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Polly Tonybee on the Tory Scum conference

44 replies

ttosca · 04/10/2011 02:40

These conference sleights-of-hand will reap nothing but cynicism

In the heat of elections, politicians say anything. In the depths of a crisis, dissembling only harms our trust in the system


No change, laissez faire, do nothing, as markets around the world tumbled again in the eurozone crisis. But there stood George Osborne, the quintessential conservative chancellor, unchanged down the ages, cutting his way into a self-defeating spiral of stagnation. No more borrowing, he said ? without mentioning the £12bn extra debt his own austere policies have just added to the deficit. How archetypal of age-old Conservatism that he blames the lack of jobs on the tribunals defending people who are bullied or unfairly sacked by their employers.

That's just another example of how, at every turn here, the official theme ? Modern Compassionate Conservatism ? clashes with unfettered free-market ideology, family friendliness crashes into toughness, while "new localism" is squashed by Napoleonic central instructions on everything from bins to French for 5-year-olds. That's a contradictory trick which voters sniff out before long.

However, Osborne's firm tones explaining why austerity is the only way carried the weight of a man who believes he is doing the right, tough thing in terrible times. Growing numbers of serious critics ? this week Andrew Tyrie of the Treasury select committee ? warn him to turn back, but these are honest political and economic disagreements. Either Osborne will be proved right ? and if so, his party will be in power a long time ? or he is disastrously wrong, and his party will pay the price along with all the rest of us. If there is indeed another great cataclysm blowing in from the eurozone, trust in politics will be needed more than ever.

That is why it seems odd that so many other policies on display here are insincere, artificial and sometimes downright dishonest. This is not a disagreement over whether these policies are a good idea but whether ministers actually believe their own claims. Seasoned observers at party conferences count the small change from any announcement, watching for sleights of hand, but here the sheer scale of misrepresentation, over-promising and bogus boasts is surprising ? and in the current climate, needless. Conservatives get away with little scrutiny: when Gordon Brown fiddled his figures he was exposed within hours. But this party, with its flotilla of media support, sails away from factual economies with the truth that would have sunk Labour ministers.

Iain Duncan Smith tops the cabinet in a popularity poll among Conservative party members, and yet he is one of the worst offenders. Warm applause greeted his air of pained sanctity as he recounted tales from the inner cities. The fecklessness, the worklessness, the fatherlessness, the something-for-nothing culture sent tingling frissons down their spines. The trouble comes with his overblown claims that he can fix all the perverse incentives in the benefits system that he blames for dependency. His Universal Credit sounds impressive, but not many inspect his claim that it will solve every fiendish problem that foxed Beveridge. By alchemy it will smooth sharp tapers, and resolve housing benefit, childcare credit and contributory glitches.

Today he added another impossible. Not only will marriage be recognised in the tax system but "I intend our welfare reforms to make an impact on the couple penalty amongst families on the lowest incomes". The only way to fix that intractable problem is by giving both partners equal benefits regardless of where they live ? monumentally expensive, so the difference will be small.

A familiar bundle of other inexactitudes littered his speech, such the 250,000 apprenticeships for the young unemployed; most are cheap, short courses for adults already in supermarket jobs. He said: "The European commission orders us to open our doors to benefit tourists and pay them benefits when they arrive. I have a simple message: no, no, no." Another message is no, no, no, it's not true, and he knows it.

There are doubts about this, too. "Our Work Programme is giving new skills to people far from the jobs market", because he recently ordered all contractors not to publish any figures. Of Labour's legacy, he says: "Income inequality is the worst for a generation", when he knows how much worse his cuts will make it, from childcare to failing to uprate benefits by inflation. He makes the populist claim that he was bequeathed "massive error and fraud" in benefits, when official figures find only 0.5%. This is not honest from a man who by now knows better, nor politically necessary when the truth would do.

