The subject of this piece is the UK Conservative Party, or as I like to call them simply the “Con” Party, which I have always found very apt. I was prompted to write this when my eldest daughter asked me, “If they are as bad as you keep saying, why are they so successful and why do people vote for them?” They are big questions, and I think as Socialists we need to try to understand why the political representatives of power and wealth do so well. If we use 1929 as a guide (because it’s from then that both men and women had the vote, the Tories have won 11 General Elections (including Tory led Coalitions) compared to Labour’s 10. In the age of universal suffrage, how has this happened?
To go back in history to the start of Parliament the 2 main Political Parties were the Whigs (who became the Liberals) and the Tories (who sometime in the 1830’s became the Conservative Party). Now both the Whigs and the Tories were undoubtedly parties of Class and privilege who didn’t have to appeal to ordinary people in any way because they didn’t have the vote. This changed slowly with Reform Bills in 1867 and 1884 giving ordinary men the vote for the first time and then later women over 30 from 1918. Now some people today would say well they may have started as a party of class and privilege but that’s not true today because now they are a Party for everyone. For everyone – really? Let’s look at the evidence.
Well first of all, let’s go through some of the most popular acts of Parliament since the 2nd World War. The creation of the NHS was done by the post war Labour Government but did the Conservatives support it? Did they heck, they voted against the formation of the NHS 21 times before the act was passed. Ancient history, you might say but there is no evidence to support they are now in favour of a NHS as it was originally set up. In fact what they are doing is systematically running it down deliberately so they can say it isn’t sustainable or effective, and then they will use that as an excuse to privatise some or even all of it. The NHS has always been hugely popular and the Tories soon realised they would never get elected if they said they were going to do away with it. So now in stealth mode they are trying to make out it’s unaffordable and it has to change. Sneaky? You bet, underhand? Most definitely, it’s what the Tories excel at.
Let’s move to the National Minimum Wage introduced by the Labour Government in 1998, did the Tories agree with this? No they voted against it again, saying that it would cost jobs, an argument which has been proved totally wrong. You might say as well that it’s the Tories who are now introducing the National Living Wage, but really all they are doing is what they do best – trying to con us by confusing the real Living Wage rate with the Minimum Wage.
The Tories have always been lukewarm at best about Comprehensive Education, Mrs Thatcher for one being a ferocious critic of it, and in their hearts they prefer elitist selective education. Likewise they were hardly enthusiastic about the setting up of the ‘Open University’ either; one leading Tory of the time Iain McLeod called it a “blithering nonsense”. I could go on and on but it would get boring. Of course the point I am making here is that all these things benefited ordinary people and the Tories were against, or lukewarm at best. The common thread as well is all these things were introduced by Labour Governments.
You might say, “Well they are just a few isolated things that Labour brought in, surely the Tories would have brought some stuff to benefit us all while in office?” Well let’s have look at some of the things they have done. Ok this is the party that wanted to bring in the poll tax – that unfair tax that said you would pay so much per adult in your house and ignore the value of your house. So in theory you could have 5 adults living in a Terraced House paying more poll tax than 3 adults living in a mansion. Very fair that one, and the public protests at the time brought down Thatcher…Here’s another one, the Bedroom Tax – so if you have a spare bedroom because your kids have moved you are now going to pay more. What the Tories do time and time again is hit the poor and vulnerable while giving the richest Tax breaks, it’s always been their modus operandi. They have completed mass privatisations in the name of efficiency and bringing prices/bills down, but the reality is that it’s just a cash cow for their friends in the city while prices/bills have gone up in real terms. What they are doing is looking after corporate interests but saying they are helping us. See why I call them the “Con” Party? Who can forget how Cameron fought against the European Union’s 100% cap on Bankers Bonuses just after putting a cap on benefits paid to ordinary people in 2012? All in it together? I think not, that is the Tory Party philosophy laid bare in one action.
Something else which lays the Tory Party philosophy in bare terms is their relentless attacks on Trade Unions. While they were in office from 1979-1997 they introduced 6 pieces of anti-union legislation. If that wasn’t enough they brought in the Trade Union Act in 2016 restricting the rights of organised workers even more. The Tories believe the Unions have too much power and want their corporate friends to hold all the cards. We have the most draconian Union laws in Europe. Now just ask yourself a simple question what do Trade Unions do? Their role in a nutshell is to look after their members interests by improving their pay and conditions. That’s ordinary people like me and you. So what are the Conservatives doing? They are looking after their own interests by improving profit margins for their corporate friends. The Tories don’t believe in ordinary workers being well paid, they’d have us on just enough to only survive to pay them their next rent instalment.
