The Conservative party have finally shed the venomous and divisive characteristics of their old ways, and are now a modern, progressive, caring, equalitarian party that even the most progressive minded political observer could seriously consider voting for.
This is essentially what the party’s publicity machine, headed up by former News Of The World editor, and professional “It’s nothing to do with me guv” excuse thrower Andy Coulson would have you believe in their myriad of election campaign messages.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. This is all fine and dandy. People can, I suppose change. If I had ever rented a room at Lizzie Borden’s house though, I think I would have insisted that I undertake the chopping of firewood, just be safe, but I am sure that a leopard can at least try and change its spots.
This remarkable transition however, does leave me in a quandary.
Thanks to the Conservative party, I have now had my preconceptions of the educational establishment within this great country of ours ripped to shreds, rather like the Saturday plans of a low income parent who intends to use a sure start centre, post any David Cameron victory.
I was always of the view that the reason people shelled out such eye watering amounts of money to send their often below average intelligence offspring to private and public schools was to afford them the opportunities that will propel them into the higher echelons of business, politics and consultancy, regardless of their ability to compete successfully on an even playing field.
Many of the MPs in the approaching parliament will be alumni from the elite public and private schools, and the majority of the Conservative leadership fit into that category. Labour are not above criticism in this field though, with Harriet Harperson, Alistair Darling, and a throng of other leading figures benefitting from fee paying education.
I accept that this on its own is no bad thing, and it would be quite wrong to dismiss any of these people simply because of the fact that their parents paid for their education.
However, when you look at the actions and intentions of the Tories and the Labour party, you begin to see that although these two groups of politicians share an affiliation with the educational elite, they have used what they have learned in markedly differing ways.
The Conservative party have dispelled entirely the myth that a privately financed education leads to greater literacy and numeracy skills, whereas the Labour party have used the skills gleaned within the public and private school sectors to flip flop between their constant and diametrically opposed appeals to the working class voter, and to the captains of large scale commerce and big business.
Over the last week, David Cameron (sorry, I meant to say the Conservative Party) declared all out war against Labour’s plan to raise National Insurance Contributions. (Call me) Dave stated that the rise was a ‘tax on jobs’ and was a measure that would ‘kill the recovery’ He then gathered 68 captains of big business together to shock the nation by saying that they were opposed to an increase in taxation on their massively over inflated salaries, and they claimed that any such move would ‘put them off hiring more staff’ in the future. (Call me) Dave also stated that, if elected, he (meaning his party, obviously) would instigate legislation that would limit public servants who are in senior managerial roles to earning a maximum of 20 times the salary of their lowest paid workers, yet stayed strangely quiet about the massive gap between the earnings of Chief Executives and Directors within the private sector, and the wages of their lowest paid staff.
He also claimed that the Tories could save billions in getting rid of governmental waste and streamlining back office local government posts, all without confirming whether or not there will be any redundancies, which would place further strain on the benefit system, and potentially throw yet more people of working age on the scrapheap.
All of these promises of efficiency look to be very feasible you may say. But when you look closely at the figures, and the effect that these proposals would actually have, it becomes plain for all to see that the Conservatives are just as flimsy as they ever were.
For a start, the ‘extra’ strain on business will be minimal. The M&S Chief Executive Sir Stuart Rose claimed that this increase in National Insurance would ‘put him off’ hiring more staff. What a complete load of twaddle!
For one thing, I cannot see a chain of stores like M&S whose sales are up markedly on comparable periods in preceding years, allowing their stores to go unstaffed despite the obvious need for hiring, simply because the NIC rate has been increased by 1%.
It is estimated in some quarters that, for an organisation the size of M&S, the additional cost of employing staff following any increase in NIC would amount to a figure in the region of £10m. Not good when placed in the context of a fragile economic recovery I hear you say, yet the scene changes again when you take into account that M&S paid the very same Sir Stuart Rose a ‘golden hello’ payment of £15m. So if Sir Stuart were truly concerned about the effect upon his company of any increase, surely he is duty bound as captain of the ship to return his golden hello payment in order to mitigate the effect. At the time of writing this blog, no such offer from Sir Stuart was forthcoming.
