Where did the ‘One Nation’ Tories go?

Because my politics is not tribally based I hope I can try to look at the politics of other parties with at least a degree of objectivity. On this occasion, I want to look at the modern-day Conservative Party and contrast it with its not too distant past.

I look upon the present-day Conservative Party as one which seems to present itself, almost proudly, as being the party of spivs and chancers. In my view, it’s a very different beast from the former ‘One Nation’ Conservative Party of say Ken Clarke or John Major and the significant shift is possibly one that started less than 25 years ago.

My Dad, George Robertson, was a Tory, sometimes a Party member and a one-time Director of Maghull Conservative Club. Through him and via my time as a local councillor I have met many Conservatives. In straightforward terms, I’d say the vast majority of them were reasonably comfortable middle-class folk who wanted low taxes, strong law and order, their wealth protected and they could not abide liers, spivs and chancers – not cricket, un-English and rotters are how I think they’d see them.

Obviously, I did not share Dad’s politics but on one occasion, when he had the opportunity to vote for me (as I was standing in the ward he lived in), he told me that he had done so. It led to an amusing (for both of us) exchange where I pointed out that he should have voted Labour as I was too left-wing for him. However, whilst not supporting his politics I had the opportunity to try to understand them. Each day he would read his Daily Telegraph and he’d make remarks about Margaret Thatcher (I think he wondered if she was a bit too soft at times!), Tony Blair (he was far too much of a leftie for Dad), John Major (possibly too much of a leftie for the Tory Party) etc. etc. What became apparent to me was that Dad was worried about where the Tory Party was heading and indeed the Daily Telegraph too.

If I understood him correctly, he feared that standards were dropping, that spivs and chancers were coming to the fore in his party and I think his views were shared within his circle of Conservative supporting friends. To put this in context Dad died in January 2009, so I’m talking about things going on within and around the Tory Party in the years before then.

Obviously, all political parties evolve over time and they, in UK terms, drift around the political spectrum driven by political dogma or events beyond their control. However, what Dad saw happening to his Party in say the 10+ years prior to his death and then taking into account what has subsequently taken place, hasn’t the present-day Conservative Party fundamentally changed in ways that would have seemed inconceivable only 25 years ago? If Dad was concerned about the rise of spivs and chancers 15 years ago, what on earth would he think of the Tories as they present themselves now?!

So where have the Conservatives of the not so distant past gone to? Yes, many will have passed away, some will have all but been thrown out of the Tory Party and others will have left of their own accord. Yet, even taking that all into account, where have the ‘One Nation’ Tories gone to? Who are they supporting politically in the very much changed right-of-centre political spectrum?

Starmer’s Labour Party seems to be on a mission to recapture the white, working-class, right-wing voters who switched to the Tories in recent years. To do that Labour needs to look, at least to that section of the electorate, more than a little Tory and to have a policy stance right-of-centre. But, of course, these presently Tory backing electors are not middle-class, they don’t have the same values as ‘One Nation’ Tories did so is there any wonder that they’ve changed the Tory Party quite fundamentally. Indeed, Johnson and Starmer act as if the white, working-class, right-wingers are the only part of the electorate they have any interest in!

This situation leaves the majority of the electorate with a feeling of being unwanted unless, of course, they are tribal Tory or Labour voters who will continue to support their own clan no matter what it stands for. But look at it this way, who is fighting for the poor and disadvantaged in our society and who is now fighting for the middle classes? If Labour and Tories are only interested in white, working-class, right-wing voters (predominately those in work) then it means other sections of our society are being politically cut adrift but with the hope that tribal party loyalty will pull them in to vote for their usual party.

We are used to the Labour Party swinging from left to right as such has always been the case, but my view is that the Tory Party is now a very different animal from the one it was only a generation ago. Our politics, in general, is more right-wing as a right-drifting Tory Party has pulled Labour along with it too. As a Social Liberal of the left, I also worry that the Lib Dems have lost some of their radical, progressive edge which was more evident in the Charles Kennedy era.

So my case is that the Conservative Party has fundamentally changed, it has lost its previously dominant ‘One Nation’ Tories and to me, it looks like it has very much embraced spivs and chancers. A party where any form of common, mutual or state ownership is deemed to be another act of socialism that needs to be put back in the private sector. One Nation Tories could at least see a place for some public services being in public hands. And of course, the change here is that the Tory policy agenda these days seemingly has the ‘backing’ of the white, working-class, right-wingers, although in reality they are very much being played as the Conservative Party will always be about the comfortable and wealthy.

