The police welcome David Cameron to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. His austerity cuts are expected to cripple forces across the country, with part-privatisation already an unwanted reality for some.
So is everyone
having fun atmaking fun of the Conservative Party Conference?
The event has been unfortunately-timed, as it turns out a mammoth has been found, frozen in Russia, after 30,000 years. Inevitably it will be the subject of much scientific study and debate, but really, if they wanted to look at a species of woolly monsters long overdue for extinction, they need only go to Birmingham.
Further evidence of unfortunate timing can be found in the International Monetary Fund’s latest report, which shows that the Conservative-led austerity policy has utterly failed to restore confidence and there is “considerable” risk of further deterioration in the economy. Its forecast for the UK in 2013, which stood at 0.2 per cent growth, has now been downgraded by 0.6 per cent to minus 0.4 per cent. That’s a lot, in economic terms.
UK Prime Minister – and Conservative leader – David Cameron, said the UK economy is “slowly healing”.
It is comments like this, along with the general direction of his – let’s try to call it – ‘leadership’ that probably prompted polling organisation YouGov to headline its latest press release ‘Cameron needs a miracle to win’. The poll of voting intentions shows that the Conservative share has slipped to 31 or 32 per cent – the same as in their “crushing” defeats of 1997 and 2001. Any question comparing Labour leader Ed Miliband with Mr Cameron shows significant advances for the Labour leader.
Other poll results are confirmed by comments on the Conservative conference (which I have lifted from Twitter. I don’t intend to give attributions – is yours among those below?).
Fewer than 30 per cent think [the Conservatives] have done a good job on health, education, transport or reforming welfare benefits: “‘We’ll end something for nothing culture’- Tory rich boys who inherited wealth and claimed disability benefits they didnt need”; “I could save 10bn by cutting MPs’ expenses, grace and favour housing, government contracts, offices that are never used etc etc”; “Labeling those on welfare as lazy layabouts is defamation of character and those responsible should face the full force of the law”.
71 per cent think the gap between the richest and poorest has widened since the Tories came to power; and by two-to-one, people think the north-south gap has also widened (Northerners themselves agree by three-to-one): “Misery to those without whilst ensuring prosperity for those who have. They don’t even try to hide it!”.
Just 13 per cent say the government has met their expectations that Britain would be governed well; far more – 34 per cent – say ‘I expected them to do well, but they have been a disappointment’. Half of those who voted Conservative in 2010 share this sense of disappointment. Most people think they have made no progress at all to get Britain out of recession, reduce immigration, clean up politics, or fulfil their pledge to make theirs ‘the greenest government ever’: “This government should have come with a public health warning the size of a trillion fag packets.”
Let’s look at some of the speeches. I am grateful to the Tweeter who labelled his comments on the Chancellor’s speech ‘Osborne porkies’, pointing out some of the inconsistencies between Gideon’s words and the facts. So: “Attacks Ed M for not mentioning deficit when Labour leader mentioned the debt. ‘We were straight with voters before election’ – Except about NHS, VAT increase, child benefit. ‘Blair achieved nothing in a decade’ – Except minimum wage, devolution, academies, Northern Ireland agreement etc”.
Osborne’s big idea – the plan to offer employees shares in the company where they work, if they give up their rights to, for example unfair dismissal tribunals, came under bitter attack: “‘We’re all in it together’ – unless you’re an employee”; “Osborne’s shares for rights plan shows he’s never employed people. If first thing you say is ‘I want the right to sack you’, people will go”; ” So you get shares in a company… Lose your rights… get sacked with no comeback and paid pence for your shares”.
(This last comment is the nub of the matter. Osborne says the amount of shares on offer could be worth between £2,000 and £50,000, therefore it is possible that employers will try to get workers to barter away their benefits for what is, in the current economic climate, peanuts. Do these people really think we are monkeys?)
Today (Tuesday) Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, made a speech in which he tried to appear to be supporting Mr Cameron while in fact setting out his credentials as a possible future leader. His comments about the Conservatives being the tools to clean up the national mess drew scorn: “Boris the mop, Dave the broom, Osborne the dust pan, Gove the Jay cloth and Hague the sponge – the cabinet according to Boris!”
His self-congratulation about London’s bus conductors attracted this: “Doesn’t mention they will cost £38 million a year and won’t be able to collect fares”; and on his comments about Labour spending: “Yes, Boris, Labour was so excessive in its spending that your party pledged to back its […] plans right up until 2008”.
Final comment on the conference so far: “Tories laugh at Boris being an incompetent buffoon… Clearly the required skills to lead a country!”
Back in the 1980s, on the best radio panel show in the world (I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue), Tim Brooke-Taylor once defined ‘politician’ as “A liar, cheat, double-crossing two-timing scoundrel and lover of nude women. Oh, it’s also a snub-nosed toad.”
All I can say about that is, bring on the snub-nosed toad. I’ll let the nude women pass. They might be Theresa May and Nadine Dorries. Or Maria Miller (that would be REALLY grisly, wouldn’t it?)