Feb 202010

It strikes me that the Conservative party came to power in 1979 for the following reason.

The Labour party said, ‘The country is fucked up and needs to be fixed, and we will do so.’

And the Conservative party said, ‘The country is fucked up and needs to be fixed, and we will do so.’

And the British people saw and agreed that the country was fucked up and needed to be fixed, and decided the Conservatives’ plans were more convincing. There was only one step required on the path to judgment, and that step was determining who was more likely to fix the country properly.

The Conservative party has a much more difficult battle this year, because Labour cunningly refuse to agree that the country is fucked up and needs to be fixed. ‘Everything is fine,’ they say, ‘indulge your submerged optimism. Sure, there have been hiccoughs, but all is under control, and any attempts to say otherwise are paranoid, eschatological scare-mongering.’

So now the British people must take an extra step on the path to judgment. First, they must determine whether the country is fucked up and does need to be fixed. Then they may proceed to evaluate which party will do a better job of fixing.

But suppose the British people have determined that, as Labour says, the country is not fucked up at all? Then the Conservatives’ campaign tactics, which revolve largely around trying to convince people that they will do a better job of fixing things, appear non-sensical. In fact, the Conservatives’ policies only make sense if one believes in the fucked-upness proposition. And since Labour have cunningly refused to concede the truth of that proposition, belief in it is by no means universal.

This, I postulate, is why the Conservatives’ lead is not nearly as large as one might expect, or as it was projected to be in 1979 when conditions were similar. Labour have undermined the Conservatives’ appeal as fixer-uppers by claiming that, in fact, nothing is broken.

Therefore I propose that if the Conservatives want to win, they alter their campaigning tactics immediately. Forget ‘broken Britain,’ forget fixing Labour’s mistakes. These are not effective targets because not everyone believes they exist. Focus instead on things that virtually everyone believes in: making government more accountable, democratic, open, responsive, etc. Shoring up civil liberties and the political rights of the people. Almost nobody will argue with these. Stop blabbing on about the deficit, cuts, blah blah finance. Nobody who denies these are problems wants to listen to you going on about them; nobody who accepts these are problems is going to take your puny promises seriously.

First, begin immediately to practise what you preach re: accountability, openness, responsiveness by operating the Conservative party according to these standards. The party is a large organisation very like a government; its own record on these matters will be viewed as an accurate predictor of how the Conservatives will run the government itself. So stop the stupid infighting about selection. Stop providing local associations with shortlists chosen by non-local party leadership. Sure, you might end up with a load of straight, white male PPCs as a result, but that won’t matter because you’ll have shown that you encourage localism and democracy within your own organisation, thus giving voters more confidence that you’ll encourage it across the nation when you’re in charge.

Second, announce everything you intend to do to protect or, if necessary, restore civil liberties. Without mentioning Labour, enumerate every piece of legislation you will repeal or amend to this end. Commit to destroying the NIR and ID cards, repealing the Coroners and Justice Bill, the Digital Economy Bill (if these things have passed), the Civil Contingencies Act, RIPA, etc. If you think a Bill of Rights is desired by the populace, produce a draft and circulate it. Invite suggestions, consultations, the contributions of legal experts, constitutional experts, and so on. Actually tell the country how you intend to ensure the restoration and protection of ancient and long-held liberties.

Then leave the money stuff for later. You’re the opposition party; you don’t have access to the information you need in order to make credible promises about finance. You don’t have access to the civil service brains in the Treasury who could explain the ins and outs of the budget and recommend cuts that wouldn’t affect ‘frontline services.’ You don’t even really know where the money comes from. So quit throwing around silly figures like £7 billion. Instead, reassure people that you are committed to responsible financial management and eliminating waste, and promise that one of your first, if not your actual first, undertakings in Government will be a thorough and completely open auditing of the country’s books, after which you will commit to responsible financial practices and put the budget back into the hands of Parliament as a whole – in which every expenditure, saving, tax cut, or tax rise will have to be approved by the legislature before you can implement it.

