Saturday 3 October 2015

Come on in the water’s lovely

What’s the difference between a moderate Labour Party MP, a Lib Dem and a moderate Conservative? Not much. I agree with David Cameron on most things, but I also agree with Danny Alexander and Liz Kendall. This similarity is often used by Scottish nationalists as a stick with which to beat their opponents. They are all red, orange or blue Tories.  Far too many people in Scotland use the term “Tory” as a term of abuse. It’s used as a way of expressing prejudice. It’s used with hatred, by those who should know better. It’s deliberately used in this way to discourage people from supporting a party they agree with. It’s used, in fact, as if the accent were from the Mississippi rather than Scotland and the word began with “N” rather than “T”. Think twice before you once more use a word in such a way.

But is the fact that moderate politicians agree on most things such a terrible thing? Do I mind that I can well imagine a cabinet meeting functioning well with moderate Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives? Far from minding I’m grateful that many politicians in the UK are still moderate, because too many have gone to the extremes of nationalism (SNP), socialism (Corbynistas) and populism (UKIP). I want none of these things. The world does not need extreme solutions. By the way, breaking up the UK is about as an extreme a policy any political party could put forward. Can you think of another policy that would bring about more change to our lives? Something that brings about the most change is by definition extreme. I have seen what nationalism did to Eastern Europe. I have seen how socialism makes the poorest poorer. If you don’t believe me, compare living standards of the poorest in Eastern Europe with Scotland. I have seen how populism leads to a people preferring a strong leader to democracy. Save us from extremes.

Sensible modern political parties ought to agree on much. This reflects the fact that in a globalised economy there is only a certain amount of room for manoeuvre. The UK economy is part of a whole and that whole is usually called free market capitalism. To deviate too far from the rules of the market, puts you out of the whole, indeed it puts you out of the western world. Call us Tories if you will, but you’re really calling the whole of the West Tories.

Everyone in the centre, whether it’s the centre left or the centre right believes in capitalism or the fact that more or less free markets are the way the world’s economy works. We agree that this is the way to obtain growth and prosperity. Everyone in the centre also believes that government has a duty to try to help the poorest in the UK. There are some sensible disagreements about the ways to do this. Some would like rather higher public spending, some would like rather lower. This is the room for manoeuvre. But ideologically this is only a matter of degree. That ideology is fundamentally Tory. If you disagree with it, then you are not a Tory, but you’ve also just gone East to dwell in the Land of Nod. You’ve also just left the mainstream, there to find solace in populism, socialism, nationalism, or indeed all three.

UK politics has changed however recently. The Labour party has elected someone who does not believe in free markets. His goal is not to make capitalism work better, but rather to propose an alternative system of economics. Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist.  I could never vote for socialism. I’ve seen what socialist ideas can do to a country. I’ve heard stories from relatives whose parents and grandparents were sent to the gulag because of socialism and because they had the wrong name. There is a difference in means between Lenin and Corbyn, but not really a difference of aims. If he could introduce true socialism into Britain, he would do so. I oppose this as I believe it would make the poorest poorer and all of us less free. 

Mr Corbyn may be pleasant company. He may even appear kind. But I find his views not merely extreme, but quite literally immoral. Morality depends on the ability to choose between right and wrong. Socialism attempts to make virtue a matter of law. I do not have the choice to share, if the law makes me share. A truly socialist state therefore would have neither freedom nor morality. This is not an accident, nor a fault in implementation. It is a necessary feature. Socialism requires force in order that it might work. It needs to change human nature from Tory to socialist. It starts by making 'Tory' a dirty word. That’s the first stage of re-education. The second stage is happening in our primary schools right now.

Labour’s journey to the extremes is not merely a matter of a leader. It’s a matter of a leader who the vast majority of Labour members support. Was it always so? Was it the case that New Labour was a front for what the supporters really believed. Let’s pretend we’re something that we are not in order to get elected. I voted for New Labour, because I thought they were in the centre. Recent events have made me wonder. After all Jeremy Corbyn was an MP then too.

I think Mr Corbyn’s Labour party is very far indeed from the views of someone on the centre left. In fact the difference between Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn is far greater than the difference between her and David Cameron. I don’t understand why people stay in a party, or indeed continue to vote for a party that they fundamentally disagree with. I understand the emotional reasons. I understand the sense of loyalty to the team. But let’s put it this way. If the Conservatives were led by someone on the far right, I would not stay in for a second. I would immediately jump ship and be grateful if I could find something more moderate. Where can Labour supporters who support, albeit regulated, free markets find a safe haven?

It’s necessary to face facts. The Lib Dems were destroyed at the last election. Even if a miracle occurred and they doubled their number of seats at the next election, they would still only have sixteen. It’s clear now that if you want to be involved with a party that has a chance of ruling, the only safe haven is the Tory party. After all if you believe in free markets, if you fundamentally think the way the economy works in the Western world is the best option available, then you fundamentally already are a Tory. If you are not a Tory, then by all means go to the extremes.

The best chance of keeping the Conservative party, moderate and liberal is if moderates from Labour and the Lib Dems help to keep it that way. The Conservatives during the coalition showed that they can work well with people from the centre left. The Conservative party today is right bang in the centre of UK politics. If the only thing that is stopping you is the word “Tory” then it might be best to reflect on the morality of the Western: “A man’s got to be what he is, you can’t break the mould”. Only extremists try to break the mould.

Do you want to lower the deficit? Do you have the long term goal of lowering the national debt, or even eventually eliminating it? Do you want to do these things, because it would raise everyone’s standard of living by allowing us to spend more on the things that all of us want. Well then you should vote Conservative. They have these goals too and they have the best chance of fulfilling them. The country is in much better shape than in 2011. This is not accidental. It's due to good choices that were made in the last few years. 

I understand the reluctance. The playground chants of “Tory” are too much for some. But this is to treat politics like football. But really, it’s OK to switch political teams when the alternatives are so extreme. Moreover, if we could only get the majority of Scots, who support the free market, to realise that they are in fact Tories already, then we would have secured Scotland’s position in the UK. We have the best arguments. The prosperity of the western world, after the war, came about because we repudiated the ideologies of socialism, nationalism and populism.  What Scotland desperately needs now is an alternative to the story Nicola is telling. If you want to defeat the SNP, don’t agree with them on everything but independence, rather attempt to show our neighbours that what we love about Scotland and the UK is that we have an economic model that gives us not only prosperity and freedom, but the means to improve the lives of everyone. That’s a great story. Start telling it.

The difference between politicians like Liz Kendall, Danny Alexander and David Cameron is a “waffer thin mint”. They could work together and if you support either one of them, then best to accept the label of “Tory”. Wear that badge with pride, because that’s what you in fact are. That’s where the centre ground lies today in Britain. Come on in the water’s lovely.