why they are such a threat to the centre.

claig Wed 07-Oct-15 22:30:30

'“You head back to the 1980s”, the chancellor told Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party'

That is what they are worried about, that Corbyn will return to the old ways, Old Labour, not the modernised New Labour which is the same as the modernised compassionate hug-a-hoodie Conservative party. The Establishment has modernised its image - it is progressive on social issues, "compassionate", but follows the Establishment privatisation line on what matters to the Establishment, just as Blair did with wanting to privatise Royal Mail etc. There is no difference between them, because they are all Establishment, all Oxbridge.

What has stunned them all - the Blairites, the Tory-lites and the hug-a-hoodie modernisers - is that Corbyn defeated the Tory-lites, defeated their spin and is going back to the 1980s. Now the modernisers will have to fight the same old battle all over again, but they just lost to Corbyn with the Blairites humiliated and finished off, so who knows what will happen when Corbyn takes on the "heirs to Blair" and their Labour Blairite "czars"?

squidzin Wed 07-Oct-15 23:22:02

This mythical "centre" ground.

It's corporate. It's hedge fund city investment. It's men in penguin suits. It's the top 10%. It's not politics, it's money.

Some false notion that "centre" represents a middling compromise between scary right and loony left is total BS. Centre politics is our enemy within.

Tory are elitist psychopaths in bed with their "centre" fuckbuddy.

"If it isn't hurting it isn't working!"
"We will cut deeper than ever!"
"Let's go fuck a dead pig"

Corbyn has every chance with the Tories spinning around like headless snakes this way. Let them spin their own demise.

Isitmebut Thu 08-Oct-15 10:42:28

Soooooooooo many words, sooooooooooo little said, when the Conservatives within a coalition only began to turn around an unsustainable, economically unbalanced, fat government socialist experiment built up over 13-years - that left a TRENDING UP £153 bil government overspend - just 5-years ago.

The fact is, despite the £trillions spent, the £billions showered on the poor to keep them happy while finding jobs/homes for 3 million new citizens, inequality rose under Labour.

Tax Credits, but new tax upon tax, including Council Tax up on average 105% in England over those 13-years - and wouldn't even let the poorest workers keep their 10% income tax start rate - as real (inflation adjusted) earnings started falling from 2008.

Indeed a few of their very last tax moves was to put up the Fuel Duty and National Insurance to both employers and the workers - effectively a tax ON jobs.

And Labour can hardly pretend to be representing the factory workers, as manufacturing halved over their 13-years, much of it a few years before the crash even began.

Labour had became the party of expensive and excessive government and expensive and unchecked benefits, with no idea/cares for those workers that provide the taxes the State should treat as gold dust, not ideologically scatter as fairy dust.

And that would not have changed after 2010, as TO-DATE, they still have not worked out what they did wrong.

Pixi2 Thu 08-Oct-15 10:48:32

I listened to DC's speech.
Agree with pp, so much was said, very little held any real meaning.

Grazia1984 Thu 08-Oct-15 11:01:51

This is what people want. We voted them in. We love them. We want them to have 10 years to do their good works. The left are currently dying like a fish caught on a hook which is fun to watch but the bottom line is the Tories will rule for 5 years and will be good for Britain.

Jux Thu 08-Oct-15 13:16:53

I remember the Thatcher years. If you didn't have marketable skills or inherited wealth, if you didn't know the 'right' people, you were fucked.

Isitmebut Thu 08-Oct-15 13:43:19

Sorry Jux, so do I as a 'downtrodden' council home and inner city comprehensive school citizen who only knew a local shop owner where I worked after school - but it never stopped me working hard and doing well for decades - well above my supposed station.

But then again, back then even my 'ologies were more "marketable" than those whose education was almost entirely under a recent Labour government.

2013; “England’s young adults trail the world in literacy and maths”.

Young adults in England have scored among the lowest results in the industrialised world in international literacy and numeracy tests.

A major study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows how England's 16 to 24-year-olds are falling behind their Asian and European counterparts.

England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.

“More than four in 10 employers are being forced to provide remedial training in English, maths and IT amid concerns teenagers are leaving school lacking basic skills, it emerged today.”

So a Conservative administration improving education (as in the basics if couldn't have gone any lower), creating a vibrant economy/jobs market and getting many of those left on a scrap heap (while better motivated/qualified citizens from elsewhere came in) back to work, was far better for society and the economy, than Labour's alternative.

BareCubsHungry Wed 21-Oct-15 14:35:47

'Fraudulent spin'' I thought all spin was suspect.

Do not get why he bothered with speech, voiced nice platitudes as if talking to a child but little to it.

I honestly think they are going for a structured crash, in order to bring in a successor who will then have the legitimacy to be as nasty as they want.

My money is on Grant Schnapps.

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