Tory paternalism was the Conservative's problem, not the solution

Tory paternalism was the Conservative's problem, not the solution

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Thursday 29, June, 2017

THERE IS MISCHIEF brewing in Westminster, just in time for the summer recess of course. Apparently a vote for this was indeed a vote for that, and a... are you sick of this already? I sure am.

I am seasick from so many "Conservatives" quick to say the General Election result was because of a rage against austerity, a hard Brexit, new grammar schools (stay with me) and taxes falling.

It would be funny if not so serious. We have among us what is best described as a bunch of liars. I am being kind and could be much worse. The Remain crowd have seized on a weak performance by the party as an excuse to bin all of the above. They are liars for a simple reason.

Not a single one of these policies changed during the campaign. From the March declaration of the snap election to the very end these Conservative policies were unchanged. They were and are sound. Logic dictates that between the start and the end what DID change was what was responsible for the catastrophic decline in polling that led to over a hundred very good candidates being denied seats.

That period saw some MPs whose retirement was surprising, including to them. Soft Brexiteers, Remainers and Spads miraculously did well out of the Conservative selections for seats. Less said about the "fast tracking" of candidates north of the Border the better at this point. Suffice to say it is what it is. The public does not like the idea of stitch-ups. The very impression of them is enough to poison wells very quickly, and rightly so. 

Dan Hannan and David Campbell Bannerman were denied seats despite their prowess and ability to get Brexit, or maybe because of it? Who knows, but to have them sidelined in such a crass manner has soured the milk in many Home Counties’ Tory associations.

This alone was not enough. Next came the moment of truth; the Chernobyl Manifesto that meant meltdown was inevitable. Loyalty is understandable among candidates but what was truly shocking was how many "think tanks" saw the manifesto as wonderful, daring and progressive. The Bright Blues of this world and others went as far as openly attacking the Bow Group for stating the obvious,

"Attacking middle England through the unlimited taxation of property on the basis of being infirm is crackers"

There, I said it. Few others did, though the IFS put in a good show supporting our criticism. It is hard to imagine real conservatives making such a stupid blunder let alone thinking, sniggering in a dark corner, that this was somehow noble despite appearances. It is at the best a sign that the party leadership is not listening to members and not using think tanks and associations as sounding boards before launching such whacky ideas.

Next came another juicy gem that popped out for all to see – bringing back foxhunting. Why not whaling, seal batting, and keelhauling waifs while we are at it? The idea that any floating voter would see this as a priority let alone a jolly good idea is risible. This was rubbing the left's nose in it and they did not disappoint in biting back. 

Add to that, hint after hint that we are going to be spied on forever more, declaring po-faced there was "no magic money tree" for nurses (seriously, NEVER try that stunt again!) and that we should hold on to nurse for fear of something worse meant Project Chernobyl was supplemented by Project Fear and the public were left pondering for weeks how to vote.

Is there a common thread, maybe a common purpose behind all these bad turns away from the right, from Thatcher, and sanity?

Yes. They were all plugged most by Remainers who are of course, the paternalists. That is what Remainers really are. They are paternalists who love the idea of a rulebook to govern us all as long of course as they are writing it. The EU is paternalist Valhalla and the evangelists continue to this day plugging all that is glorious about it. 

They want to put the economy first, which means cheap labour from abroad. They believe in mudsill theory, that we can only escape the swamp by resting on those less educated than ourselves, as piles in the mud to stand upon. Those dirty jobs that someone has to do.

They want directives and rules written by their mates, sponsors and in some cases family members to govern us because they are better than the rest of us. Those with more friends in other parties than their own. Those who will pinch housing benefit from young adults and then blow it on foreign aid, or funding jogging initiatives because we cannot be trusted to run for ourselves.

The Chernobyl Manifesto was the worst, the core, of paternalistic Toryism. Can I be a little biased here by declaring the obvious?

Controlling migration is really popular. Putting the people of this nation unashamedly in front of those of others is essential to a real democracy because our MPs are accountable to us and no one else. Grammar schools are an incredibly sound instrument of social mobility. Germany and France have them yet the Scottish wing of the party dismisses them out of hand. 

There has been no austerity but there has been a lot of poorly allocated spending that means some benefits have been cut for little reason. That is not austerity. £5000 cash to every illegal migrant displaced by Grenfell. Does anyone else get this? Have families in the UK not been displaced before by various accidents and policies? Does spending £10m on plastic fascia for tower blocks seem austere?

This week the Government has written off the purchase of compulsory social insurance as a criterion for settlement and committed to EHIC which means we will continue to under collect for EU citizens living here. Any good reason why? 

Paternalists live off vicarious generosity in that it makes them look nice to people who cannot hold them to account by audit or election. When it comes to scrutiny there is no magic money tree and there is a "necessity" to make cuts in certain areas. Both cannot be true and the public knows it. 

This need for controlling others reaches into the party at large and now into the media. The fourth estate was treated absolutely abysmally and struck back when it had a chance. Having some intern in a blue rosette and romper suit hold the microphone and check the questions to tame those untrustworthy journalists made the public shudder. This was state control of the media in action and it went straight to the roof of their nostrils. 

Cheesy soundbites, daft photo ops, trite over-repeated slogans all suddenly hit a wall. There is enough when the public see we are wearing no clothes and it is our party not Corbyn's that is left looking naked. 

We have fought four elections now in two years in Scotland on the back of blocking a referendum. We haven't won one. I disagree with many unionists that the SNP has abandoned or delayed their referendum call. They called a vote and now simply state they will hold back until the Brexit negotiations are done. In other words they will walk through the minefield of constitutional uncertainty right after we have. Their overall policy remains vague and patchy but much looks better in candlelight than in floodlight.

The PM said we are leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. She meant it. Yet Remainers are undermining the Government in London and mixed messages are deliberately making the Prime Minister look wobblier than I suspect she is. Paternalistic Europhiles are only helping the PM – while doing everything they can to present a disunited front.

If that results in a sub-optimal Brexit deal we could all end up in a bad place very quickly. The premium the SNP enjoys from holding back is huge.

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