Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Conservatives weaving a dangerous new narrative

As we head into party conference season, public debate has sharpened again on a variety of topics, as battle-lines are drawn between political parties keen to differentiate themselves from each other.

Nowhere is it more stark than in the recent outpourings from the Conservative Party, increasingly confident in asserting it's distinctive platform and radical zeal in "modernising" the state's relationship with voters. Across a varied number of policy areas, we are hearing voices articulating seemingly common-sense, mainstream viewpoints: tough justice for rioters, tackling moral sickness amongst a feral underclass, a generation of women using abortion as a convenient birth control method and police officers supposedly idle in unnecessary "backroom" activities and ripe for cutting.

This is an increasingly successful strategy, because it lays claim to the middle ground of public opinion and builds a collective "us" against those people struggling at the margins of society. The Conservatives argue that reasonable people living through tough and constrained times are doing the right thing, whilst being taken advantage of by those who play the system. For those feeling the pinch, it's a very persuasive argument and has the benefit of being easily explained, appealing to tabloid gut instinct and the British sense of "fairness". This simplicity of message has translated into a popular narrative over the last couple of months, while left-leaning parties struggle to articulate the more sophisticated rationale needed to explain the multi-faceted problems facing those people at the sharp end of life in the UK.

The indignity of it all is that in spite of deliberately aiming to divide and conquer elements of society, David Cameron is still widely described as a One Nation Tory. The Green Party needs to renew efforts to remind people that the Conservatives (and frankly, to a lesser extent, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) are not speaking impartially for everyone in society. We need to encourage people to follow the equally vocal expressions of anger we hear around some other issues, such as bankers-bonuses, illegal press activities and MP expenses to their final destination: a silent vacuum where robust policy-making should be.

The Green Party's pledge that "Fairness is fighting for" remains more relevant than ever - but we need to remind opponents squatting on our political ground that fairness isn't the province of the select few. Providing opt-outs for those rich individuals financing political parties and media figures making and breaking political reputations will just exacerbate division. Setting particular sections of society at each other's throats in order to quash coherent resistance to the Government's damaging policies will only lead to widened inequalities and an elite class further insulated from their responsibilities to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment