The Deepest Split in the Tory Party 39


Being in opposition disguises the fact that the Conservatives are still a deeply split party. The huge divide on Europe actually has a close relationship to their still deeper split over the most important fault line in British politics – that authoritarian/libertarian divide.

New Labour, of course, have pinned their colours unreservedly to the authoritarian mast. We have seen the greatest erosion of civil liberties and parliamentary government since Britain became a democracy. There remain some Tories who are instinctively libertarian, like Rifkind, Clarke and Davis. But as examplified by Chris Grayling’s dreadful parliamentary performance against Jacqui Smith yesterday, many have an atavistic urge to be even more authoritarian than New Labour.

Right at the top of the Conservative Home website today is a video from Fox News supporting torture – arguing in effect that torture works.

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/torydiary/2009/04/new-ipsos-mori-poll-puts-tory-lead-at-13.html

The Tory party in the country, and even more so in parliament, would be deeply split by those who are horrified at this trampling on ancient liberties, and those who have bought in to the neo-con agenda.

You can hide that kind of fundamental divide in opposition. You can’t in Government.


39 thoughts on “The Deepest Split in the Tory Party

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  • Jon

    @McDuff – I don’t think you’re being fair to Ian by mocking his name. Elsewhere you appear to be perfectly able to argue your point without resorting to ad hominem attacks. Be nice 🙂

    @Ian – no, I’m not “spinning”. That would describe the process of deliberately misrepresenting something, usually to make something look better than it actually is. Thanks for the link to your manifesto, but in fact I had that on my screen in order to make my points (and I wasn’t listening to gossip – everything was from your website). I had come across your website a week or two earlier, and, having read fairly extensively about (imo) the damage that unfettered free market principles do to society, wanted to raise some reasonable objections upon seeing your party name again.

    > Criminal Justice – Life means life

    Yes, I understood this from your manifesto. I suppose here the libertarian ideal comes into conflict with itself – is it “liberty for the majority” to keep a criminal behind bars until they die, with no hope of parole? This is anti-libertarian for the potentially rehabilitated inmate, and makes this policy sound not dissimilar to authoritarian conservatives who are not averse to attracting reactionary tabloid support.

    This is why I pointed out that this policy is anti-rehabilitation. It is blind to individual circumstances and will, at least in edge cases, result in miscarriages of justice.

    > Minimum Wage – The biggest inhibitor to job creation ever invented. Most

    > small business could afford to pay much more if the overhead and regulation

    > at the lowest levels were removed.

    Mmm: get rid of the minimum wage, and then small businesses would pay more out of the kindness of their hearts! There are two things you don’t take into account here: firstly, there will always be an class of people who hover between employment and unemployment (it is a surprising feature of capitalism that a “good” (non-zero) percentage of unemployment exists, which helps to keep prices down). Accordingly, given the choice between an inadequate welfare payment and a slightly better poverty wage, people will choose the latter. Market forces dictate that the most (small) businesses will pay their staff a poverty wage if they can get away with it. Secondly, as the minimum wage was introduced there was a flood of scare stories in the corporate media about how this would drive up the costs for everyone. However this was proved not to be the case in practise – the story was predicated on the false idea that *everyone’s* wage would be artificially forced up, which of course was not the proposal.

    > The NHS now supports over 1000 quangos

    Yes, which are all a feature of the part-privatisation of the health service.

    > [The NHS] is riddled with c-dif and MSRA

    This is certainly a problem, but I also put this down to the effects of part-privatisation, whereas you seem to put this down to insufficient privatisation! I contend that, prior to the harmful neo-liberal sea-change in politics since Thatcher, the NHS was working much better. Of course, there is an increased strain from an increased older population, quite aside from the PFI contracts that carry masses of public cash, inefficiently, into private pockets. (As an aside, PFI/PPP systems have been, including within the health service, a massive disaster. I recommend Captive State, by George Monbiot, on the topic.)

    > Are BUPA hospitals more efficient than NHS ones?

    I don’t know – which do you contend? I am not sure how you reckon that the US model is controlled by the government; it is controlled by the free market, and that’s the problem. Most people in poor income brackets can’t afford healthcare insurance, and so run the risk of having to pay for extortionately priced drugs and operations if they need them. Whilst I have a few reservations about Michael Moore’s style, his Sicko documentary – especially focussing on private US vs. public Cuban healthcare – is highly instructive.

    The question really needs to be reframed as: “Is a private model of healthcare more efficient than a public one?”. And the answer is that the public model is much cheaper overall. It also ensures that, in general, everyone can get healthcare on the basis of need, not on the ability to pay. You may not like the US illustration, but the facts don’t judge it kindly.

    You genuinely believe that the free market can solve human and social difficulties, and that its “invisible hand” guides us to ever greater levels of efficiency. This is a nice idea, but as McDuff suggests, it is just a matter of faith. In fact, the free market has not really been tried anywhere except in the places that specifically didn’t want it (witness the damage wrought by IMF conditionalities across the globe). And those without exception have been unmitigated disasters. (Craig in comments earlier suggests that neo-con control of the IMF has recently been “moderated”; I hope in this he is right.)

