I have been fascinated by recent contributions to this organ – underlining as they have the freedom of our scribes to plough their own furrow and address any subject from any angle that pleases them – and which nevertheless, perhaps inevitably have concentrated somewhat upon the General Election and its aftermath.
This fact confirms me in my view that, with the benefit of hindsight, the pages of the Rust may provide a worthy snapshot barometer for successor future generations.
My texts for today’s post – my last upon the Election – are two time-honoured adages from the past:
Firstly, Abraham Lincoln’s “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Secondly, that frequently attributed (in one version of another) to Winston Churchill but also variously to others including Georges Clemenceau, Lloyd George and the 19th Century historian/statesman François Guizot: “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain”.
Let us take a number of shibboleths that have had frequent outings in debates in pubs, social gatherings and largely also dominated the media clashes between Tories and the opposition parties.
I should here add the caveat that, of course, politicians on all sides are inherently programmed to believe their own hot air and dismiss anyone who disagrees with them, or has a different view, as – possibly misguided and deluded – but also definitely wrong.
In support of my thesis, see here for a link to a piece by Dan Hodges – a journalist whom I believe is no friend of the Tories – that appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL
Such an attitude resulted in the fundamental ‘disconnect’ that in effect politicians of every hue ended up essentially ‘preaching to the converted’ rather than seeking (by persuasive argument?) to appeal to hitherto non-believers.
And, of course – if you spend five weeks going around the country appearing exclusively in front of the already converted who are consistently patting you on the back and egging you on in your delusion that you are right and the other side wrong – you end up, as Jeremy Corbyn apparently did in his media interviews yesterday, convinced that you had “won all the arguments” but (somehow and puzzlingly) not the popular vote.
This fact carries with it the irony – already mentioned elsewhere – that in the UK to all intents and purposes our elections are won and lost on the battleground comprised of the 20% of the population that are floating voters, habitual or otherwise.
First up is the notion traditionally trotted out by Tory candidates at Elections over the last half-century – i.e. that every time the Labour Party gains access to the lever of power it sprays money in every direction, first by fleecing the wealthy but eventually by borrowing, without any conditions attached and/or thought for the consequences, thereby (inevitably) ending up bankrupting the country and leaving the poor Tories to clean up the mess and sadly reinforce its reputation for being “the nasty party” in the process.
Second up is the line – during the Election campaign peddled by Labour politicians and supporters almost as often as Boris Johnson spat out “Get Brexit Done” – that from its victory in 2010 onwards, the period of ‘austerity’ inflicted upon the country by the Tory Party (lets us not forget from 2015 with the aid of its spineless and compliant coalition partner the quisling Lib-Dem Party) was never, as it claimed “necessary in order to correct our finances and not leave out descendants forever paying off the now eye-watering borrowing bills for our own excesses”, but actually a deliberate and sadistic policy to crush and subjugate the downtrodden, disadvantaged and struggling working class masses, off the back of whom the Tories’ ‘fat cat’ friends in the City were making their billions, buying super-yachts, smoking fine Cuban cigars and quaffing champagne in their luxury marinas all over the Mediterranean … oh, and also and not paying any taxes.
The reality is that neither of these thrusts are true – well, not entirely.
Arguably, from 2010 the Tories did have to get a grip on profligate public service and other spending, but they needn’t perhaps have done it quite so swiftly and brutally (maybe their thinking at the time was that getting it over with ‘as soon as possible’ was the right way to go in the long term).
Why do I say that?
Well, simply because throughout the Election campaign Boris was banging out spending promises sufficiently bountiful and wide-ranging that the IFS criticised him for being almost as irresponsible as the Labour Party.
If he was able to do that, surely (logically) the Tories need not have been quite so hard-nosed about their cutting back of public spending as they were?
In a similar fashion, the theme that from 2010 the Tory Party deliberately set out to inflict pain upon the working classes is probably wide of the mark.
Arguably, the pain of their austerity period was pretty evenly spread – everyone, and everything, got cut back.
Where the Tories made a huge miscalculation – I hesitate to say cock-up – was with their fond attempts in the process to drive efficiency.
There was an undertext behind the cuts being imposed that somehow they would prompt the police, fire brigade, local council authorities etc. to be ingenious and think laterally in order to find new ways of carrying out their duties but with less resources at their disposal than before.
It was never really going to happen, was it?
Let’s take an example [I’m making all this up because I don’t know the actual ins and outs]:
If you have an NHS hospital with 8 operating theatres in which each two hour operation requires 10 staff you’ll manage to complete X operations in a 12 hour day.
But – if say you then close 2 operating theatres, or alternatively remove 2 staff from each operating team – you’re never going to complete X operations in a 12 hour day, are you?
Especially at a time when the demand for operations is rising year on year.