Strangely enough, I didn’t see these figures printed in The Sun, Daily Mail, Express, or any other Cameron worshipping newspapers during this debate.
As regards the plan to find billions in efficiency savings in the public sector, the current figure trumpeted by (Call Me) Dave is some £27 BILLION. This is almost the entire defence budget for the United Kingdom.
They have claimed that they will achieve this by implementing measures such as harmonising backroom positions in local councils, and not recruiting more staff when existing staff move on. What they seem to have ignored is the fact that, firstly, this is once again going to put more people onto benefits, thereby placing more strain on the nation’s finances, and having the effect that I have described above.
They have also shown a pronounced lack of understanding of how the public sector works. The commitment to not recruit further staff is discredited further when you take into account the fact that around 8% of public sector staff leave their posts for other jobs within the public sector. 8% of such a body of workforce represents a massive amount of people. If they cannot move because of a recruitment freeze, then the Tories efficiency claims are thrown into chaos, because the vacancies will not be there for any would be Tory administration to leave unfilled, thereby undermining any financial advantage to the tax payers of this great nation. A hit and a miss for (Call Me) Dave.
The only alternative for any Tory government, in order to compensate for this is for them to make redundancies on a large scale. It staggers me that none of the Tory strategists have factored this into their plans.
This staggering error points to one of three possibilities being true; Either the Conservative party have a massive misunderstanding of the way in which the public sector works, in which case they show themselves to be as disinterested in the low paid workforce that administers the essential services of this great nation, as well as being as untrustworthy as they ever were, or the privately financed elite educations that they benefitted from, and which propelled them to their current
elevated positions have left them so ill equipped in mathematical and analytical terms that they are simply unable to see where it is that their plans go wrong.
It is entirely possible, I believe, that (Call Me) Dave was too busy dictating the letter which was hastily endorsed by the 68 big business leaders, and briefing Sir Stuart ‘Golden Hello’ Rose for his appointment with the TV cameras that he forgot to check his figures before firing up his propaganda machine.
The third option is that they are perfectly well aware of the fact that they are going to have to make wholesale cuts to the public sector workforce, but have decided against being open and honest with the electorate about this fact.
I know that it is a shocking thought to deal with, so I would respectfully call upon you to take a moment and just process that idea. Take a deep breath before continuing. In an attempt to be fair about this issue, they do claim to be reformed characters, so I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, and refrain from claiming that they are being dishonest or deceptive about their plans for hard working public servants.
The Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Dr Vince Cable MP has estimated that the net result of Tory plans for the public sector could result in 20,000 to 40,000
redundancies. Can our creaking benefits system really deal with an additional 20-40,000 skilled people claiming Job Seekers Allowances and Housing/Council Tax Benefits, as well as local authorities having to re-house those who lose their homes as a result of the inability to pay mortgages and other credit?
The Tories are obviously either, disinterested and incompetent, or they are so poorly educated despite the immense parental investment in their educations, that they could be perceived as the personification of why it that wearing the correct school tie will always outweigh your qualifications, or abilities when moving in conservative circles.
Either way, the result of allowing the Tories to get their hands on the public sector would be a disaster for our economy.
The Labour party, on the other hand are no better. They have been sketchy at best in identifying areas within which they can cut waste out of inefficient areas of the public service, of which its most ardent supporter must surely admit that there are many. They have only grudgingly admitted at the eleventh hour that there will be ‘some job losses’ although they will not go into specifics.
The Labour party have developed a culture and a practice of serving the gods of re-election, rather than serving the British people. This has resulted in them responding to every problem by slapping a target on it and calling a press conference. Their strategy is to try and smother the flames of voter discontent with a blanket of statistics, seemingly hoping that we become so confused by the numbers that we simply stop questioning them, and give Labour our votes just so they’ll stop the constant attack of numerics.
