Conor Campbell asks whether the Tory leopards have in fact changed their old-fashioned spots?
I was flicking through the channels late last night when I stumbled upon BBC 2’s Newsnight. It was focusing on the Conservative conference and I felt that seeing as I had watched a great deal of the Lib Dem and Labour conference, it was only fair to see what the largest party at the moment have to say.
Now I could comment on the newest cuts, but there are far too many people already doing that, so during the show another topic presented itself to me. In the latter part of the show the BBC journalist tried to answer the question ‘Why did the Conservatives not win a majority?’ The reason the question has been raised is that the Conservatives could not have been better placed to win a majority and they still failed. Labour had the Iraq War, an unpopular, uncharismatic Prime Minister, Bigotgate, MP expenses scandal and an economic crisis. Regardless of all Labour’s failings, the Conservative Party still did not get a majority and had to enter into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The Conservative strategists came up with three reasons as to why they failed to convince the public to vote for them:
- Decontaminate the party brand
- Ethnic minority vote
I feel that it is fair to say that the Conservative party were unable to get their message across and the ‘Big Society’ is a huge example of that. As a Labour activist on the doorstep I found it hard to criticise simply because I had no real idea what it was! The audience of Newsnight also blamed the MP’s scandal, which I personally feel is a ridiculous it affected all parties not just one. The ability to win the ethnic minority vote will coincide with the parties’ ability to decontaminate the party brand. As a historian and a member of the largest minority group in the UK, I am fully aware of the Conservatives past and their previous discrimination of minorities. David Cameron may be trying to move the party away from the Right to the Centre ground, but it clearly seems to be stalling with the minorities.
However I can be open minded, and I am prepared to accept that the party is not the same ‘No gays, No Blacks, No Irish’ that it once was, but last night the Conservative Party once again gave a sneak peak of their true selves once again. As the panel and the audience were discussing the child benefit cuts, Polly Toynbee mentioned that there were fathers out there who often spent a deal of the family income on drink, drugs and gambling, and the cuts would take even more money away from those families. As she was talking about this Phillip Hammond MP cut in with a smarmy comment saying ‘While paying higher rate tax?!’ which resulted in a round of applause and laughter from the Tory faithful.
This could be taken many ways, but I took it the same way that Polly Toynbee took it, that Mr Hammond was suggesting that those who were financially better off, were simply better. If you earn enough money to pay the higher taxes, it must mean you are a better parent that you never fall ill to the evils of alcohol and drugs, and you would never possibly waste your children’s inheritance on gambling. So the removal of child benefits from the higher earners would in no way harm those children of negligent and abusive parents.
I do not need more reasons to distrust a Tory government. Depending on where I have been living at the time of elections there have always been two or three parties that I would give my vote to before them. However if the Conservatives want to gain their majority, want to convince those still sceptical of the parties true aims, they may need to stop the elitist comments slipping out. Or better still just stop being elitist.