8/24/2005

The Dismal Scottish Conservatives

I try to make it a rule of thumb never to read the 'Sunday Herald' too seriously unless I have a letter in it.
However, one of its August 21 articles did flick by my field of peripheral vision, and it came back to mind courtesy of Alex, who blogs at Land of the Nearly Free.
It concerned what can only be described as a rant by one Robbie Rowantree, a sometime Scottish Conservative candidate, against the leadership of the Scottish Conservative Party, describing them as, well, I'll use Alex's summary:
""wittering on about nonsense", "a source of humour rather than a potential government", "unable to recognise the hole they are in"", incapable and inarticulate", "strange old people talking about foreigners, gays and criminals", "no dent on the Scottish vote", "would be sacked if company executives", and that "mass hara-kiri would not cause any disquiet"
Now speaking as an instinctive Tory from a longish line of Tory voters, he really shouldn't knock talking about foreigners, gays and criminals; but the general thrust of his rant is well-aimed.
I voted Conservative in every election in which I was capable to do so between 1988 and 2003; but not since. Although Rowantree's remarks are aimed at the unattractivenesss of the Scottish Conservative leadership, my beef runs a little deeper.
As a private citizen on a low income, the Scottish Conservative Party does not seem to be interested in speaking for me. In 1979, the Conservative Party was faced with a dilemma. The democratic process was in danger of being destroyed by extreme left-wing trade unionism, which had forced the Callaghan government into a serious of catastrophic economic errors. That process had to be reversed; and thus it fell to the Conservatives to return power, as it were, to the people, by liberalising business and curbing union excesses.
But from this standpoint in history, it is now clear that that process went too far. Instead of being the party of small government, the Conservatives became the party of big business. The hideous Thatcher-era expression 'the business vote' is a proclamation of welfare-seeking identity politics as abhorrent as 'the black vote' or 'the Eskimo vote'.
The philosophies of most major businesses are usually anti-democratic. They exist for one purpose only, to make money, by fair means or foul either for their shareholders or, increasingly, for their managers. Nobody living now started British Petroleum or Royal Dutch Shell or Shell Transport and Trading or whatever it's calling itself these days. Similarly, no one entrepeneur had the vision to start British Telecom - BT is nothing but an accident of history, an institution which would not exist had some other government held power in the UK in 1984.
Those simple facts alone should limit the level of political influence corporations are able to wield.
But aficionados of 'Tom & Jerry' might remember the cartoon where Tom tries to bait Jerry with a female clockwork mouse with a voice like Mae West's, which of course Tom then swallows ands ends up hiccupping, 'Come up and and see me sometime! Come up and see me sometime! Come up and see me sometime!'
In some respects the Scottish Conservatives are precisely the same. Their solution to all economic problems is - cut taxes. Cut taxes. Cut taxes.
Yes, yes, we know this, we know about Milton Friedman and the Laffer Curve but what else is there in the arsenal? Are they Unionists or are they for independence? If they are for independence, are they in favour of gaining autonomy from one central government in London only to hand it to another one in Brussels? Or are they ready to go for some serious economic revolution, Pat Buchanan style, and drop the income tax to zero, abolish stamp duty, capital gains tax and inheritance tax, sack 90% of the country's civil servants and apply a tariff of 40% on imports?
Are they seriously in favour of reducing the size of the state, something which the 1979-97 Conservative government never did, or are they going to continue to mouth tropes supporting the most expensive experiment in socialism this side of the Kremlin, the National Health Service?
Are they social conservatives or not? Would a Scottish Conservative administration actually do anything to reduce the practice of abortion, which over the last 38 years must have had as acute an impact on our demographics as outward migration?
Where are youse all? You have an electorate that actually wants to vote for you, but which feels it can't until you get your act together.
It's up to you.

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