And oh yes, what about Partygate? Well, my old Dad being a Conservative with standards thought Boris Johnson was a wrongun donkey’s years ago. I think he’d have said about recent events that the man is no Conservative and should never have been elected as their leader. Indeed, I’m pretty sure Dad would have walked away from the Tories when Johnson became their leader, such was his dislike of the man.

Council tax is an unfair tax

Well, of course, no one has ever been able to say it’s a fair tax but the Northern Agenda article, linked below, makes the unfairness point only too clearly:-

e.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/interface/external_view_email.php?RJ71505719662298712zzzzz64c68a4d3e1794bc99a33b43250a6a9c232f6ba71613cef4688be9e3596964a40e&varId=

Anyone would think that a more fair and equitable way of funding local government had never been thought of or proposed. Oh but hang on, wasn’t it those pesky Liberal Democrats who found what they thought at the time (Charles Kennedy era) was a solution – Local Income Tax – based on the ability to pay? Think it may well have been! Here’s a link about LIT from Institute for Fiscal Studies:-

ifs.org.uk/publications/14006

Now the Lib Dems are not so keen on LIT as the solution to local government financing but, apart from a little tinkering around the rough edges of Council tax, there’s not really much of a political push from any direction to find a local taxation methodology that’s fairer, particularly towards the less well off/less affluent parts of the country.

Too difficult a nut to crack? Fear of the political consequences of proposing a fairer system, if the middle classes don’t like it? Too many memories about the Poll Tax?

Blair gets a gong and 1m signature balloon goes up!

Blair, if you put Iraq to one side, was the most progressive PM in generations; go on give me the name of a recent PM who was more progressive?

And the reason I’m blogging about Blair now? I’m told 1 million people have signed a petition asking for his Knighthood to be rescinded.

Yes he was too right-wing for me as a Social Liberal of the left, yes in my view (in European terms) he was akin to a Christian Democrat, yes he was a policy ditherer too, taking far too long to get on with things. But despite all that he’s still the most progressive PM we’ve had in generations, so doesn’t that show how right-wing the rest have been!

I’m ignoring Brown here as I never got where he was coming from, although he’s become a bit of a Jimmy Carter-type in retirement i.e. looked upon as a statesman, but only after he’d left office.

But the other thing for as an observer of politics like me is how much Labour Party members and supporters dislike Blair, indeed they seem to look at him in the same way they look at Thatcher! I’ve lost count of Labour backers slagging off Blair so I’m guessing many of the 1m signatures on the petition to get his gong removed will be Labour members and supporters.

Starmer has backed Blair’s award but then again he had little choice. If you think about it Starmer is of the Labour right-wing, some say he may even be right of centre with regard to British politics. On that basis, he’s going to want to back the award to Blair. However, I bet he’d rather have kept quiet as he knows his party members will be 80%ish against Blair. But saying nothing was not an option because it would make him look like a leftie and that’s the last thing he’d want as he tries to get the white, working-class, right-wingers back within Labour’s tent. So he was cornered and had to say he backed Blair’s gong.

My point here is that as someone of the left I’ve not been motivated to add my name to the petition, indeed I saw the award as an inevitability at some point. Yes, I know the vast majority of the signers will be to the right of my politics and I also accept that there’s a case for Blair to answer with regard to Iraq and its long-running humanitarian and terrorism consequences. But, from a cynical perspective, I see the campaign against Blair’s award being driven, at least in part, by those who find it a useful distraction to help turn away eyes and ears from the appalling government we presently have. We can’t do anything much about the things Labour did under Blair, they are history. However, we progressives can try to turn the screws on Johnson and his wretched government and frankly that should be very much our aim as opposed to refighting battles of the past no matter how much Labour members enjoy such blood letting.

Brexit Deal – ‘celebrating’ abject political failure

Welcome to the UK at the end of a terrible 2020. Like everywhere else on earth we’re battling against Covid 19, but we’re also very troubled with our own self-destructive need to shoot ourselves in both feet. For years our politicians and our press have found ways to blame foreigners, the EU, the French indeed pretty much anyone outside of the UK for our own self-made troubles. The whole sorry mess has culminated in what looks to be a wretched Brexit Deal which is bound to be one of the greatest acts of self-harm this country has imposed on itself in living memory. Just look at the deal; it’s terrible:-

We often look to the right of politics to blame for our Brexit debacle but in reality the supposedly progressive parties have sadly had a big hand in this process as they’ve found themselves unable to effectively rise up and oppose it; an abject failure of leadership across the board.

