Community Snow Clearing: Labour or Tory?

Friday, 15th January 2010 at 17:02 UTC 6 comments

Community Spirit against the Snow With the election looming, I suspect I’ll be spending more and more time trying to distinguish between the different political parties. A tweet earlier in the week caught my eye, as someone drew attention to a Times comment piece; I realise I’m dealing with lot of stuff from comment pieces right now, but apparently “Snow brings out the inner Tory in all of us”.

I thought they meant we all decided to stay at home and be grumpy, but apparently it means we all muck in and help each other. There’s something distinctly not-right about this claim. Sure, many people did come out and work together, but how does that represent the exercising of one’s inner Tory?

Margaret Thatcher once remarked that there was no such thing as community – yet this author seems to be remarking that community spirit is a Tory value. It isn’t, its more traditionally been a Labour value. The Tories do families, isolated and striving for a higher material standard of living. True, they ‘do’ private enterprise, but not the sort of team work that saw whole communities tackling the snow, helping out their less able neighbours. It would have brought out my inner Tory if I went along the road offering to dig other people’s cars out at a fiver a time.

Yes, some might use the existence of council services to justify their laziness, but that is all it is. Few if any can really have felt obliged to sit and wait for help by anything other than the cold itself. I suppose the Tory attitude I did show was to march myself through the snow without thinking to clear it for those who couldn’t. Most councils were clearly under such strain that helping them out would still have left plenty of over time for their staff, but would have been better for all of us.

I realise that much of this is based on personal views of what makes a Tory or Labour voter. But I also think that identifying sweeping your pavement with a vote for the Conservative party is asking a bit much, to be honest. The parable of the Good Samaritan, I’m afraid, I have always associated with Socialism and not with Conservatism.

When Alex Salmond told the Scottish to dig each other out, he didn’t have Lords in their castles sending the Butler to dig the driveway, he probably had community spirited team effort. This isn’t individual action, its team action, its mutual aid (actually, that’s more Anarchist than Socialist, but we’ll ignore that). And we should be glad that people aren’t now so isolationist and self-interested as to act only for themselves, which has been at the heart of Conservative policy since Thatcher, and probably long before.

At the end of the day, though,  its taking the partisan debate a long way too far if one doesn’t allow a united stand against something as straightforward and immediate as a large snowfall. Questions do need asking, policies do need reviewing, but not until the immediate problem is over. Current gritting policy is based on the worst that local councils have known. And Conservative cutbacks could create as much of a mess in future as Labour bureaucracy have to date. But before that, we need the snow to melt so we can get back on with our lives. Being a Political issue doesn’t automatically make something Party Political, and neither do old fashioned ideas of what parties stand for automatically resemble the ideology of the present day party leadership.


Entry filed under: Community, Conservatives, Labour Party, Local Council, News, Participation, Party Politics, Politics, Travel.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve th  |  Friday, 15th January 2010 at 17:47 UTC

    Despite your last sentence you still seem to associate labour with community and even socialism. Pretty sure the difference it attitude between the partys now is so minor we can view it as digging out your drive for a fiver, with the other lot claiming they can do it for 4. 99 .

    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Friday, 15th January 2010 at 18:15 UTC

      Well yes, but I would expect more from Labour, whereas I’d expect Thatcher from the Tories. I was certainly intending this to be more “don’t vote Tory” than “do vote Labour”, as there are many reasons why people might not be prepared to do even that.

      • 3. Greg  |  Saturday, 16th January 2010 at 16:58 UTC

        The article makes perfect sense to me. If you ditch the mantra of “tory = bad, left = good” and recall that a big part of right wing politics is free market economics, which sees advantage in the government taking a step back to let the grass roots manage their own affairs, which fits perfectly with people helping each other clear their own snow. On the other side we have left wing Keynesianism, which waits for the government to intervene before doing anything!

        A good example of the principle would be Tony Blair’s plan to introduce ‘foundation schools’, set up by local initiatives and relatively free of council interference. He tried this in the dying days of his premiership and though it was supported by the Tories, the plan was fatally watered down after objections from Blair’s own party, who proved themselves still to be in love with big government.

        You’ve also managed to misquote some of Thatcher’s most famous words, well done. The actual phrase is “There is no such thing as society”, closely followed by “It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.” Not so convenient for your argument, huh?

  • 4. Greg  |  Friday, 15th January 2010 at 18:23 UTC

    I can’t see a link to this comment piece. Could you provide one, please?

    • 5. Graham Martin  |  Friday, 15th January 2010 at 18:33 UTC

      Done. It was meant to be there, but I wrote it in Word and forgot to add it when I copied it across.

  • 6. Brain Duck  |  Sunday, 17th January 2010 at 21:41 UTC

    Well, when half the street seemed to be out digging snow last Saturday, no-one would let the old man who couldn’t do it pay them for digging them out.


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