Why pick on him? Other ministers do much the same. A big promise this week is that releasing public land for builders will create 200,000 affordable homes and 400,000 jobs ? but Financial Times analysis calls these figures "far-fetched". The freeze in council tax gives households an average £72 a year, but councils are only being compensated less than inflation, so that means more cuts to services, and deep cuts to council tax benefit making the poorest worse off.

Bogus policies are those that ministers announce while knowing full well they either don't do what they claim or do much less. If pollsters find the public turning away, this over-promising and under-delivering is one reason why.

Voters have much to be cynical about when they look back at Conservative promises in the run-up to the election. Osborne called PFI "failed and discredited", but now he's signed deals worth another £17bn. David Cameron said there would be no VAT rise, and on child benefit he said: "I wouldn't means-test it." On scrapping EMA, Michael Gove said "we won't". Liam Fox promised "a bigger army", but now 22,000 are cut. Of the promised 3,000 more midwives, there's no sign. People remember Cameron saying, days before the election: "Any cabinet minister who comes to me and says 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again." None have been sent back so far ? while a third of police stations close, 8,000 nurses are losing their jobs, and so on. No doubt that's why I was twice abused in the street by passersby ? "Tory cunt", and more politely, "Tory scum" ? for wearing a conference pass.

In the heat of elections politicians will say almost anything. But now, in the depths of crisis, there is no need to dissemble. These things will be found out before long, and that harms not just the party that knowingly overclaims but trust in the political system itself. And some day that could get dangerous.

OP posts:
niceguy2 · 04/10/2011 06:37

Blah blah we go again.

Solopower · 04/10/2011 19:24

Thanks, Ttosca. I rather rely on Polly T to do my thinking for me (or at least to report who's saying what, what's true and what's not).

(Looking at the time of your post) Do you ever sleep, btw? Or are you out of the UK?

newwave · 04/10/2011 22:11

Blah blah we go again.

I note that you do not refute the truth of the op

breadandbutterfly · 04/10/2011 23:18

niceguy - not the most reasoned of refutations.

Sems horribly convincing to me. Wish it weren't. :(

Disputandum · 05/10/2011 13:26

I do wonder whether Niceguy's 'blah blah' comment might have been inspired by the thread title.

I didn't vote Tory but dislike the fact that there are two threads currently running in this section with terms such as this (think the other one is 'Tory bastards'). It does tend to make the OP sound like a bit of a lunatic, and not someone who is inviting reasoned debate.

ttosca · 05/10/2011 17:48

Sometimes it's important to call a spade a spade. The Tories are the party of sociopaths. No one should be under any illusion that they stand for anything but defending the interests of the richest and most powerful at the expense of everyone else.

We are the 99%, they are the 1%.

OP posts:
Solopower · 05/10/2011 18:01

Ttosca, people vote Tory for all sorts of different reasons. Why call them sociopaths?

Traditionally the Tories were the party of small businesses, women, a certain section of the working class etc etc, as well as the undeserving rich. Loads of liberals come from the upper classes, and what about champagne socialists?

I don't think it is just the Tories who have got us in this mess. It's anyone who believes in free market liberalism, imo, and they come from all parties. The problem is that it's now the Tories and Liberals who are tasked with getting us out of it, and they are making a spectacular mess of it.

Alouiseg · 05/10/2011 18:03

Polly Toynbee is a champagne socialist who would like the little people to be told what to do so they don't have to think for themselves, nor accept any responsibility.

While she swans around her Tuscan Farmhouse.

Solopower · 05/10/2011 18:13

What matters, imo, is what she writes.

However, if that's true, it's a pity about the Tuscan farmhouse (I imagine there's a Tuscan farmer somewhere who would llike to live in it but can't afford to). But as she makes her money by writing, if she succeeds in righting some wrongs in her lifetime, she might conceivably change society enough to help the lowly Tuscan farmers Hmm. That's more than the rest of us ever do, anyway.