On the specific issue of National Insurance though, Alistair Darling has said that he had a choice of raising NIC or VAT, and decided to target National insurance because VAT would impact upon the least well off instead off a raise in NIC for those earning in excess of £20,000 per annum. I have to admit that I can see the sense in that to an extent.
Obviously, we all are going to have to pay more in order to help sort out the mistakes of an exalted few in the City of London, we all know that, and it is a sour fruit that we shall have to collectively suck on in order to aid the recovery of the economy.
Surely though, it would make more sense to instigate a raise in income tax, thereby placing the greatest burden upon those with the broadest financial shoulders. If this were to be instigated in partnership with real reform of the tax system, the strain would be placed fairly and squarely upon those able to take it, and not those within society who are struggling to make ends meet.
The Liberal Democrats propose to abolish income tax for the first £10,000 of all earnings, thereby making people £700 better off on average using current rates. This is the kind of fair, progressive tax policy that the UK needs in order to rein in the massive deficit that the country faces in the fairest way possible, with those most able to take the strain contributing most.
These tax proposals would mean that approximately 3.6m people would not pay any income tax. These are among the lowest paid workers in Britain, and are amongst those most susceptible to poverty, as are their children, and both the Labour Party and the Tories have no plans to direct any kind of policy toward these people in order to help them do more with their lives than survive.
It’s a strange thing to say, but politics is one of the greenest businesses around. When you look at the policies of two of the major parties, they are based very firmly around the principles of recycling.
Some of the attitudes of New Labour could well have been wrenched from the philosophies of Thatcher, turning their backs on the commitment made to the 1994 party conference to nationalise the railways if elected and becoming the ‘hungry puppy’ of big business.
The Conservatives under David Cameron have tried as hard as Lord Ashcroft’s millions would let them to emulate the project that was New Labour, casting aside the party’s traditional elitist, unjust and outdates policies and guiding principles for the benefit of the massed media and trying to project an image of caring about the working classes and campaigning on the environment.
The big difference between the two is that where the Labour Party made a public and pronounced act of moving smartly to the right and putting clear space between themselves and their paymasters in the trade unions, they continued this conversion when the cameras were turned off.
The Conservatives, on the other hand have shown on a number of occasions, that as soon as the media walks away and the spotlight is turned off, they revert to type, aspiring to govern from their own ivory towers, believing the same old tired dogma that they have always believed, and looking to return Britain to the nightmare of the 1980’s.
During the recent financial crisis and electoral campaign we have seen Labour stealing policy ideas from the Liberal Democrats, continuing the cycle of recycle and re-use (in some circles it would be known as stealing) and ignoring the fact that in some cases, only months ago these same policies were being ridiculed by both Labour and the Conservatives, yet now both sides seem ready to deride the party in public, yet love bomb them in private!
It is clear to see that the only party that is truly setting the agenda, being clear about what is in store, open about how pledges will be financed, and making real plans that will deliver the kind of democracy and politics in this country that are not centred on protecting the right of the privileged few to claim for duck houses, toilet seats and first class train travel, and that party is the Liberal Democrats.
There are some that claim that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a wasted vote. How can it be a wasted vote when that vote is for fairness in tax reform, greater powers of arrest, detention and removal for the Border & Immigration agencies, responsible banking law, the separation of investment and high street banks, greater investment in public transport, the reform of the most rotten parliament in the western world, and real investment in healthcare and education?
If you truly believe that these pledges are exactly the kind of honest, fair and progressive policies that this great nation needs in order to kick start the economic regeneration and deliver more jobs, responsible investment, and an environment that will be fit for our children and grandchildren, then I would respectfully suggest that you should give serious thought to voting Liberal Democrat on May 6th.
It is important that you do not waste your vote. It is imperative that you don’t waste this opportunity to secure real change.