Of course, cynicism assures me that none of this will happen, if only because the toothpaste can’t be put back into the tube. Whatever the Conservatives may say, open government, civil liberties, and responsible accounting are inconvenient roadblocks, hardships which no incoming government would deliberately impose upon itself. If you doubt this cynical worldview, all you need do is look at the glorious President Obama, who campaigned on a platform of reversing Bush’s abuses in all these regards, but since winning the election has done precisely nothing to reverse any of them.

In fact, most of Obama’s campaign was a big fat lie, if his actual record as president is anything to go by. But at least he had the sense to lie in order to win. The Conservatives, apparently, lack even that dubious distinction.

  7 Responses to “How the Conservatives can win the election”

  1. Good analysis on the economy. I said something similar to Jackart a year or so ago – no point Tories going in to detail as it will be a case of getting in to office, looking at the books and throwing their arms in the air claiming that its worse than they thought, whether it is or not.

    As to ”79, it wasn’t that clear cut a victory for the Tories. The battle ground was as much about who runs the country, the Government of the unions, as the economy and Maggie sold it as the unions fucked up the country and needed controlling, this had some resonance. The Tories didn’t win it by being popular though, Labour lost it.

  2. It’s just occurred to me. When the Libertarian Party wins, you’ll be the “First Lady”…

    He he.

  3. The country IS mega-ruined, whatever style of fantasy the scum of New Labour peddle. They have printed 200 billion and may still be unable to push the coming collapse back until after May/June (hence talk of early elections). Agree Cameron is useless and yesterdays man before he even gets in ( heard that he is trying to fiddle the Tory rulebook to make it harder for them to dump him:if true it would suggest he knows the “Hier to Bliar” tripe won’t cut it in the new world to come).It is the Blu=Labour garbage that is the Tories problem. IU am sure there is more than enough hatred for ZaNu to finish them. I doubt anyone expects much of Blu-Labour, at least with its present moron of a leader.

  4. And the fact that they’re not going to do all that is the reason I want them to lose almost as much as Labour. Same goes for the Illiberal Democrats. The only thing I can give the Conservatives any credit for is that they’ve at least come out and said they’re not libertarian, which is at least honest than being anti liberty and calling yourself a liberal (the worst offenders IMO are the Liberals here in Oz). Maybe they just lack the sense to lie about it as you suggest, but the fact that they are politicians who are actually not lying about something is a point in their favour and one of the things that makes them the least awful of the likely outcomes. Unfortunately for them I think ‘least awful’ doesn’t buy as many votes these days as it used to. Certainly isn’t going to get mine.

  5. In my opinion Cameron is stuck at 40% because he reneged on his promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. This might seem unfair as the other two parties did the same. But there was a nasty smell about the whole thing as Cameron and Hague tried to explain away the fact that they HAD reneged on their promise. Even people who think we should be in the EU think that promises should be kept.

  6. I don’t think things like ID cards will save them. Remember, there was a large majority (in polling) in favour of 90 day detention in the country. Most people don’t “get” civil rights until it happens to them; their son gets wrongfully accused of a crime, or locked up for something as harmless as dealing a little weed.

    There is no advice that I could now give to David Cameron about how to win. The damage is done. His problem is in the past, in that he focussed so much on “detoxifying the brand”, towing the line of things that the BBC would like, telling people how nice and cuddly the Conservatives are, how they won’t go cutting anything, how they care about polar bears, that they never got across a message about the irresponsible levels of spending by the government (or pushed it far back).

    The results of that irresponsible spending is now with us, and this leaves David Cameron with a problem. He now has to add responsibility into his brand image, but he can’t just ditch all his previous brand messages as that would like a man without clear direction. So instead, he’s trying to incorporate messages about responsibility while retaining all his previous messages, and as that creates philosophical conflict, the policies that come out of it are a complete mess.

    A Conservative leader with a good chancellor should be miles ahead in the polls against where Brown is. That Cameron is not is an indictment of the Conservative party who picked a lead on short-term electorability, rather than political principles.

    • A Conservative leader with a good chancellor should be miles ahead in the polls against where Brown is. That Cameron is not is an indictment of the Conservative party who picked a lead on short-term electorability, rather than political principles.

      Absolutement, my friend. Cameron could win big on my strategy, but he won’t, because he’s the Buttered New Potato with a side order of Policies Mess.

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