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Saturday, December 17, 2005 

Cameron: "I'm a liberal Conservative."

David Cameron yesterday moved to exploit the leadership crisis that has engulfed the Liberal Democrats by appealing to the party's supporters and MPs to "come and join the new Conservative party" if they want to see Labour defeated. Speaking in Hereford yesterday, the Conservative leader said that the two parties shared many values and that he was now the natural leader of a "modern, progressive, liberal, mainstream opposition to Labour".

"Let me make one thing clear. I'm a liberal Conservative. So I believe it's time for Liberal Democrat voters, councillors and MPs that share these values and this agenda to come and join the new Conservative party," he said.

Mr Cameron's allies have been attempting to build links with Lib Dem MPs in the hope of persuading some to defect before the next election. In his speech Mr Cameron set out the importance of cutting into Liberal Democrat support to gain the 126 seats he needs to form a majority government.

So what exactly has Mr Cameron done so far to show that he is a "liberal Conservative?" Despite that almost being an oxymoron, we can have a quick look back at his record. So far his only main policy announcements have been to have a list of candidates for seats that would be widely inclusive, and that he will support the government on their education white-paper. In actual fact it's obvious that Cameron and his new conservative cronies actually wish to go much further than the already dangerous education white paper, and if they could, re-introduce selection for secondary education. So, he's for making sure that the working classes are kept down. That isn't very meritocratic, one of Tony Blair's favourite words, and Cameron's obvious hero.

The other piece of evidence we have of Cameron being a liberal conservative is that he wrote this year's Conservative party manifesto. Let's take a brief look at some of its main points:

The Conservatives are promising to create more good local schools. Parents will have the right to choose the best schools for their children, which means they will be able to send their child to an independent school for the cost of a state-funded education.

In other words, giving money to the rich who would send their kids to "independent" i.e. private and exclusive schools anyway.

Headteachers and governors will have complete control over discipline in school, including control over admissions and exclusions. Heads will set minimum standards of behaviour and will no longer be forced to admit children excluded from other schools. The party will establish Turnaround schools for disruptive pupils - at a cost of £200m a year. Pupils will attend full-time and will only be readmitted to mainstream schools if their behaviour significantly improves.

In other words, we'll throw all the little bastards out of sight of everyone and let them all kill each other out of harm's way, away from our own little darlings. Headteachers will also have complete control over admissions - why, that sounds remarkably similar to selection, doesn't it?

The Connexions careers service will be scrapped and a new service created with strong business involvement.

Ah yes, get them stacking the shelves and make the promise that they might just one day be able to become a manager.

Let's move on asylum and immigration:

Michael Howard has said that an incoming Conservative government would ask parliament to approve a limit on the maximum number of refugees allowed into the United Kingdom. A quota of around 20,000 a year would be set - even though it could mean genuine refugees are refused the right to refuge and asylum in Britain. Applicants for entry to the UK would be processed at offshore asylum centres.

So if there was a catastrophe in say, Zimbabwe or another country which forced huge numbers to leave, they wouldn't be able to come to our little island if the nice round figure of 20,000 had already been reached. The "offshore asylum centres" is a euphemism for the Tories' infamous fantasy islands' - places they hadn't found where they would keep all the darkies to make sure they couldn't rob the decent taxpayers of their money.

How about crime and law and order?

The party intends to return cannabis to a class B classification to resolve current confusion.

This conflicts with Cameron's personal statements that he would keep cannabis as Class C and would also consider downgrading Ecstasy - about the only other truly liberal policy he would like to implement. Too bad his party wouldn't let him.

Pledges to create 20,000 extra prison places to guarantee that sentencing will not be driven by capacity. Plans an end to the early release scheme that sees prisoners monitored by electronic tagging and believes community sentences should only compliment not substitute prison.

In other words, prison works! Even though we've got over 80,000 already serving time and that crime has been falling for 10 years, we need to clamp back down on the yobs and scroungers who blight our streets. Never mind that it would take years to build new prisons and that the early release schemes are broadly successful. Community sentences shouldn't substitute prison - in English that means throw everyone away, and we'll think about the consequences when they come out much the worse for their experience later.

Wants to see the civil law provision that a householder will be only be prosecuted for "grossly disproportionate" action against a burglar extended into criminal law through a householder protection bill.

In other words, the Tories want you to have the right to murder anyone who sets foot on your property. This despite that the law already covers 'reasonable force' being used against intruders. The most infamous case of this kind, the Tony Martin debacle, was only taken to court because he had purposefully lay in wait for the two men who broke in and then shot them when they were in fact running away. Still, it's a good soundbite and it makes all of us who consider our home our castle feel more secure.

How about 'tax and spend'?

The Conservatives promise to spend £4bn of their £12bn worth of efficiency savings on tax cuts. They plan to spend £1.3bn of that on halving council tax for the over-65s and are believed to be considering raising the threshold at which low earners start to pay income tax and cutting inheritance tax and stamp duty further. Ten million workers would get tax relief on their pension contributions, using £1.7bn of the Tories' efficiency savings. The Tories have promised to abolish the 1% stamp duty on house purchases below £250,000. At the last Budget, the threshold was raised from £60,000 to £120,000. The Tories claim that lifting it to £250,000 will free more than 500,000 homebuyers a year from stamp duty, and leave 80% of house purchases unaffected by the tax.

The Tories never managed to explain how they were going to cut taxes and still keep up Labour's spending on the public services. They also promise to go the way of the Republicans in America in trying to abolish inheritance tax, which they misrepresent as a death tax, which helps the Treasury immensely and makes sure that money which is left behind for no one does not just lay dormant.

And finally, let's look at Health:

The party supports free choice for NHS patients in terms of care delivery. Patients will have the option of going private, with 50% of their costs underwritten by the state. GPs will advise patients on the best hospital for their needs.

Similar to their schools policy, they'll pay half the cost to those already wealthy enough to go private out of the pockets of those who rely on the NHS. Their choice policy is similar to Labour's, which is still not supported the public, as opinion polls consistently show a majority in favour of just one good high quality local hospital, not the choice of five in the region.

Is a man who wrote the above really a "liberal Conservative"? Or is he just another nasty man disguised by charisma and good looks? Until Cameron proves that not just he but his party has managed to move on from the above failed policies, no self respecting Lib Dem, let alone anyone else, should touch the Conservatives with a 10-foot pole.

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