UK Party Conferences 2013

My disdain for the transparency and excessive aspiration of the party conference season was close to shutting down any thought of writing much about it, beyond the last article’s brief showing of a lack of deference. I thought to wait until the whole lot was over next week, when the Tories had said their piece, but I’m going to jump the gun on that. After the Lib Dems, UKIP and Labour there is surprisingly already quite a lot to say. Less surprisingly, none of it too good.

Quickly then. The Liberal Democrats once again set the bar for pitiful desperation, with notable speeches coming from Vince Cable as he went on the attack against their coalition partners for being the “nasty” party. Presumably this makes the Lib Dems the nice party. And Nick Clegg was almost popping an aneurysm as he screeched into the microphone, “We’re not here to prop up the two party system, we’re here to bring it down!” I have many problems with both sets of approach.

First, despite the occasional bleating threat from the catamites of coalition that they might cede from the agreement and leave the Tories to a minority government, the likelihood of this happening, at least until the most expedient moment in time prior to the 2015 elections, is minimal. Clegg himself stated with wild abandon that the Lib Dems simply must stay in power as otherwise Labour or the Tories would surely take us down the road of communism or fascism respectively. So Cable’s attacks on the Tories are little more than self-flagellation as his party are inexorably tied to them for the foreseeable future.

It won’t serve the Lib Dems one bit to paint the Tories with the nasty brush, because they have largely towed the line with the same power-hungry eagerness that has utterly annihilated their support base up and down the country. In this sense, they’re a bit like the school yard bully’s pathetic underling, the one who hides behind the big lad and supports his loutish behaviour but then runs to the teacher later to discreetly rat everything out, hoping to gain supremacy via treachery.

Frankly, Clegg’s entire speech smacked of, “If we say it loud enough and often enough, then it must be true.” It’s sort of an effective political strategy except for the fact that it was barely half a wink after the Rose Garden two or so years ago that those once loyal had forever written him and the party off as crass operatives lacking any scruples. I don’t think anyone believes the Lib Dems are around for any other reason than to serve themselves, and the notion they form a critical mechanism against main party excesses will only ever again fall on deaf ears.

Moving on, UKIP… ah, UKIP. Thank you for vindicating the avalanche of criticism I levelled at you some months ago after the aberration of your success in Eastleigh. There have been various things between that by-election and last week’s conference that have steadily delegitimized them, and so my expectation of a dearth of joy for them come 2015 is on track. This is only helped when central party figures like Godfrey Bloom not only depart the reservation, but actually go stratospheric with their patent deficiencies of character and credibility.

Do I even need to detail his infringements? Never mind the fact that his name is now popularly “Bongo” after his incredibly tactless comments on foreign aid some weeks ago – throwing around the term “sluts” and bashing up CH4 journalists with party pamphlets is a new kind of crazy. Bloom already lost the whip and is now also quitting the party in Brussels, but the damage has already been done. I can’t remember a single policy point or anything from, say, Farage’s keynote speech. So thanks Bongo! Enjoy the wilderness, but I don’t think you’ll be alone for long. UKIP really is a gift to satire.

As for Labour, well, the opposition has been having a very tough time of late. As if sliding poll numbers during a prolonged government austerity drive wasn’t enough of an indictment of their own quality as a group of politicians, Damian McBride’s dagger to the soft flank of his former comrades speaks further volumes. I would say first that I do not believe for a fleeting microsecond that Balls and Miliband weren’t party to McBride’s actions during the Labour years, as they themselves were staunch Brownites. The launch of his book was callously timed to take advantage of the Labour conference and deliver maximum sensation against Labour’s front pair.

As for the conference itself, we’ve had fairly empty promises of a return to socialism in the form of repealed taxes, increased benefits, more social support, bank levies… all of which screams of a reaction against criticism for Labour being only able to promote an austerity-lite model that was received with particular derision after nearly three years of lambasting and rejecting everything the coalition was doing. It’s a feature I particularly despise about the Labour party at present, but what really miffs me here is that all of these things that Balls and Miliband have promoted are barely even socialist.

It’s just classic New Labour. Big spending promises, which have largely already been called out as unfunded and impractical, and only a short while after they came close to financially sinking the nation. They have slipped straight back into bad habits after a few years in opposition left them completely floundering for an idea that was even remotely dynamic. It is really appalling. Miliband just gave his big speech, and although I’d usually reserve some words for how laughably uncharismatic he is, being as stiff and obviously coached as any useless public speaker I’ve ever seen, I think it would only distract from the more pertinent point.

If Labour went to the elections in 2010 saying of the Tories, “You can’t trust them on the NHS,” after 13 years of Labour government and a distinct shift in Tory culture and personnel, then how on earth does Labour expect we could trust them on the economy? It will have only been five years come the election and the people at the reigns are still very much the same that were central to Labour’s abysmal failings pre-2010. They haven’t learned and they haven’t listened. The Treasury reports a funding gap in Labour’s proposals of around £27bn, and I take Labour’s denial of this with absolutely zero faith. I think they are dangerous.

The Tories will probably repeat something along these lines during their conference, which I expect will be a fairly confident affair. The more the economy grows, the more their poll deficit will decrease and this will only be helped by Miliband’s beleaguered position. They should be careful however, because one thing Labour did accurately identify is that the recovery isn’t yet being felt by the majority of voters, and the cost of living has taken a sharp upturn. If in the next couple of years they can provide more than what amounts to Labour’s rhetorical dogfarts, they stand a decent chance.

Without wanting to sound too much like a right-wing sycophant I could suggest you read past articles where I liberally criticise the Tories and coalition for their various amateur errors, and surely they will produce some further points of consternation. But I guess at the moment the strident river of tripe emanating from the other parties actually puts the government in a reasonable light. If only they ditched the moronic bedroom tax and lowered VAT a bit. The narrative is there for the taking. I guess I should actually wait and see what their conference reveals…

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