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"We admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war." - Saddam Hussein, February 2003

Friday, December 27, 2002  

Republican dominance and Tory despair

LIKE MATTHEW TURNER, I'd also recommend to anyone the Christmas Edition of The Economist, on sale until 2 January. It is packed with interesting stuff on conspiracy theorists, fitness fanatics, Al Gore, Iran and pensions. A fascinating analysis of the continuing influence of Marxism is included, too, but I will deal with that in a separate post.

While mistakenly thinking a subscription is necessary to view it, Matthew highlights a piece contrasting the performance of the US Republicans with that of the Tories. With admirable contemplation and investigation, the column broadly concludes that the reason "the heirs of Ronald Reagan [are] doing so much better than Margaret Thatcher's" is that America is simply more right wing than the United Kingdom. I think this may be true, the British being generally very pragmatic and non-ideological. Even then, I'd say that if it is meaningful to distinguish between being conservative and being right-wing, I would say Britain is in the lead. But I don't think ideological differences are the main reason for the contrast. It is impossible to report current Tory woes fairly without taking into account the fact that the Conservative Party has governed this country for 18 of the last 25 years. I find almost tortuous just the thought of Labour winning the 1992 election. Just think of it a moment - Neil Kinnock as Prime Minister, the modernisers sidelined, Labour getting the blame for the ERM debacle, Labour's divided mob being the ones trying to respond to Maastrict.

By 1992, the Conservatives had been in power a very respectable thirteen years. Just about all the good we did the last time we were in government was completed by 1992. Nearly all the animosity and difficulties we faced came after it. Had the Tories lost the 1992 election, I am certain they would have won the election that followed, and most likely the one after that, which would have come some time in the last couple of years, meaning a Tory government right now. With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that Major's victory in 1992 was a real tragedy. But of course the Republicans did lose power in 1992, handing control of America to two complete failed terms of immoral, vapid Clintonism. All the emnity that long periods in power can bring did not occur. They lost the election rather narrowly to a cheat and a liar, and his period in office allowed them to bounce back. While we were tearing ourselves apart and gaining reputations for sleaze, incompetence, divisions and hypocrisy, the Republicans were able to make themselves the beneficiaries of the failure of the incumbent of the 1990s.

Equally, the extent of Republican dominance must not be exaggerated. The Economist notes that the Republicans haven't won the popular vote in a President election in 14 years, and others have pointed out that their success last month was in ensuring a mere 53%/47% margin of victory over the Democrats, and based on rather a low starting point.

Ultimately, though, I think circumstances will be the salvation of the Conservatives every bit as much as they proved to be for the Republicans on 11 September 2001. Blair cannot improve the public sector or make government in its present state more efficient. His failure will be the Conservatives' lifeline, as our negative image fades and we offer radical steps forward for everyone. We have a strong core vote that will carry us through these miserable times. I think the next Conservative government will be one of the best and most radical. It won't arrive for some time yet, but when it does, nearly everyone will benefit immensely. Britain may not be as right-wing as America, but if so, that is why she faces so many problems. In the end, only the Tories can put that right.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:43 | Permanent Link |

Tuesday, December 24, 2002  

The faith that dare not speak its name

MATTHEW ENGEL FISKS a "Happy Holidays" card from President Bush, correctly noting how comparable America's unease with religion is to Britain's with class. By what sane standards are Christian symbols banned in many American schools while symbols of the Jewish and Muslim faiths are permitted? Where else can Creationism find its way into some classrooms while in others girls can be sent home for wearing red and green scarves at Christmas time? Where else would blasphemers try to associate Jesus with abortion to improve their standing, and the ACLU's Gestapo-like bigots try to get a school mourning 9/11 to take down a sign wishing the blessing of God on its pupils?

It's an unease I can't see disappearing any time soon. Only if the silent majority continues to get its voice heard can common sense be restored.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:27 | Permanent Link |

Monday, December 23, 2002  

First step to solving homelessness: never give to beggars

THE BIG ISSUE MAGAZINE has probably caused the people of major cities in Britain more trouble than the Luftwaffe. As recent TV programmes have shown, many of the sellers are not somehow respectable beggars, but often no-hoper drug addicts, just like their silent counterparts who crouch in boxes with their dogs. If those who sell the magazine genuinely had goods worth buying to offer, they would quietly stand waiting for customers. But instead, aggressive and rude, they seem to think they have a right to your money, applying emotional blackmail, attempts to shame and the threat of violence in equal measure. Now even the man who started the Big Issue in the first place has urged people to stop giving to beggars. Giving to them only encourages more people to move onto the streets to try to exist, and is the "soft and damaging option" in the long run. How true. Let's find a real, long term solution to homelessness that does not reward and encourage people to go out and live on the streets, but offers opportunities to those who are in trouble to get back on their feet and to survive by their own means, not on the charity of others.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 12:45 | Permanent Link |
 

Popularity, but not votes

I'M PLEASED ROY HATTERSLEY can get so much enjoyment out of so much rubbish on TV, but I don't see why he thinks it is funny to expose the rest of us to it. From Changing Rooms to the Generation Game to Robot Wars, he manages to incorporate them all in a political column. I do wish the more serious hacks wouldn't assume that any old junk will do as a Christmas column. Especially those which end with jibes at the Tory leader made three years ago by IDS's predecessor.

I think he's onto something regarding Charles Kennedy, though. Kennedy doesn't seem serious or statesmanlike enough to be a politician, which is why he is so comparatively popular among a politically sceptical public. Hattersley says his prosperity is down to the fact that "no one could possibly imagine him as a minister - a class of person which is held in universal contempt". Probably true, but if people like him because they can't think of him as a minister, I don't think they will vote to put him in that position any time soon.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 11:19 | Permanent Link |
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