Nick Cohen raised an important debating point at the weekend: are the Tories sincere when they say that their policies are designed to help those at the bottom? Do they genuinely, sincerely believe that austerity is the answer to the economic crisis? Cohen (now) views Tory activists as committed, honest activists who want to make the world a better place.
It’s a cry of anguish one often hears from Conservatives and Conservative commentators. Why do the left hate us so? Why do they think we are only interested in the few at the top and not those at the bottom? Why do the left presume to have a monopoly on compassion? It’s a recurring theme of the editor of the influential Conservative Home website, Tim Montgomerie. He dislikes having his motives questioned constantly and gets very touchy when he and his party are accused of being a representative of ‘the 1%’.
I can understand why those on the right don’t like being accused of being heartless, misanthropic, selfish, greedy and contemptuous of vast swathes of the populace.
It’s sort of inevitable really though, for two main reasons.
Firstly, as Cohen points out with relish throughout his article, the policies the Tories advocate demonstrably favour the wealthiest and make the lives of those with the least harder. That isn’t an opinion, it’s a matter of public record. The debate is not whether it is happening, it is only over whether it is desirable. The more honest ‘Tory Marxists’ acknowledge that it is, but of course as a party they can’t make that admission; if they did they would never win an election again.
The government’s welfare policies are having the long-predicted effects (an example of which I’ve re-blogged just now) on those most marginalised in society. The effects of cuts and austerity weren’t hard to second-guess. Again, the only question is whether you approve of those effects.
It was also predicted long in advance by the braver economists willing to challenge the prevailing intellectual climate the effect that austerity would have on the economy and they have been proved entirely right. Extraordinarily, even the IMF now also accepts this. It isn’t as if any of this is any kind of surprise of course. It has happened before. Read books written about politics and economics in the aftermath of the Great Depression and they act as a warning of what will happen if you go down the austerity route. Cameron and Osborne ignored the lessons of history, ignored the reams of economic theory and went ahead anyway.
Is it really any wonder that people think the worst of them in these circumstances and assume that they are fucking things up deliberately? Is Montgomerie really so shallow-witted that he cannot grasp this?
Cameron and Osborne have overtly governed in the interests of their social class and the corporations and individuals that pay their party’s bills. Again, if Dave, Gideon et al are unaware of this and genuinely think they are doing the best by the British people then they and their party Conservative Party is suffering from a collective psychosis. Needless to say, I don’t think everyone in the Conservative Party is a psychotic……
The second big reason is those occasional moments that I just love- those are the moments when the mask slips. When right-wingers let their guard down, ditch the cant and let us know what they really think of their fellow men and women. When all their protestations about wanting to help people suddenly look a little hollow.
The two most illuminating recent examples of course being Andrew Mitchell’s ‘Pleb’-gate and Mitt Romney’s ‘47%’-gate.
The reason that these exercises cause such embarrassment, and are ultimately so useful, is that they instantly clarify the issues. They allow us to see what is going on the minds of people normally so careful to avoid saying what’s actually on their minds. Agendas and objectives suddenly become a lot clearer and more readily explicable.
Once again, what Montgomerie et al have to answer is this: if a leading Tory in charge of party discipline labels a police officer ‘a fucking pleb’ for having the temerity to bring him to task, and the Republican presidential nominee says that he isn’t interested in half the population, then why is he surprised that so many people assume that Tim Montgomerie and his co-thinkers are dogshit?
Ultimately, I have no problems with Tories and conservatives stridently making their case. But then they have to accept that their opponents will do the same and it is not unreasonable to question the motives of people who surely know the effects their ideology will have if it gets implemented.