The Tories can’t change this country to make it work for the many not the few because they themselves haven’t changed.
The Tories can’t change this country to make it work for the many not the few because they themselves haven’t changed
Despite the economic recovery, polls show the Tories are still struggling to attract more than a third of voters.
As parliament begins its Christmas recess, it’s worth taking a moment to consider why this is. Clearly the rise of UKIP has hampered their electoral prospects, but much of the damage has been self-inflicted.
Back in 2006, amid scenes of huskies and hoodies, David Cameron launched his modernisation project.
‘Compassionate Conservatism’ was an attempt to de-toxify the Tories and shake off perceptions that they were out of touch – a party for the rich, ignorant of and indifferent to the concerns of ordinary people.
However, since taking power, the Tories have regularly vacated the centre ground, adopting more extreme stances on immigration and welfare in a bid to counter the UKIP threat and placate many of their own back-benchers.
The notorious ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ vans, and (father of four) Iain Duncan Smith’s latest idea – that child benefit should be limited to two children to encourage ‘behavioural change’, spring to mind.
The Tories could have used their time in government to broaden their appeal by challenging their toxic brand. Instead, they seem to have done everything possible to reinforce it.
In the past few weeks alone we’ve seen a judge rule that former chief whip Andrew Mitchell probably did call police officers ‘plebs’, welfare reform Minister Lord Freud suggest that disabled people are ‘not worth’ the minimum wage, and Tory peer Baroness Jenkin argue that ‘poor people don’t know how to cook’when trying to account for rising food poverty.
While some voters will be willing to overlook these flaws in character if they believe the Tories’ ability to take ‘tough decisions’ is what matters most, this only holds if they are perceived to be competent. And this government’s competence has been called into question with alarming regularity over the last four years.
Take their record on the economy. Despite making it their defining mission in government, the Tories have failed to eradicate the deficit and are nowhere near to balancing the books. As a result, chancellor George Osborne has borrowed in this parliament a staggering £219bn more than he planned in 2010.
And while the economy is finally growing, many are yet to feel the benefits; we are certainly not, as the chancellor would have us believe, ‘all in this together’.
On Cameron’s watch living standards have collapsed. Wages have stagnated, and food banks and zero hour contracts have seemingly become permanent features of our economic landscape.
But it’s not only on the economy that the government has failed to meet its own targets. Cameron pledged to get net migration down to the ‘tens of thousands’ – a target he now admits can’t be met.
And 600 pages rather than the 600 words contained here would be required to do justice to the extent of the chaos that has occurred at the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith. The amount wasted on IT systems for Universal Credit – incredibly, a project that still hasn’t even been signed off by the Treasury – is now being counted in the hundreds of millions.
Meanwhile, because of the lack of action on the root causes of welfare spending (low pay and high housing costs), the housing benefit bill is rising despite the government’s attempts to bring it down.
The Tories can’t change this country to make it work for the many not the few because they themselves haven’t changed. They are still the same old nasty party.
Their lack of compassion and common decency has been matched only by their incompetence in government. For those of us who care about fairness, social justice and the future of our country, the election can’t come soon enough.
Matthew Whittley is a recent graduate and Labour party member and works as a researcher for a Midlands-based housing associationLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.