Friday, February 19, 2010

Johann Hari: Ignore the propaganda and spin – the Tory party hasn't changed.

There has been much made of the fact that David Cameron's latest election poster has been heavily airbrushed, which has led to a new site devoted to making spoofs of his election poster, one of which is on the left.

It's nice to see that not everyone is being taken in by Cameron's policy of appearing cute and non-threatening, but studiously avoiding actually telling anyone what it is that he plans to do once elected.

Johan Hari has an article in today's Independent in which he examines Cameron's central theme: that the Conservatives have "changed".

Since he became leader, he has been telling us “the Conservative Party has changed”. But is it true? Let’s start with the issue that Cameron said was “terrific evidence” of a “different Conservative Party” – global warming. Until 2005, he had never mentioned the subject, except to mock wind farms as “giant bird-blenders” and to demand “a massive road-building programme” in defiance of all environmental sense. But then he abruptly announced he was the true champion of this cause and people should “vote blue to go green.” The influential website ConservativeHome thought the New Cameron didn’t speak for the Party, so last month they commissioned a poll of the candidates selected to fight the most winnable Tory seats. They were asked to rank nineteen issues facing Britain in order of importance – and global warming came at the very bottom. The soon-to-be Conservative MPs think radically altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere is less important than imprisoning even more people and reclaiming powers from Scotland.

But even this is misleading. The party doesn’t just accord a low priority to deal with this problem – most actively deny it exists. The Spectator’s political editor, James Forsyth, reports: “At Tory country-house gatherings, global warming scepticism has replaced Europe as the issue of the day.” Tim Montgomerie, the head of ConservativeHome and physical embodiment of the Tory id, says: “I’m confident the sceptics are going to win. It’s for Cameron to decide how he’s going to get out of this – he’s lost the battle already.” This has only grown over the past month, when a handful of the tens of thousands of scientists working on this issue have been shown to have made a few mistakes. The massed ranks of the Tory party have seized on this as “proof” that releasing massive amounts of warming gases into the atmosphere won’t cause the planet to get warmer. The true message is: vote blue, screw green.

The attitude of many Conservatives towards global warming is important only in as much as it reveals a larger truth: Cameron is selling us a turkey.

The "change" which Cameron is selling us is utterly superficial. The only "change" is that a Conservative leader is publicly addressing such issues, but there is not a hint that the Tory party as a whole believe in or care about these subjects just because Cameron has decided that there are votes to be won by talking about these things.

And then there are the tales of Chris Horne and David Matthews who volunteered to work for the Conservative party in order to write a book about their experience. Matthews, who we are told is "warm" and "charismatic" is also black. His experience is not one of black man coming across a "changed" Tory party.

Everywhere he went, he was treated with suspicion and contempt. Horne writes: “The proportion of people who gave him a wide berth was around three quarters, and it was hard to escape the conclusion that this was because he was black. The Tories we met seemed fantastically uncomfortable around David.” Even in the most liberal Tory surroundings, like inner London, there was a “constant, almost knee-jerk mild racism,” where they felt the need to obsessively talk about immigration and race in disparaging ways in his presence. At a typical Tory dinner they attended, Cecil Parkinson said of Africa: “God decided to create the most beautiful continent on earth – wide rivers, fertile land, and every kind of natural resource you can think of. An angel said to God – if you make a place like that then it will completely dominate the earth. And God said – wait until you see the people I am going to put in it.” The assembled party members loved it, and said they missed good old Ian Smith, the last white supremacist ruler of Rhodesia.

When they were campaigning against the Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer, they were repeatedly told to emphasize she was an “outsider” and a “foreigner.” Horne asked what it meant, and he was told: “She’s a Jewess, but we aren’t allowed to say that? So all we can say is that she got off the train from Hungary.”

None of the above leads one to believe that there is any real change at the heart of the Tory party.

Beneath Cameron's airbrushed image, the old Tories remain, and they are as poisonous as ever.
Everywhere they went, the Party’s candidates and members said Cameron’s claims to have reformed are mere spin to win the election. For example, Ian Oakley, who was selected to be Tory candidate for Watford, bragged: “Last year it was all green this, and all green that; all that bollocks. People just want lots and lots and lots of cheap petrol. And we are going to give it to them.”
People with attitudes like that will form Cameron's parliamentary base and he will have to govern according to what he can get these reprobates to vote for.

So don't hold your breath waiting for a new "changed" Tory party. It's nothing of the sort.

Click here for full article.

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