Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Beneath the veneer of the Conservatives' people power.

I spoke yesterday about the language being employed in the Tory manifesto, and how it sounded like it has been stolen from Labour. Dave suggested in comments that it sounded, to him, "suspiciously like a call for privatization of government service".

Today, in the Guardian, Seumas Milne takes apart this "brilliant presentational sleight of hand, which takes their political cross-dressing to new heights."

To hear Cameron and Hague carrying on this morning about people taking "collective" control of their own lives, the right to recall MPs, set up their own schools, elect police commissioners and create co-ops in the public sector, you could almost imagine the Tories had leap-frogged over Labour into Hugo Chavez land.

By any measure, it's a clever political branding exercise, which recognises the progressive political climate and gives a "people power" veneer to what — once you strip away the rhetoric and mood music — is in reality a classic Thatcherite anti-state programme for sweeping privatisation.

The Tory manifesto reads like a progressive document, but it's far from that.

But look at the small print and the prospect of popular control turns out to be a mirage. Take "free" schools. It's not just that they'll be a marginal gimmick for better-off parents with sharp elbows to snaffle shrinking resources.

Through joint ventures and corporate chain sponsorship, they are also clearly intended to be part of a much wider privatisation of education — for profit, as Michael Gove made clear over the weekend. That will mean less control of schools and the curriculum for most parents than they have now.

This is what I find most despicable about Cameron and the campaign he has thus far run. He knows that his policies are unpopular, so he sells them by pretending that they are actually the opposite of what they are. He talks of co-ops and of giving people power, but any examination of what he's actually saying reveals the opposite.
Something similar applies to public sector co-ops – not a proposal the Tories are making for the private sector, of course, where they would have a hugely positive impact. And when it comes to MPs' recall, it turns out to be restricted to cases of "proven wrongdoing", rather than when electors simply demand a new representative.
We saw all of this in 1979, when Thatcher came to power expressing phony concern for the unemployed, and left the most radical aspects of her policies out of her manifesto.

In reality, Thatcher tripled unemployment and then turned on the unemployed, calling them "social security scroungers".

So it is with Dave. The former PR man is selling us the acceptable face of what he surely knows are unacceptable policies; or why else would he involve so much sleight of hand to hide his real intentions?

The real manifesto, hidden beneath all the talk of co-ops and "giving power back to the people" involves "the deepest spending cuts since the 1930s, lower taxes on the wealthy and the mass privatisation of public services."

But you won't hear Dave shouting about that...

Click here for full article.

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