Party Nasties

PARTY NASTIES

I was enthralled at Theresa May’s Tory Conference speech. There’s something magnificent about the Conservative Party painting itself in the colours of the common people, rather like watching a hippopotamus pull up a tutu to convince us it’s a ballet dancer. If Jeremy Corbyn had been standing beside her holding an autocue she could not have been more on his message. Tim Farron sings himself to sleep with most of what she had to say. And unlike Mrs Thatcher’s cynical mouthing of St Francis’ prayer before taking up her bloody sword, you can tell that St Theresa really means it. But what would a nice girl be doing in a party like this?

Being a political animal she’s doing the obvious thing. Faced with an open goal it’s time to put the boot in, and so she spots the vacated centre ground and goes for it. But that wouldn’t account for the passionate rhetoric that blistered her followers’ ears in Birmingham. Here are some of the Tory anathemas she says she seeks:

Support for refugees

Government investment in our infrastructure

Crackdown not only on tax dodgers and avoiders, but on “accountants, financial advisers and middlemen who help them avoid paying what they owe”.

Supporting free markets but (gasp) stepping in to repair them if necessary.

Ensuring the powerful and privileged no longer ignore the interests of the people.

Providing affordable housing by building more houses

Putting the rich and powerful ‘on warning’ and telling those who abuse their power ‘we’re coming to get you.’ Battling unfairness, Righting wrongs. Challenging vested interests. She really said all this.

Occasionally the camera would pan around the conference hall. There they all were, the vested interests, the accountants, the tax avoiders, rich and privileged white men, clapping like mad at every blasphemy she uttered. They smiled to each other as if to say ‘Dear Theresa, let her have her day. We can deal with her tomorrow’.

There were some sops to them in the speech, yawning contradictions of which she didn’t seem aware. She wanted ‘Brexit to involve free trade’ but ‘not to give up control of immigration’. In case she hasn’t been listening, every European leader is pointing out that Brexit precludes that aspiration completely. It’s one or the other. We can’t flounce out of the door and start making rules through the window.

She got a tremendous roar when she concluded a section on equal opportunity in education by championing Grammar Schools. They loved that one. She lauded Jeremy Hunt as a ‘passionate advocate’ of the doctors whose future unpaid extra hours he is imposing by law. Like so many people who don’t understand the house market she thinks that private building firms, given the opportunity, will build so many houses that prices will fall to affordable levels – why ever would they? Above all she mocks those who find ‘patriotism distasteful’, while giving baseline xenophobia and borderline racism all the oxygen they’ve ever wanted, even putting their interests ahead of our future economy.

The speech was a true house of cards, sincere in intent, hollow in detail, and sad in its parade of the worthy ideals we’ll never see. Nice lip-service, though. Dance, hippo, dance…

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