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Tories ready for election?

CameronThe media has been making a lot out of the possibility of a snap election, since Labour have been lining up PR companies and campaign managers and such like. Inevitably, the journalists have thought about the obverse of that particular coin; whether or not the Conservatives are ready to make their case to the nation.[1]

Yet between the lines, for those in the know, the Tories have already outlined their “alternative” for Britain. It doesn’t look good. Particularly revealing over the last few weeks has been Wigan-boss Dave Whelan’s decision to donate £1 million to the Tories because of his view that Labour have failed to adequately deal with law and order.[2]

Judging by the reasons for Whelan’s support for the Conservatives, a Tory government will set about building new prisons and introducing draconian measures to arrest and imprison those caught with knives or guns about their person.

Given that we have the highest prison population our country has ever had, I’m not entirely sure such measures are likely to have the effect the Tories think it will. This is not to say that Labour are doing everything right, but the usual Tory response to crime is to impose higher sentencing laws, which, more often than not, the judiciary resents.

Other things that have been mooted in this regard are bans on violent video games. Cameron has also mentioned that the plans to incentivise couples staying together will help reduce crime.[3] Not to pour water on the poor chap – he is a fellow Brasenoser – but a return to 1950’s restrictions on freedom of speech and encouraging women to stay with men for the sake of money a happy family will not make.Guns

It’s not like Labour is asleep at the wheel, despite their occasional authoritarian knee-jerk reaction to Sun headlines. Operation Trident, in London, is a good example of a well-thought out Labour response. Aimed at the black community – from whence an estimated 75% of gun crimes originate so the Trident website claims – it goes into schools, to young people’s groups and it promotes public vigilance and awareness. It is led by the Metropolitan police with communities involved through the Trident Independent Advisory Group.[4]

Law and order isn’t the only thing we should be worrying about with regard to Cameron and his ilk. The usual rhetoric on the NHS, choice, more out-of-hours care etc, masks the desire to further establish a market in the health service – and recently the BMA has blasted the Tories for “ill informed” policies.[5] On the environment too, one only need look past Cameron’s headline grabbing policies to what local councils are doing and where the Tories are concerned, in non-marginal areas, the answer is “not much.”

Ultimately, as ever, the Tories will be better funded than Labour. Worryingly, the Conservatives also continue to have more members, with about 300,000 members to Labour’s 200,000.[6] The effects of this are clearly visible, since the leadership seems much more interested in money-led media campaigns than in grassroots activism, particularly where the South East is concerned.

If the membership trend in Labour continues, the party will ultimately be relying on the same backers as the Conservatives. That is to say, wealthy businessmen. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of New Labour. They and their predecessors declared that socialism was dead and that we should try to be where “the country” is on major issues. They stated than unless we moved from the left, we would never win elections.

Though their reasoning may be flawed, if the party continues to haemorrhage members, then we will never win an election again by going to the left – because we’ll cripple ourselves financially by doing so. I look forward to seeing the effects of leadership suggestions on party funding reform over the next few years.

With no few constituencies still without candidates and election agents, Labour is gearing up for battle with the old foe. The question is, will it be enough?

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  1. Jeff
    September 29, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Interesting that you mention party fundraising.

    That’s essentially what happened to the Democratic Party in the mid-’90’s.

    Everyone decided that the Clintonian “third way” or “triangulation” by which you take where “Old Democrats” were on issues, where Republicans were on issues, and went straight for the center, was the way to do. Obviously, business and other large-donor types loved this. You now see increasingly, large corporations give equal-sized donations to both political parties.

    That puts a stranglehold on the Democrats, because if they move to the left, they lose the money that they know the Republicans are getting too.

    But there’s hope! Although not present enough in large quantities in 2004, by 2006, the blogs and the grassroots did prove themselves to be moneymakers. Obama, if you crunch the fundraising numbers, has been an getting unprecedentedly large percentage of his fundraising from the “under $200″ donors, which is a big deal, 22% to be exact [1]. Also, with netroots candidates winning elections, and websites like DailyKos playing the dual role of blog and fundraiser, the grassroots has been able to raise large amounts of money for individual, progressive Democrats.

    Additionally, sites like MoveOn.org are able to raise huge amounts of money for issues very quickly. If anyone who reads this is on their e-mail list, as I am, you’d know that they send out e-mails constantly, and get excellent response rates.

  2. September 29, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    I don’t think money is the key question in British politics; I think organization is key. The Labour Party has never been a mass party on the same level as the continental socialist parties – the German SDP in particular. The trade unions have always formed the hidden membership of Labour itself.

    Yet so far as our current leadership is concerned, the rank and file trade union member may as well not exist. In a society where the links between trade union rank and file and ultimate power have been steadily diminished (largely because the rather snobbish Labour and TUC leadership didn’t like who trade unionists put in positions of authority), there are two keys to the popular vote.

    One fits the leadership-designed policy format, integrated with media-based nationwide campaigns on issues, with “focus groups” as ammunition against real activists who claim the leadership isn’t listening. The other fits with a membership-driven policy.

    I’m not pretending the second is easy – it’s not; it would probably drive many “respectable” Labourites for the hills. I’m simply suggesting that internet activism can’t be seen as an easy way out – many bloggers don’t themselves go outside their own front door to connect with voters. That part is the key; community forums, accountable local government, and many more things than just securing votes. These are things which blog-based fundraising can’t provide.

  3. Chris Gale
    September 30, 2007 at 9:40 am

    It is a mistake to think he is not popular with his party in the deep blue shires.

    I live in the West Country and he can do nothing wrong as far as the Tories here are concerned, as long as he delivers on hunting and Europe they dont mind what else he comes out with.

    They have 100s of activists (many of them supplied by the Countryside Alliance) lined up for each of the hyper marginal seats in the West Of England that they must win if they are to form a government.

    Opinion polls dont show all this.

    Camerons hunting friends have 50,000 activists ready (and already working on the ground) to take the marginal seats.

  4. September 30, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I don’t think he isn’t popular; in fact what you say neatly dovetails with my overall point. Cameron’s party may be the less popular – but then the polls in ’92 were showing a Labour win this far out and we lost. He has some serious activists allied to him – and head office is not taking the interest it should in boosting activist numbers on our end.

  1. September 30, 2007 at 1:54 am

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