Thursday, January 03, 2013

How will the Tories react to confident forecasts of defeat?


The recent near-consensus (even among Conservative commentators) that the Tories are very very likely to be in opposition after the 2015 election makes this an interesting moment. This is the time that big moves are made.
I'm taking this opportunity to re-post something that I wrote elsewhere a few years ago on Slugger O'Toole about how the Tories made a move to make a coalition with the Lib-Dems possible after the 2005 poll results offered them a mountain that was too steep to climb by 2010. It draw heavily upon a prediction from a very good but now-defunct lefty blog.

I think that this move went almost un-commented upon at the time, but I think there are strong grounds to believe that it was the result of a deliberate strategy that paid off for the Conservatives.
Having shafted the Lib-Dems over PR and a few other things, the Tories behaved dishonourably since 2010. Having done so closes doors for them. Good. 
Read on....

"...the political right in the UK got a lot of things right in recent years without ever taking to the streets with placards – particularly in its understanding of the gamechanging potential of digital media.
Not being privy to their gameplan, I can only sketch it out the way I saw it. One bit of critical analysis I was recently reminded of came from a now-defunct Marxist blog called Socialism in an Age of Waiting. They noted that the Tories’ outlook was very bleak after the 2005, and that – barring an earthquake – it was unlikely that they’d be able to achieve the kind of swing needed to overturn the Labour majority in 2010. They went on to argue that the Tories needed to come up with a narrative that could make it possible for the centre-left populist Lib-Dems to get into bed with the Tories in the event of a hung parliament (pre-Lehmans and the spectacular personal car-crash of Brown’s leadership, this looked like the only foreseeable electoral scenario that could offer the Tories a glimpse of power). Even with the ‘earthquake’, it turns out that their analysis was accurate.
“…an intelligent and adaptable Tory leadership would give some serious thought to courting the LibDems, with a view to forming a grand anti-Labour alliance around policy positions that both parties could sign up to with only a few adjustments, and, crucially, with the enthusiastic support of much of the media for glib rhetoric about “consensus” and “freedom”:
  • a commitment to proportional representation, presented as a matter of fairness (which it would be), but in the sincere hope that it would prevent Labour from ever having a majority again (which it might well do);
  • wholesale privatisation of education, health care, pensions and social housing, to an extent that would make New Labour’s PFI programmes seem positively Bevanite;
  • a lot of earnest-sounding guff about human rights and civil liberties, coupled with little if any reduction in repressive measures, on the shrewd assumption that most people won’t notice the difference most of the time;
  • a commitment to overhaul the EU in an even more free-market direction, neatly balancing Tory Euroscepticism with LibDem populism, and probably in alignment with the trend in other major member states;
  • hostility both to increased immigration and to any further breaches of the “sovereignty” of nation states, thus combining (overt) right-wing little-Englandism with its (covert) liberal-left counterpart, and usefully blocking off any serious challenge from UKIP, Veritas, the BNP and the like; and,
  • given that New Labour will have been in power for 12 or 13 years by the time of the next election, the usual blether about the need for a new start, new faces, new this and that, of the kind that the media will dutifully lap up and regurgitate.
But of course the Tories are the stupid party, and their leaders are neither intelligent nor adaptable – or are they?” (hat-tip: Will Rubbish, who was impressed enough at the time to take a copy of this)
In fact, we have no idea if The Stupid Party ever did fully grasp the favours that were being done for it by it’s more intelligent and adaptable outriders in the blogosphere. They should be grateful though, because a number of important planks were laid between the Tories and the Lib-Dems online – not least in the way that civil liberties arguments were successfully conflated with free market ones. Labour’s managerialist inflexibility was successfully portrayed as authoritarianism (I argued this at length elsewhere at the time). The liberal-left fell for this one hook-line-and-sinker. That the cult of the methodological individualist was used to remind a Lib-Dem party of the L-word that was really only there as a reminder of the party’s bureaucratic heritage. It created the kind of weather that allowed the Orange Book authors to turf out the left-ish Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell and rise to the top of a traditionally socially liberal party."

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2013 predictions

Here are my predictions for 2013:
  1. The number of economists who will be crowing about how accurate their predictions for 2013 were in twelve months time will be, or be close to, zero
  2. Commentary in the mainstream media will continue to be dominated by people who can be relied upon to have a simplistic and polarising view on absolutely everything rather than having any valuable insight on anything
  3. On 31/12/13, the facts upon which public debate are based upon will still be supplied by journalists working under the constraints that have made journalism almost entirely dysfunctional
  4. It will not get any harder for a well-heeled pressure group to dominate the news agenda at the expense of the public interest
  5. Politicians will be no less convinced that their decisions must be dictated to them by economists, the commentariat, churnalists and wealthy pressure groups
  6. The number of people who profess themselves to have been 'turned off politics' will not have decreased by the end of 2013
Happy new year!