Disputandum · 05/10/2011 21:09

Of course you're free to use such language ttosca, but such an extreme viewpoint does rather shut down reasoned debate.

You're not saying that you disagree with some of their policies, but that the ten million people who voted Tory are all morally bereft, sociopathic scum. It's not likely to engage people is it?

glasnost · 05/10/2011 21:24

Sociopaths cannot be engaged. As I've seen on my fascist US thread. Quite a few sociopaths on there.

Indirectly calling the OP a lunatic is hardly likely to engage people either, is it?

claig · 05/10/2011 21:46

ttosca said 'sometimes it's important to call a spade a spade.'
I agree with that, which is why it is acceptable to use terms like 'champagne socialist' and 'caring conservative'. But to describe the Tory party as the party of sociopaths is extreme. There have been some sociopathic political leaders of both right and left, but the British public are far too clever and tolerant to vote in a party of sociopaths. They have sometimes made the mistake of voting in socialists, but never sociopaths.

glasnost · 05/10/2011 21:49

But they didn't vote them in claig. They got in in a quasi coup like way. They have no majority or mandate. They are furthering a radical, rightwing agenda that no bugger voted for.

That's quite sociopathic.

glasnost · 05/10/2011 21:52

What's wrong with swanning around a Tuscan farmhouse btw? It can happen to the best of us.

claig · 05/10/2011 21:56

'They are furthering a radical, rightwing agenda that no bugger voted for.'

Yes, they are only furthering Blair and Brown's agenda. Labour have admitted they would on the whole have done the same thing, only more slowly.

I wouldn't call the election a coup, but I think it went as intended. The Guardian and the rest of the media (apart from the Daily Mail) all boosted Clegg up and made out he was the answer to all our prayers, with the Guardian even backing him 'enthusiastically'. I think theyy are all in it together, and they would all have done approximately the same thing if they got into power.

claig · 05/10/2011 22:00

I think what must have won the Oxbridge educated Guardian hierarchy over, was when Clegg said those immortal lines: 'you are the bosses'. Very few people would not fall for that one.

glasnost · 05/10/2011 22:01

Of course they're furthering an agenda laid down by Thatcher and. continued by New Labour. It's still true they have no mandate.

It went as intended by the business interests dominating the UK, yes.

moondog · 05/10/2011 22:04

Polly remember, wants everyone to state what it is they earn.
She won't do it herself of course and puts in planning applications under different names.Wouldn't do to have the proles knowing that she is partial to conservatories on her London home in addition to the Tuscan villa.


This is the woman woh shrieked in horror at the fact that Peter Mandelson once walked past her without knowing who she was.
The indignity!

LemonDifficult · 05/10/2011 22:04

Scum? Sociopathic? Or could it be: just people with a different set of solutions to you?

If you're looking for a reasoned debate you're not really striking the right tone, I'd say.

claig · 05/10/2011 22:05

Exactly. It went the way the establishment wanted, as it always does. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Nothing is certain, but death, taxes and the media (apart from some notable exceptions) shafting the public.

TheCrackFox · 05/10/2011 22:13

I really just don't like Polly Toynbee.

There I have said it.

claig · 05/10/2011 22:19

She's not as bad as all that. She is a big character. She puts forward an opposing view. Of course, it is usually a wrong view, but it's no crime and is shared by many of the Labour hierarchy. I like seeing her on TV, because then you know that there will be a real debate of ideas. I would rather watch Polly Toynbee on Question Time than some of the nonentities they put on there.

glasnost · 05/10/2011 22:21

Toynbee is rather the bete noire of tory types so she must be doing something right. She's a bloody good writer.

moondog · 05/10/2011 22:21

I can't bear her.
She is so burdened by her sense of righteousness and indignity (and I read her drivel every week)

claig · 05/10/2011 22:21

Oh and I would much rather watch her than all the pop stars and actors they put on Question Time in a patronising, dumbing down attempt to engage the public.

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