Saturday, August 23, 2008

Am I turning into a Tory?

Wednesday, having been remiss in the washing clothes department, I scoured the bottom of the wardrobe. I went to work in a smart pair of black trousers, a high necked pink jumper and flat shoes. What has this got to do with the price of eggs? I hear you ask! Well, two of my colleagues independently commented. They had never seen me dressed so conservatively - what was happening?! Perhaps it was also a subliminal reaction to hearing George Osborne on the Today Programme and finding myself unable to disagree with much he said. Am I metamorphosing into a Conservative? Have I had it wrong all these years, is it the Tories who are the real progressives? Are they, as George Osborne claims, the ones to deliver a fairer society?

Well, listening to him I have to say, even though there wasn't much to disagree with, motherhood and apple pie and all that, I still couldn't help finding myself squirming at that underlying Etonesque arrogance that has always been the trade mark of so many Tories. So I was interested to read this article by Steve Richards in the Indy, comparing the tactics of New Tories with those of New Labour in the 90's. "Mr Blair made intoxicating speeches in the mid-1990s that seemed to develop an argument when he was actually avoiding one. Mr Osborne follows a similar path."

And later Richards argues -

"Like some of his other senior colleagues, Mr Osborne has read the New Labour manuals assiduously and probably knows off by heart the speeches delivered by Blair and Brown en route to their 1997 landslide. They declared that the new divide in the mid-1990s was not between high and low taxation, but fair and unfair taxation. It sounded like a moment of definitive change. But what did they mean by fair and unfair tax? What did they regard as levels that were too high? An apparently defining argument hid a thousand more important debates.

Mr Blair opened the door to Mr Osborne in other ways too. Towards the end of his leadership, he argued Labour had become too obsessed about the means in politics rather than the ends. But it is the means that are the cause of the divide between parties. Mrs Thatcher argued that her policies produced fairer outcomes compared with Labour. The arguments were over the means. No party claims that it wants an unfair society. In suggesting that the means are unimportant Mr Blair gave the Conservatives the freedom to argue that their approach is progressive because they seek fair outcomes. Every politician in Britain seeks fairer outcomes.

One of the reasons why Mr Osborne's speech is politically clever also relates to Mr Blair. The ultra-Blairites will agree with every word, the vaguely defined means as well as the ends that no one would disagree about. Out of genuine conviction as much as pragmatism, the heirs to Blair, Cameron and Osborne, cause mayhem in the Labour Party. Whether revisiting the politics of the mid-1990s is a successful route to power is another matter."

Absolutely! This is why I am uncomfortable, of course outcomes are important, but they are dependent on the means and getting the means wrong because of an underlying flawed premise, will result not only in failure but also in the kind of unfairness we have seen in both Tory and Labour Britain.

No comments: