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.

Labour – Taking ‘right’ & struggling to be progressive

Whilst I’ve always considered myself to be of the left in terms of UK politics – I’m a Social Liberal and a retired trade union officer – I’ve never been tempted to support the Labour Party.

Under Corbyn Labour was in some ways of the left but in others – support for Brexit comes to mind – they were backing a right-wing policy. Now under Starmer (Corbyn’s former Brexit Shadow Minister) they’ve tracked even further right and are now in ERG policy territory with regard to Brexit having said a BIG NO to any involvement with the EU under any circumstances in the future! I’m sure there are still some Tories out there who are more open to being influenced on this matter!

But as I’ve said on numerous occasions Labour’s only real aim is to try to recapture the white, right-wing, working-class voters who left them and delivered us both Brexit and Johnson in 2019. That’s why Starmer always tries to put forward a right of centre agenda; no radicalism, certainly no socialism and don’t mention that dreaded word ‘progressive’ as none of that brings them back to Labour.

So where does that leave the socialists, radicals and progressives who are still within Labour’s tent? It probably means they have to cover their ears for fear of their Leader offending them!

The advantage that Starmer has as he tries to negotiate his way along a road talking ‘right’ but with some pulling him ‘left’ is that many Labour supporters will back his party no matter what it stands for; it’s a tribal, working-class, family thing. Having said that some who had never voted Tory before did so to give Johnson his 2019 majority so the crack that appeared back then is one that Labour has been desperately trying to paper over. The fear being that if the party does not look and sound ‘of the right’ not only will it not get back those who went over to the Tories in 2019 but more could follow!

So all this is why Labour looks to be an unattractive offer to progressives, radicals and left of centre moderates who are more likely to settle in the Lib Dems or Greens, with the socialists moving to more fringe parties of the left.

I’m not sure where Starmer hitches his wagon politically, maybe in the general direction of what I would define as that area of politics which the Owenite faction of the now-defunct ‘Continuing SDP’ once positioned itself – centrist-right? I’m not suggesting that Starmer’s personality is the same as Owen’s I might add.

That we are even having a conversation of this kind should indicate to us all that our politics is in a right old mess with the obvious point being that politically incompatible people are in Labour’s broad church pulling in totally different directions. This is of course a product of our warped electoral system which breads two major parties who both cover far too much political ground. In turn, when these two parties become unstable, particularly when they both go off the rails in the same/similar time period, we get them offering extreme policies and/or bizarre/incapable leaders to the nation.

To close I’ll say this, Corbyn was rejected mostly because of his perceived tax and spend agenda (personally I saw him as a 2nd Division Leader) but in Johnson, who well beat Corbyn via Labour’s right-wingers voting Tory, we have a tax and spend leader with bells on. You could not make it up!

Southport – Making the Wright choice in the General Election

I was at John Wright’s adoption meeting in Southport last night where the Lib Dem flag was being flown high by around 200 people attending the event.

John Wright – Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Southport

Of course Southport is one of the 60 constituencies across England and Wales where PC, the Greens and Lib Dems have stood down for each other so there is only one Remain candidate on the December 12th ballot paper. In Southport the Greens have stood down and it was really great that Laurence Rankin, who would have been their candidate, both attended and spoke to the meeting. Indeed, he made an excellent contribution which showed me how close many Green and Lib Dem policies really are. Here is Laurence speaking:-

Laurence Rankin the Green Party candidate standing down in Southport speaking at John Wright’s adoption meeting.

John Wright has impressed me from the first time I met him as he seems to have the ability to get along with people and understand differing perspectives. He is clearly both delighted and humbled to have the Green candidate standing down for him so he can have a clear Remain Alliance shot at the presently Tory held Southport seat.

As you might expect we heard a great speech from John. But he was also able to introduce a well known local Labour campaigner to the meeting as someone now backing him and he told the meeting that former Labour MP for Crosby Claire Curtis-Thomas had been in touch to offer her support.

Cable – has he hit the right notes here? What future is there for the center-left in UK politics?

The Guardian has a comment piece by Vince Cable on its web site – see link below

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/12/wealth-inequality-liberal-democrats-economic-reform

The left of British politics has struggled in recent times to put forward a credible alternative to the popularist right wing policies of the Tories/DUP/UKIP and this despite this same right wing cabal trying to drive through a Brexit which will hurt us all, make the poor poorer and lead to job losses and reduce investment in the UK. You would think this nightmare scenario would galvanise the left into action but sadly that has not happened.

Socialism and an economy based on private capital being invested in it never mix well

Yes Corbyn has his social policy agenda which could look good to voters at face value, but of course he is also wedded to the the right wing policy of Brexit! He’s in that rather bizarre political fix because many of his so called ‘working class’ supporters voted for a Brexit that will sadly shoot us all in the foot (but the poor more so) if it is followed through. So Labour is not presently credible because its policies of the left will be knocked out by Brexit. What’s more socialism and an economy based on private capital being invested in it never mix well. On that basis Corbyn’s lot would probably be a very unhappy one if he was given the opportunity to implement his policies. Indeed, he would be unlikely to be able to deliver his agenda other than in the very short term because economic trouble would surely be stalking him.

Influence the thinking of those across the left

So how do the ideas of Vince Cable stack up? Well he’s leading a party with a low support base so being able to implement his agenda looks to be a significant challenge. I suppose his best bet is to try to influence the thinking of those across the left, but not of the hard left of course. His agenda seems liberal, progressive and even radical. I particularly like his ideas to try to tackle the area of land value as it is of course the basis of the huge imbalance in wealth in the UK.

Back to the days of fascism?

British politics has been turned on its head since the 2016 Brexit vote. The Tories are all but UKIP under a Conservative flag these days and worryingly they have people amongst their leading lights who hark back to the days of fascism. Bluntly a political party with only around 100,000 members, many of them of the elderly, rich and far right are running this country into the ground because they will benefit from such a move. Brexit is the vehicle to achieve their aims and the left has not found a way to combat them because there’s no one of stature (with widespread credibility) on the left to lead that charge.

Breadth of support across the political spectrum

It’s as though our two major UK political parties have both gone into crisis at the same time and this really has not happened before. Labour under say David Miliband would be widely credible, Labour under Corbyn is hugely popular with a section of the British public but it does not in my view have the breadth of support across the political spectrum as Blair did to carry the day it seems.

Realignment of the left

Now don’t get me wrong Blair made some huge mistakes. Iraq obviously and trying to bring private companies into the NHS come to mind as examples but there was a much softer issue of huge importance which he let slip. It slipped ironically because of the huge majority he was given by our rather warped electoral system. That result made him think that realignment of the left need not be pursued further. His talks with Ashdown came to nothing because he thought he did not need to pursue them any more and his party was far from keen on those talks too. That was a huge error of judgement and an easy way out in my view and it probably started the decline (although no one realised it at the time other than a few enlightened folk) into the mess we presently find ourselves in.

The super rich will indeed become more wealthy at the expense of the rest of us

I have deliberately written this posting in a reasonably even handed way as I am convinced that progressives across all the parties of the center and left (although this would almost certainly have to preclude the hard left) need to find a reasonable common agenda which they can coalesce around. This needs to be done to face down the the rich and presently all too powerful right wing. If the left fails the right will reduce workers rights, environmental protections, food standards etc. on the back of Brexit and the minority of the super rich will indeed become more wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

Put tribal politics to one side?

So having gone though these sobering issues is Cable on the right track? Will anyone be listening to his ideas to re-balance our fractured society? Or will the center and left continue to beat itself up whilst letting the need for great reform in the UK flounder on the back of Brexit? My view is that Cable is putting a credible progressive plan out there which others could work around and build upon if they could just put tribal politics to one side.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Liverpool – Former Labour councillor joins Lib Dems

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-councillor-who-quit-labour-15135059

Extract from article – “I think Labour have got really complacent in Liverpool and we need councillors to hold them to account.”

JC did a runner when jobs and young people were being discussed

Well here we have the proof that Jeremy Corbyn is really not up for fighting our Bluekip Government’s crazy Brexit.

When a cross-party Leaders meeting was set up to discuss how to protect jobs and the opportunities of young people because of the devastating consequences of Brexit he was not there, indeed he refused to attend!

The empty chair was between Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable and Green Co-Leader Caroline Lucas.

The SNP were there and so were Plaid Cymru, so that’s all the supposed progressive political parties represented in the House of Commons except Labour! And also supposedly, 80% of Labour members oppose Brexit probably because they know it will make the poor poorer, reduce opportunities for young people, put up the cost of living and put jobs at risk. But hey JC’s not on that agenda!