RIP The Conservative Party
Its always fun to bash to Tories, but bear with me, this isn’t about whether the Tory party are right to do what they’re doing, its about whether they are actually a Conservative Party at all. The last weeks have seen both sides of the coalition adhering to a hardline Liberal agenda – so perhaps the Conservatives are betraying conservative values as much as New Labour betrayed its founding vision of democratic socialism.
A week and a bit ago, I sat in a pub with one of my few Conservative friends. A professed One-World Conservative, he wasn’t completely against everything his party are up to, but he certainly wasn’t happy, and that was before the spending review. We discussed what had become of the Conservative party, and how it seemed to have jettisoned many of the values that people associate with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I shudder at the thought of a paternalistic approach to helping the poor – I’m glad we’ve moved beyond much of that language – but once upon a time, being Conservative meant believing in a responsibility to through scraps to those on the margins, and to improve their lives for them. Problematic on many levels, but not the Laissez-Faire “their poverty, their problem” attitude of the current government. And that intention is now betrayed.
Sure, there will be odd throw-away gestures, but in a world where wages are likely to go down and unpaid overtime to go up (can there be a more anti-family trend?) I cannot help but wonder if people who tie together their own idea of a conservative approach to the future and to societal values are now left almost entirely without a party to vote for?
Before the election, I had a couple of conversations about why people might vote Conservative around St Michael le Belfry. There was a strong sense that more needed to be done to care for two-parent families, and that somehow the Conservatives were the better choice to match with this. I found it surprisingly easy to put some doubt over this assumption just by talking through the kinds of facilities a family would need, and which party was prepared to tax for and appropriately fund which services. I wonder how these people will feel once the Conservatives have done their worst to destroy families through unemployment, homelessness/ instability of homes, coping with family members outside of care but desperately in need of assistance and so forth.
I have commented before about the way the coalition has allowed Cameron to get rid of the moral mission of the Conservative Party and focus entirely on freeing up big business; essentially dealing with the party who’s personal and social values are most at odds with his own but who’s economic agenda is closest.
Do people who vote Conservative genuinely want a so-called minarchist state, where the only role of the state is to protect the property and business interests of those rich enough to have any from either outside forces or those inside who are left with nothing? Or do they want a stable future for their families, their children safe from the very perversions capitalism is only too happy to sell them? The Green-fields vision of a quaint, happy Britain of old, or the tooth-and-nail capitalism that the Conservatives, with their friends the Liberal Democrats, are now pursuing?
Is the Conservative party really a conservative party anymore?