    I have no doubt that you believe your position honestly. Unfortunately these sort of policies lend aid to some of the most selfish people on our planet, who – whether they will state it openly or not – believe that it is acceptable for some people to be filthy rich and for some to be filthy poor. This is to me the essence of neo-conservatism, and for good social reasons, rather than abstract political ones, that agenda needs to be strongly resisted. It has been found that as society gets more equal, so its happiness increases, and unsurprisingly the reverse is true as well (that topic is much expanded in The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James, which interestingly is more about psychological well-being than politics. That, and Affluenza by the same author, are my favourite books of recent times).

  • technicolour

    Actually re earlier post, I find I do agree with myself. It is a good thing to vote for the decent person regardless of party since, if you researched it (I didn’t live in London at the time) Brian Paddick was probably much more “decent” than Boris Johnson. And the Green person (possibly: there are some nasty greenies).

  • McDuff

    Sorry about the ad hom, but when the arguments presented are so fact free I can’t help myself. I’m sorry it distracted from the link I posted showing that there is no evidence of any link between minimum wage increases and a slowdown in job creation, that such link if it does exist is at best a negligible loss, and that calling it the “biggest threat to job creation ever invented” is utter balderdash, fact free nonsense of the highest order.

    As for the point about the indirect subsidies the private healthcare system in the UK benefits from somehow meaning that the NHS can achieve the same effect in non-private hospitals, well, there isn’t a comment thread big enough in the whole world to cover the misunderstandings of basic economic theory there, I am afraid. Let’s just say that if you achieve good results in one sector of an industry by transferring a percentage of the costs to another sector, you can’t simply repeat that unless you have some third sector ready to receive the cost transfer all over again. Perhaps there is a “magical elves” sector of the British Healthcare system that can deal with preventative care, emergency care, training subsidies and care of the impoverished and insolvent, all of which are off BUPA’s books because of basic economic principles significantly less magical than Mr Parker-Joseph seems to believe “private enterprise” is.

    And again, to reiterate, we get what we pay for with the NHS. Our per-capita healthcare costs in this country are *significantly lower* than any other developed country, and our figures reflect our policy priorities as to where that money goes. France, for example, spends appx. US$800 more per capita on healthcare (combined tax + private insurance).

    I don’t think anyone will dispute that the NHS is far from perfect. But the idea that there is somehow this huge glut of funds that would be available to spend on cancer treatments if we just stopped paying for all these managers isn’t borne up by other countries’ experience. They get a better service because they pay more for it.

  • McDuff

    Sorry about the ad hom, but when the arguments presented are so fact free I can’t help myself. I’m sorry it distracted from the link I posted showing that there is no evidence of any link between minimum wage increases and a slowdown in job creation, that such link if it does exist is at best a negligible loss, and that calling it the “biggest threat to job creation ever invented” is utter balderdash, fact free nonsense of the highest order.

    As for the point about the indirect subsidies the private healthcare system in the UK benefits from somehow meaning that the NHS can achieve the same effect in non-private hospitals, well, there isn’t a comment thread big enough in the whole world to cover the misunderstandings of basic economic theory there, I am afraid. Let’s just say that if you achieve good results in one sector of an industry by transferring a percentage of the costs to another sector, you can’t simply repeat that unless you have some third sector ready to receive the cost transfer all over again. Perhaps there is a “magical elves” sector of the British Healthcare system that can deal with preventative care, emergency care, training subsidies and care of the impoverished and insolvent, all of which are off BUPA’s books because of basic economic principles significantly less magical than Mr Parker-Joseph seems to believe “private enterprise” is.

    And again, to reiterate, we get what we pay for with the NHS. Our per-capita healthcare costs in this country are *significantly lower* than any other developed country, and our figures reflect our policy priorities as to where that money goes. France, for example, spends appx. US$800 more per capita on healthcare (combined tax + private insurance).

    I don’t think anyone will dispute that the NHS is far from perfect. But the idea that there is somehow this huge glut of funds that would be available to spend on cancer treatments if we just stopped paying for all these managers isn’t borne up by other countries’ experience. They get a better service because they pay more for it.

  • technicolour

    UKIP should do some research, starting with that of the excellent Professor Allyson Pollock, author of NHS Plc. By advising heading towards a fully privatised model they are simply following in the footsteps of New Labour, who have been assisting/colluding in the fragmentation and privatisation of the service for years. It is disingenuous to say that the US model is not the one we would follow. US insurance companies are now in a parlous state, and sizing up the UK market as the next available option. From underpaid cleaners (hence MRSA c diff etc) exploited by greedy privateers, to PFI, the situation is, as a review of NHS Plc puts it that: “the NHS has been cherry-picked, cream-skimmed, and bled dry financially by the private sector, at the bidding of the Party that once upon a time created it”.

    It is not the “national” part of the NHS which is to blame. UKIP should understand that.

  • Jon

    @technicolour – I don’t know about UKIP’s health policy, though given their position on the political spectrum I wouldn’t be surprised if it was much the same. I was responding to LPUK’s (health) policies, from Ian Parker-Joseph earlier.

  • technicolour

    Working for the insurance industry? This from Rupert Read, in his review of NHS Plc quoted above:

    “When I was at Oxford taking PPE 20 years ago, my best friend was Simon Stevens, who went on to become Tony Blair’s key health policy adviser. Back then, he was a socialist. Now, he is Chair of United Health Europe, one of the US’s giant corporations profiteering from the break-up of the NHS, and angling to take over doctor’s surgeries across the UK. That little timeline symbolises quite a lot about what has happened to the NHS.”

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