This is a conversation I have had recently with a Tory councillor.
Me: Why is the Tory Party obsessed with gay marriage and Europe?
Tory: Yes no-one really cares about these things outside the Party
Me: So where do you stand on these issues?
Tory: I’m in favour of Europe and gay marriage!
Me: Aren’t you in the wrong Party?
So this is just one conversation but typical of many that I have had over recent weeks in a variety of places. The ‘one nation’ Tories are in despair. Their champion, Ken Clarke has been largely pensioned off. The swivel eyed nutters are out in force talking about things which appeal to them and them only whilst the rest of us want to talk about the economy, benefits cuts and a whole range of real issues that are affecting lives here and now.
When public utterances are made they are ones that have tacked to the right. Desperate to prevent a further flight of voters to the even more fruit cake UKIP the Tory high command is shooting off its left foot to conserve its right wing. For the fourth decade in a row the apparition of feckless teenagers getting pregnant to get a flat and lounging beer swilling oiks on benefits taking the money out of the hands of long-suffering middle England voters has been enough to raise a cheer and appeal to the visceral instincts of the Daily Mail leader writer.
I just wish some of these people would just come and meet some of the unemployed they condemn so readily to squalid housing and blighted lives. Of course there are some people who are unemployed who just milk the system. They know how to get every possible penny of benefit from the state and put nothing back. Truly if they used their ingenuity to do something positive they could make a fortune. BUT that is not a description of most people who are unemployed. Most people who are unemployed want to work but there is no job available for them. Partly this is true because they don’t have the skills needed in a modern economy. We have destroyed most of the jobs where they could use the skill and intelligence which lies in their hands. Many however, just cannot get a job for the simple reasons that there aren’t any.
A small minority in the Tory Party know this. A small minority resent having a Party Co-chair who seemingly has a different name for every day of the week. As one person put it to me, “Tories used to have lots of names because they were aristocrats. Now they have them to make money on the web”.
What those one nation Tories want is a society in which fiscal responsibility is employed to ensure that the nation can pay out appropriate benefits to those that need them. Many in the Labour Party adopt a similar position. Indeed if you leave aside the absurdity of Ed Millibean saying he will make cuts and not reverse the ones already made but will march against cuts, then a large proportion of the Labour Party is in the same place. Remember that for every £8 of cuts that the coalition government has made the last Labour government were proposing £7 worth of cuts.
So let’s look at some figures. In my view some 30% of the electorate (nowhere near enough to create a majority even in our terrible voting system) will always occupy a right wing view point which people like me will always find unacceptable. Similarly some 20% of the ‘left’ will be in a similar loony tunes position demanding more and more payments out of the government whilst not caring too much about the need to get more and more payments in. That leaves some 50% of the public and possibly a higher proportion of people who are politically committed in that centre ground of fiscal responsibility and social concern which can be broadly described as ‘liberal’.
My view is that it is possible that there could and should be a convergence around these two complementary themes and that a new consensus government could be formed in the future but only if four things take place:
- That we are all honest about where the Country is now. We can all play the blame game about who’s fault it is that we have massive deficits but that will not move us forward.
- We need to be honest about what is affordable and what is not. A key problem is that many people want USA level taxes and Scandinavian level services. This is a vicious circle that cannot be squared.
- We need to have real debates and discussions about who is responsible for what in society. Of particular concern is the growing number of us who are living longer but with very real chances of becoming mentally or physically infirm. What is the role of the state, the individual and the family as people make the journey into old age on which I will shortly be embarking myself.
- We end the playground politics of accusation and counter accusation and work together to resolve these serious problems to which all have contributed and to which all must contribute if they are to be resolved.
Is grown-up discussion and debate too much to ask for in a country which has a proud reputation in parliamentary democracy? If I can join the Labour party in problem solving around the budget (and believe me many a harsh word has been spoken between Labour and the Lib Dems in Liverpool over the years) is it too much to ask that our ‘betters’ in Westminster do the same?
Let’s see shall we?!