The Tories found themselves being infiltrated by UKIP and latterly the Brexit Party in a far more successful way than Militant ever infiltrated Labour in the 1980’s. Many senior Tories acted like appeasers and they were rolled over and left politically dead. But not content with allowing narrow nationalism to take over their party they then elected as their leader the most unsuitable person just about ever to lead them and be Prime Minister. There can’t have been anyone within the Tory Party who was not aware of his flaws, indeed he’d changed his views over the EU from being a staunch backer of it to exactly the opposite and that can only have been for political power which could not have been gained otherwise. He’s proved to be the disaster that pretty much everyone thought he would be, but that’s of course no surprise at all.

But where has the official opposition been during this period of political turmoil? Labour under both Corbyn and Starmer have been fence sitting, hiding behind their Brexit sofa and trying not to be an opposition because too many Labour supporters on it’s right wing and even a few on its left wing are Brexiteers. Indeed, many of its white working class supporters helped to deliver Brexit by voting for Johnson’s Tories at the last election! Many of us progressives thought Starmer was having his wings clipped when he was Corbyn’s Brexit Spokesperson but sadly he’s hardly moved Labour from its ‘hide behind the Brexit sofa’ position at all as their new leader. He now even says Labour backs Johnson’s terrible deal!!!!!

And what of the pro-EU Lib Dems? Some false dawns prior to the last General Election came to nothing as they were unable to win the hearts and minds of voters even many who actually agreed with them! Suffering a lack of high profile leaders since the tragic loss of Charles Kennedy they’ve been unable to communicate with voters at all well of recent years. Like Labour they went for a safe pair of hands (Ed Davey*) after political trauma when their new leader desperately needed to be a Kennedy/Ashdown kind of communicator who voters would take notice of. Predictably, having gone for the safe pair of hands, the Libs have not been cutting through and frankly Starmer & Davey might as well be a firm of high street accountants for all the good they’ve done at Westminster. Both are worthy, both may well be steady Cabinet members but neither are leaders of women and men.

If you’ve got this far I’m guessing you’re not a Brexiteer and that you realise there’s nothing, literally nothing, to celebrate with our former ‘oven ready’ Brexit Deal. We’ve trashed our economy and our neighbour trading relationships because voters were convinced (in 2016) that most if not all of our ills were the fault of the EU which, despite its many faults, it rarely was/almost never had been. The power of our right wing press to get what it wants and implant its views in elector’s minds has indeed been proven.

And what next? I’m of the view that Scotland will probably leave the UK and re-join the EU at some point. I’m also of the view that what has gone on will have hastened a united Ireland. I’m supportive of both I might add. The thing which is bizarrely working in Brexiteers favour though is Covid 19 as the wrecking of our economy can at least be blamed on that with the Brexit effects being concealed. How bizarre is that? So be prepared for many more years of blame for our ills on ‘others’ as Brexiteers are not going to stop lying to you.

From my perspective as a Social Liberal of the left and a progressive politician by instinct we need credible leaders on the left who can communicate with voters. Blair was successful as he could communicate well. Yes I know, he went off the rails big style over Iraq etc. but I’m taking about a real communicator. Politicians like him and Ashdown and Kennedy and John Smith are few and far between these days but if Liberals, Social Democrats and the Socialists who aren’t Brexiteers want to rid UK politics of our nationalistic politicians they’ve got to find such leaders and when found they need to sitting on the sofa with electors not hiding behind it!

Click on the scans of the Brexit Deal graphics to enlarge them

* But I do give credit to him for saying he won’t support Johnson’s Brexit Deal

Why I’m backing Layla Moran for Lib Dem Leader

This is Layla’s* vision for a better future for us all. It was published via the Independent 27th May:-

‘Around the world, people are looking to their leaders for guidance. Some people will feel safe and hopeful. Others may feel uneasy and question their nation’s choices. In moments like this, decent leadership can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.

For me, the best leadership is calm, measured and purposeful. It is open, transparent and direct. Good leaders spell out what they and their parties stand for, allowing people to grasp the ideas, embrace change and move forward together.

So, as I enter the Liberal Democrat leadership race, I want to make my vision for our country clear. In the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, I want to champion a more compassionate and cooperative United Kingdom that gives every person and our planet a chance to thrive.

Where everyone has access to high-quality education and retraining. Where politicians work together to help the most vulnerable, and key workers are respected and paid a fair wage. Where we cherish nature as the finite resource it is, rather than continue the managed exploitation we have now.

As a former teacher, education is close to my heart. I joined the Lib Dems because their education policies are best placed to ensure every child is world-ready, not just exam-ready. The educational inequalities that existed when I first joined the party more than 12 years ago are still here; in fact, many have become further entrenched.

