A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Tory nightmare inches closer

I want to look down the time-tunnel again at life under Cameron. But before thinking about the highlights of the Dave and George show coming to a Parliament near you soon, I want to consider what happens on May 6 2010. Last week I was trying to sketch out where the first Tory attacks might come. This provoked some debate about how to vote, and whether it even matters. I think what happens outside Parliament is more important than what happens in it - that the fate of the Miners' Strike in 1984 was more important than the fate of Neil Kinnock. But what happens inside the house still counts - a lot. For all their desperation to suck in Tories and businessmen - step forward Shaun Woodward, Paul Drayson, Quentin Davies and "Lord" David Simon - Labour still has a relation with the unions and a reliance on workers' votes. It might be hard to see it under the hail of privatisation, deregulation and war, but Labour's still more likely to throw a few more bones to our side, and the Tories quicker to show their claws. A decade's worth of Brown and Blair might have worn Labour's social democratic commitment down to a largely symbolic status. Alistair Darling is seriously considering reports from privatising Tory banker Gerry Grimstone, while Brown throws out a few cheap shots about Eton. But in the absence of anything else, symbols matter.

A vote is a big signal to their side and ours. Their side will take a vote for Cameron as a vote for compliance and a cue for more vicious cuts. Our side will be cheered by a vote for some kind of resistance. Most of that resistance might take place in the day-to-day struggle outside Parliament, but the election sets the scene. Votes for serious challengers to the left of Labour would send the strongest message. The past decade has seen some of the best electoral results for left candidates against new Labour. Unfortunately, instead of revising and preparing, we have spent the past five years tearing up our homework and throwing it in the bin. Votes for the last men and women standing from the left keep that project alive, but only just.  I don't have a big list of Coventry's charms but living there gives voters the chance to put their X by the name of Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party. I thought Respect was wrong to reduce "socialism" to the initial letter "S" in their name, but there is still more left-wing principle in Salma Yaqoob than the entire Cabinet. Left-wing independents like Dai Davies in Blaenau Gwent and Val Wise in Preston deserve votes, as do whatever Solidarity and the Scottish Socialist Party can pull together north of the border. However, if the election is about demonstrating where the left stands, I don't think a string of lost deposits helps anyone.

So a vote against Cameron mostly means a vote for Labour. In most cases, not voting Labour will be taken as compliance with the Conservatives. The idea that abstention or wasted votes will be taken as a rejection of both government and opposition is a bit like hoping that when the monsters come, if we close our eyes they will all disappear. Cameron winning is a bad thing. Cameron winning by a landslide is worse. You get one more braying member of Cameron's Parliamentary Barmy Army for every 10,000 or so votes, one more foot soldier ready to get gung-ho for a forward assault on the welfare state. Now your Labour votes might mostly - with a few honourable exceptions - deliver an MP who fails to do much about that, but as US socialist Eugene Debs said: "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don't want and get it." Assuming that millions of people ignore my sage advice, what does a Tory government look like? Last week I looked at their likely economic policy. But how would they relate to the war on terror? They certainly like to make warlike noises. Shadow defence secretary Gerald Howarth announced at the last Conservative conference he would like to be called "Minister for War."

Forty years ago Howarth was in the university air cadets, so he likes to act like he is a wartime RAF pilot. Yet despite the Biggles behaviour, Howarth was actually a banker before he was an MP. His boss Liam Fox also likes the military act, although the former GP finds it harder to pull off the right macho posture convincingly. Fox is very much linked to the "Vulcan" wing of US Republicans and shares their enthusiasm for seeing enemies everywhere and threatening to bomb them. In one meeting at the Tory conference, Fox talk about "Resurgent threats: Terror, Russia and Iran?" Fox is desperate to take up arms against this sea of troubles, especially ones sold by the arms firms who sponsor most of his meetings. But all this warlike stance can't change the basic fact that their international policy will be like Labour's: "Whatever Obama says." Both Fox and Bob Ainsworth will only send troops abroad as dance partners to US forces. This is not wholly reassuring, given Obama's attempts to widen the Afghan conflict into Pakistan, but narrows the difference between the parties.

However, looking at some of the people involved suggests that the Tories will be more aggressively reactionary on the home front in the "war on terror." Cameron relies heavily on Michael Gove for his speeches about the dangers of "Islamic extremism." Gove in turn relies on Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion, a truly right-wing figure. In a 2006 speech on the "war on terror," Murray declared: "Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop." He claimed that political correctness and relativism were the "Aids of the West" leading to the "opportunist infection of Islam" which is "deadly."  "Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board," he insisted. A Cameron victory brings this insidious creature closer to the political centre.

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