I really had hoped for better than this. The coalition government has been in power for just short of two years and already it’s repeating the same bad mistakes that took Labour four or five years to discover.
By the end of its third term the Labour government had managed to alienate most of its natural supporters and anger those who had hoped it might be a breath of fresh air from the jaded, sleazy, arrogant Tories of the late-90s.
Unfortunately, under Tony Blair and then the unelected Gordon Brown it introduced some of the most illiberal peacetime laws since Oliver Cromwell – and would have gone further but for the protection of liberty afforded to us by the “undemocratic” House of Lords. Oh such irony!
It ruined the nation’s finances and ravaged people’s savings and pensions. It conspired to deliver the greatest banking crash we have ever known by emasculating regulation and encouraging through its policy of misleadingly low interest rates a debt-fuelled lifestyle the nation could not support. I won’t even start on Blair’s wars except to say the wars may have been won but the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan appears to have been lost.
Labour had quite a record, and yet the British people (and especially the Scottish people) still remained suspicious enough of what the Conservatives might do (in part because they appeared so un-Conservative and vague) that they could not bring themselves to endorse the Tories with an outright victory.
It is in fact 20 years since the Conservatives managed to win an election and looking at recent events it could be another 20 before they do so again.
The problem is not that they are the same old Tories but that they have become the same as new Labour – and I rather suspect the public is tiring of them already.
It is becoming a cliche nowadays to say that all politicians are the same – but that makes it no less true.
The latest Coalition budget was badly handled and like all of Labour’s was leaked heavily in advance and then hid unpopular decisions in the detail. It has signalled a disincentive to save for one’s retirement (by taxing pension income more heavily) and it did nothing about fuel duties when this was clearly an area of change that the public would have welcomed.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how the Chancellor had to find ways of encouraging economic growth through tax cuts that would pay for themselves and in this he has been too half-hearted to notice the difference.
Meanwhile, in the field of public health the Conservatives are hell-bent on taking Labour’s bullying even further, with the Prime Minister’s public support for minimum pricing of alcohol that will not stop a single drunk from reaching for the bottle but will penalise moderate drinkers. Then there’s strong likelihood of Cameron introducing plain packaging of cigarettes in the false belief it will reduce the appeal of tobacco to kids – brilliantly spoofed on April Fool’s Day by smokers’ rights group FOREST issuing a hoax press release announcing plain packaging of Easter Eggs to protect children from themselves! Consider this, illegal hard drugs come wrapped in cling film or tin foil but the lack of colourful branding does nothing to reduce their appeal to young people.
This detachment from reality is matched by spin and media management that is as bad as ever while the culture of expensive and inexperienced advisers calling the shots remains.
Now there’s the sudden rush for new surveillance laws and private courts by gung-ho Cameron with his marshall’s Theresa May and Ken Clark riding beside him. Previously opposed by Tories in the past, we now have new laws being proposed that will make the intrusion into our everyday lives by bully state Britain – the country with the most CCTV cameras in the world – even greater than ever.
One has to wonder, what was the point of swapping governments? What has changed? Sure, the coalition made a great play of tidying up much of Labour’s mess – but has proceeded to make the same mistakes itself – be it in the economy, defence, foreign affairs, public health, justice or grand infrastructure projects like high speed rail.
It has been said that the problem is that the Tories are not conservative enough because their coalition partners are pulling them to the left – but I just don’t buy that – these Orwellian Big Brother policies owe nothing to Nick Clegg and some of the best ideas on tax cuts have come from him.
The root of the problem is that David Cameron and George Osborne are by instinct too like that other toff Tony Blair in thinking they know what we want and faking the common touch.
The answer is simple enough; we are all different, we all want different things, so give us back the freedom to be ourselves, to live our lives as we want and not like how they want us to be – and many of us will be thankful by giving them our support in return.