When I reimagine the education system, I picture more investment in the early years, to reduce inequalities before children get into a classroom. More power for teachers to design a world-class education system, which recognises and supports children with practical skills as well as academic. And, a nationwide adult retraining programme to get people back on their feet and into work.

Our economic approach also needs urgent change. As the country recovers, we mustn’t leave anyone in our society behind. A Universal Basic Income is necessary to support those who fall on hard times. We must invest in education, health, social care and public services, and give all frontline workers the support they deserve. And let’s prioritise our wellbeing and mental health alongside economic growth, because now more than ever, we need to move forward positively and compassionately.

We have an opportunity to steal a march on the environmental crisis, too. In the past months, travel has reduced, and the demand for coal and oil has plummeted. This presents us with a precious opportunity to flatten the climate curve.

I want to see a UK which is not just carbon neutral but carbon negative. Young people, given they will have to carry this burden for us all, should be involved in the decision-making processes for achieving this ambitious goal. We must acknowledge the part that biodiversity catastrophe plays in pandemics, and recognise that to build resilience, we need to talk about habitat as well as carbon.

In areas such as education, economy and environment, the country simply must move forward, rather than look back. This is where I would start as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, along with our ongoing campaigns to reform our political system and challenge threats to human rights in the face of populism and authoritarianism, at home and abroad.

Of course, to make real progress and seriously challenge the Conservatives, the Lib Dems need to move forward as well.

For too long, we’ve become more defined by what we’re against, rather than what we’re for. The party lost trust when many supporters questioned our judgement in entering a coalition government. Subsequent leaders have struggled to move us on from this. We’ve also lost our campaigning edge; we need to rediscover a bold vision and also build the machine to deliver it.

Under new leadership, the Lib Dems must work together at all levels of the party, to rebuild our campaigning strength, listen to voters and restore trust. We need a national brand that complements local council successes, rather than imposing messages that work against local aims. We need to build broad support across the country, and we need to live (and look like) our values of diversity and inclusion.

This approach has worked in my constituency, where building cross-party support, listening to voters, and a strong campaigning effort led to an 8,000-vote increase in my majority in December.

I’ve listened to Lib Dems members and cross-party voters since then, and I’ve included their contributions in my bold forward-vision for our future, with education, economic fairness and the environment at its heart.

The sliver of silver in the clouds of this crisis is the once in a generation opportunity make our country fairer and more liberal. The moment for change exists, and with the right leader and vision, progress is within the Lib Dems’ grasp. We just need to reach out, seize this moment, and move forward as a strong and united party.

That’s why, throughout the leadership contest, I will be asking Lib Dems members to move forward together – and Vote Layla.’

My Views on Social Liberalism, Layla and the late great Charles Kennedy

I’ve spent pretty much all of my adult life to date pressing the case for what I see as Social Liberalism. I’ve been a lifelong trade unionist with very much left of centre views but I have never identified as a socialist as I see socialism as too authoritarian and centralising of power. The Labour Party whilst at face value being of the left is actually a very odd mixture of right, left and centrist politics, always at war with itself via its many sects. I’m a free thinking person, and an environmentalist and I want to embrace good ideas wherever they may come from; UK politics is far too tribal and it’s the reason we are in the mess that we are.

I see Layla as a breath of fresh air who will take on the establishment and fight for the common good but from a radical standpoint. I hope she will both be elected as Lib Dem leader and that she will take the Lib Dems back to the kind of left of centre politics it pursued under the late great Charles Kennedy.

And before the whataboutery starts, of course this initial standpoint does not cover all aspects of policy.

* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and a candidate for Lib Dem Party leadership

Alastair Campbell’s guide to surviving isolation

Like Gordon Brown and ex-US President Jimmy Carter, Alastair Campbell is someone we’ve probably come to respect far more after they’ve left the top job which made them famous. I’m sure there are other examples you can think of too.

I like this 20 point guide by Alastair on how to survive isolation. Go on have a read and look past the politician you maybe once cared little for as he is far more than that. Here’s a link to his blog article that may just help you through the coming weeks:-

alastaircampbell.org/2020/03/twenty-tips-for-guarding-against-depression-and-anxiety-in-the-era-of-self-isolation/

But look at number 9 again and then look at this video:-

twitter.com/campbellclaret/status/1213100165579579392?lang=en

Yes Campbell and Kennedy were good friends and what a haunting tribute to his old chum…….

And the photo at the head of this posting? Because it is peaceful and tranquil………..