Political disillusionment of the centre right
I originally scribbled down the first half of this blog entry whilst I was on holiday following an interview on You and Yours with a wife of a Tory candidate who failed to be selected for his constituency, but I haven’t had the time to upload it. A month later, and after some ideas for additional material last week and my inability to sleep tonight, I’ve finally gotten around to typing it up. Here goes…
An interview on Radio 4 recently with a wife of a Conservative candidate got me thinking about what I think is wrong with the politics of the centre right, in particular since the Tory party has been led by David Cameron. In the selection process, the traditional Conservative candidate – a middle-aged, wealthy, middle class self-made gentleman was beaten by the more in-vogue choice of a single parent etc etc in the name of becoming more representative (my apologies for not recalling the individuals or the contest which would I admit make this section of this post a lot more useful). This example highlights the truth for the middle classes looking to move into politics – traditional conservative candidates are no longer viewed as electable by selection committees because of a need to pander to minorities.
Let me make it clear at this point that I do not believe myself to be racist, sexist or possess any other unfair biases against people. I have always argued that the best person should be put forward for the job, regardless of where they came from, what they look like etc – capability and experience should be the deciding factors every time. Instead, it would seem that in an effort to correct any wrongs of the past is in truth creating a reverse discrimination against the previous ruling elite. I appreciate that this might sound daft, given that the Tory leader is a well spoken gent from Eton and has surrounded himself with aides from a similar background, and that the middle classes are not exactly under-represented in parliament just yet. But certainly the limelight and the publicity has swung towards showing off increased numbers of female candidates, or candidates from non-white UK backgrounds. I re-iterate that I have no axe to grind about these candidates being elected, but they are being put forward essentially because of who they were born as – female/black/etc and not necessarily because of their capability. When attending functions whilst a member of Warwick Conservatives – a fairly stereotypical society I would say in light of the membership being predominantly well spoken middle class white men with ambitions of a future in various professional arenas, although there were also a fair few female members and a few people you might not have expected to be there – it was fairly evident to me that the most effort was put into enthusing the female members to consider careers in politics, and I felt almost dissuaded by the stories of capable and charismatic candidates with plenty of drive failing to be selected because they were too stereotypical.
So why the shift? Has public relations really taken such a forefront in politics these days that even the arena of governance of our country has fallen foul to the trappings of appearance over substance? The recent Brown bounce would suggest that the voting public don’t necessarily agree with appearance over competence, yet I fear Cameron may be falling too far down the slippery and fickle slope of chasing the popular vote by jumping on severely overloaded and tired-looking bandwagons left right and centre. In fact, given his performance over the recent months since Blair left, if it wasn’t for the fact that I can’t stand the views and policies of most of the members of his party or the fact that it was he who utterly annihilated the pensions system and yet seems to have gotten away with it (rant for another day) then I myself would probably be voting for Brown rather than Cameron were a general election to be called tomorrow. As it stands I don’t think I could find it within myself to really cast a vote that I believed in.
And yet… Listening to John Redwood last week on Today, it touched a part of my brain and beliefs that has lain dormant for some time. It ignited something; I found myself once more feeling passionately about the political issues being discussed. Now I’m not a devout follower of Redwood myself – his economic policies are a bit more free-market than even I’m prepared to go, a case in point being his argument for de-regulation of the mortgage markets in the week that the sub-prime US mortgage sector caused serious turmoil in the financial world, but nevertheless his arguments for cutting down red tape, reducing taxes and then reaping the proceeds of the resulting growth to pay for them reminded me of why I am a Conservative through and through. Cameron has spent nearly two years in charge telling us that he’s a true Conservative whilst at the same time telling us that it is time for us to change. I think that if he wants to keep his followers believing in him then perhaps Mr Cameron could do with a little changing himself, and that perhaps his party need to remind him of what Conservative core beliefs really are. He’ll never be a patch on William Hague, but with individuals like John Redwood around to try and steer policy we might just end up with an opposition worth voting for, something that actually has some substance and policy rather than a few green taxes and black single mums from dodgy estates to try and belatedly show the public that we’re somehow in touch with them. If you really are a true Conservative Cameron, then show us. I dare you.