Now you might say if they are as bad as I am are saying they would never get elected. That is an excellent point, and there’s no simple answer to it but I will try to explain why they do so well. For one, they do give us ordinary folk some crumbs because if they did give us absolutely nothing even they would find that hard to put a spin on it. One classic example is the selling of Council Houses, a very damaging but from their perspective, clever policy. By giving huge reductions ordinary people were able to buy their own homes and this one policy alone must have given them countless votes at election time. It was indeed Thatcher’s flagship policy but let’s look at what has happened. Thatcher refused Councils the money to build replacement homes so over time the Council Housing stock has depleted greatly, leading in part to the Housing crisis we have now. Also we now have ex Council Houses being rented out at extortionate figures, another example of the Tory philosophy of transferring Public wealth to Private hands to increase Private Profit. This is classic Toryism only looking at the short term economic gains, and not the wider public interest.
It’s often said that the Tories are the party that can be trusted with the economy, that they make it strong by looking after all our interests. Well that’s not really the full story at all – what they are doing is looking after the interests of their rich friends, regardless of the effects on the rest of us. Take the last few years, we are in such an economic mess we need austerity they say. We all have to take this bad medicine if we are to recover as a country. Here you have to give it to them, they have played a blinder. We didn’t have to do all the cutbacks they have gleefully done but they have used the opportunity of the economic crash 2007-08 to pursue their ideological vision of an even more reduced public sector. Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity, but in selling this lie they have been immeasurably helped by their friends in the media. Let’s be honest, most Tories don’t want a Public Sector because they believe Private is best in pretty much all cases. They don’t really believe in good, well-run public services run for the benefit of us all because they believe only ruthless pursuit of the profit motive leads to positive outcomes in anything. It’s an ideological vision that they relentlessly pursue. As the late great Tony Benn said, the Conservatives know the price of everything but the value of nothing.
When Theresa May became PM she made a remarkable speech which included these lines:
“The mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting injustices. The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.”
What is remarkable about this is she doesn’t believe a word of it. But this leads me to something else – they lie. I say they use a cloaking device to disguise their real intentions. They have been doing it for years, and with millions spent on Public Relations, Marketing and private education, are brilliant at it. The great Nye Bevan, creator of the NHS, said this about the Tories:
“How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.”
This is still true in the 21st Century. So, although they would now claim to be the party of everyone, their actions prove they are still the party of Class, Privilege, Corporate Power and the Establishment. They will only ever feed us crumbs to keep getting elected. Of course, as I mentioned, they are helped tremendously by their friends in the media. Most of the so called “free press” is owned by a tiny handful of billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, for example. People like him have no interest in publishing objective political or social articles. They want to keep things as they are, with power and wealth for the tiny few maintained via a rigged economy and political system where money talks – a truly Conservative position. So let’s think about this again, most of the press is owned by a tiny number of insanely wealthy people who want to keep things as they are. Just think about what that means for your search for the truth.
So, when it’s said we have a free press, it pretty much means we have a Conservative press. Now the Tories are clever and slippery and can’t be trusted. We aren’t on a level playing field and things are stacked in the Conservatives’ favour. They have zero interest in creating a fairer society but will use whatever language it takes to get elected. They have the big money behind them and use it in a way to try and manipulate us all. They have been doing this very successfully for over 100 years. So, when at the start I said I called them the “Con” Party, can you see why? Their only interest in ordinary people is getting votes out of them, exploiting their labour for profit, and sending them off to die in wars fought for private gain. Fair, in their eyes, means more opportunities for them and their rich friends to make more money off the backs of the poor. I’m going to leave you with another quote from Labour Legend Nye Bevan, never a true word has been spoken.
“Honest politics and Tory Politics are contradictions in terms. Lying is a necessary part of a Tory’s political equipment, for it’s essential for him to conceal his real intentions from the people. This is partly the reason for his success in keeping power.”
– Rick Evans