The Conservative Party is Still Living in the 1980’s

As an article from Tim Montgomerie and various other editorials from the right wing press over recent weeks show, much of the rhetoric of the archaic right wing commentators  urge David Cameron to look back rather than forward.

It amazes me how many people on the right and left of British politics are fighting the battles of 30 years ago rather than trying to find creative solutions to the immense problems and challenges of the next 30 years.

The article by Tim Montgomerie in the Telegraph  got much of the narrative right in terms of there not being enough done for economic growth by the UK government, but the analysis and suggested solutions were taken straight from the “New Right” handbook published circa 1981.

The assertions by many right wing commentators are that the current Tory led coalition is simply not doing enough to crush the unions, deregulate, privatise, and cut taxation.  The familiar trotting out of Mrs Thatchers name and how the Conservative Party needs to look to her successes.

If these people were actually looking at Mrs Thatchers “successes”, they would not be looking at her individual policy making, but rather at how she approached politics.  She saw the problems that the country faced and applied policies that she thought would produce a solution.

Rather than looking back for inspiration, she picked up an ideology that was considered new, that could be inspiring to some and deal with the problems of the time.  Now, it would only be a fool who thought that the neo-liberal policies of the past 35 years could solve the problems of the future, being as these neo-liberal ideas are a PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Incidentally, I am not arguing whether Mrs Thatcher was right or wrong 30 years ago, only that her political success and perceived success was due to finding solutions for the time, not the past.

Our political elite, which ever party you care to mention, live in a bubble of old ideologies, the traditional left-right of politics that has nothing to offer the average person living in Britain today.

People do not care about public or private, they care about what works and what doesn’t.  Ideologies of state intervention or privatisation for the sake of it are at the root of most evils within our political system.

Old ideologies of political commentators and political parties are engrained into a stale political party system.  A tragic continuation appears to be happening where a “one size fits all” approach is being applied to all our problems for economy and society.

You would think, after the upheaval’s of mainstream political and economic thought over the past 4 years, that this stale approach would have been shaken to the core.  Sadly, people seem to be forgetting not only the lessons of history, but also what the causes of these shocks have been.

It is hard to imagine that a New labour government who championed the filthy rich; lauded the virtues of bankers and brought private enterprise into the heart of public services would then effectively nationalise the banking industry.  Even less so that President George W Bush, probably the most right wing president of the post war years would advocate the same and bail out the banking industry.

Yet, the lessons are never learnt, the same old rhetoric keeps coming around again and again.

Tim Montgomerie and the rest of the die hard Thatcher Mythologists will stop at nothing to put forward their version of the New Right ideology, to inflict on the rest of society and to influence government.

Simply nationalising ailing private companies would not be the answer to our economic woes and neither would privatising core public services because of the mistaken view that “private” means “better”.

One of Tim Montgomeries diatribes floats the familiar idea that Unions are at the heart of the problem in the British Economy. This is as fanciful as arguing Bankers are born with a morality gene.  Union membership has steadily declined since their peak of membership in 1979 at over 13 million members.  It is now at an historic low of 6.5 million with less than 50% of the population working in situations where there is union presence.

There is also a large myth that unions are the evil barons of modern political society that cause so much trouble and strife with strikes galore and that Mrs Thatcher was the one who reversed this trend.  In the 1970’s the amount of strikes declined from a high of 5,000 to 1,500 by the time she was elected in 1979.

There were about 158 strikes in 2006 and over the past 15 years the UK has been continually lower than the EU and OECD average for stike days lost.

We are not the sick man of Europe in terms of strike days lost, and we are not about to reverse a trend that has been continuing for at least 40 years.

Unions are not THE PROBLEM.  It is only rhetoric and nonsense of the ideologies of the past that keeps on playing the same tune.

Another often quoted requirement for the rescue of our economy is “deregulation”.  Again, nothing like a history lesson to exercise those little grey cells.

One of the reason for our mess at the present time IS Deregulation.

A sad unpalatable truth for the right wing is that markets are not a religion but simply a tool for distributing goods and services.  In order to work properly they require laws and regulations so that they operate efficiently for the benefit of our society.  If they are not properly regulated, then anarchy in the market place ensues and massive corruption and imbalances occur as well exploitation in the marketplace.

It is also not about how much regulation you have, but having the right regulation.  The banking collapse shows what happens when the ideology of a moral imperative over rides the necessary government job of regulating the market.

Yet there are still those who think that deregulation automatically brings better economic conditions.

We get ourselves stuck in a narrative, and then wonder how we could possibly have made the same mistakes we made years before. We are currently on a course of economic austerity that was last tried on this scale in the 1930’s with the terrible consequences that had.  Are we to repeat the mistakes of the past?

In reality though, our politicians and economists appear stuck in an ideological vacuum of the past.  No one appears to be looking forward for something new.  To break out of the constraints and barriers of the past, or even to learn from the past.

Where are the new economic theories?  Where is the acknowledgement that the world has now changed?  I see very little original thought in the current crop of Parliamentarians, only a mirror image of what has gone before.

Will we ever learn?

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2 responses to “The Conservative Party is Still Living in the 1980’s

  1. Great article.

    You are wrong in one sense – we do need to look the past. But we need to look to the 18th & 19th centuries, who understood the economy far better than we do.
    Neoclassicism was an active effort funded by landlords, monopolists and bankers to distract away from their looting. By drawing the line in the sand between ‘government’ and ‘market’ (which makes no sense unless you want anarchy) it distracts between earned and unearned income, like for example when the banks create money on a computer and lend it out with interest and fees charges attached.,

    • Thanks for your comment. I wanted to write this article over a week ago but I have been on holiday. But nothing I have seen in the past week shows that anybody is either learning from the past or looking to the future. In the end, we will all suffer! Kind of wish I was still on holiday!

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