The Conservatives’ moral panic isn’t working

Why is the Conservatives’ poll lead shrinking? One underlying reason not picked up clearly in the polls is that the worst fears projected by politicians and the popular media are not being experienced in people’s lives. However hard they try to duck it, opposition parties are fated to deepen gloom more than raise hopes. Take the core Tory theme of “fixing broken Britain.” In spite of all the fears of soaring crime, the magisteral Economist dispassionately walks through the statistical minefield and still finds a dramatic fall. Tax breaks for married couples? They would register no impact on the targeted poor. And if the aim is to blow a dog whistle to entice the moral right, the tax breaks would extend to gay partnerships. One argument for marriage they fail to stress is that the divorced partner normally has access to the children guaranteed, while a non married former partner hasn’t. But this point is evaded as it might be seen as encouraging divorce. Britain awash with booze? Not much change in 20 years. However much the politicians bang on about honesty in politics, the old rule stands firm – the closer to the election the less candour we get. From the Economist

Today, only half as many girls between 15 and 19 bear a child in their teens as when their grandmothers were that age

Parents have probably never been more worried about their offspring, but the truth is that children seem to be less at risk now than in the past. The number of killings of under-15s has “collapsed” since the 1970s, according to Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University. Professor Pritchard calculates that in 1974 Britain was the third-biggest killer of children in the rich world. By his reckoning it is now 17th, following a 70% drop in child homicides

From the Independent

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that drinking levels have changed little since 1992, and have actually declined quite significantly in some groups in recent years. In 1992, 9 per cent of men aged 16-24 admitted drinking more than 50 units a week; in 2008, the figure was 7 per cent.
Binge-drinking levels also fail to show any clear trend. In 1998, 39 per cent of men said they had drunk more than eight units “on at least one day last week”; in 2008, it was 37 per cent. Among women, the trend is up, but the increase is entirely accounted for by a change in the way alcohol consumption is estimated.

  • David Crookes

    I wonder if historians will hold Mr Cameron largely responsible for destroying the link between the Conservative party and the moral right. For what party may members of the moral right vote now? Well, one party is standing there with its arms open wide, and that party has two advantages over the Cameronian Conservative party. First, it believes something. Secondly, it knows what it believes.

    Members of the moral right see Mr Cameron as combining the face of Tony Blair with the mind of Beaky Thwaite. Furthermore, they are not reassured by Mr Osborne’s cocksure grin.

  • “I wonder if historians will hold Mr Cameron largely responsible for destroying the link between the Conservative party and the moral right. ”

    What will be interesting is how those who form the moral right within the Tory party will react to Davey not securing an overall majority. The suspicion must be that having sat on their hands and having had to listen to Davey trot out, what must seem to them, as the equivalent of Guardianesque editorials there will be blue blood on the Tory central office floor.

  • Marcionite

    imagine what would have happened Labour had they lost 1997. Blair would have been ousted and a severe shift to the left would have taken place. Labour only tolerated Blair as long as he won elections but not a second longer.

    Ditto for Cameron but if the Tories lose 2010 despite 5 years of Camerons shift to the left, would they tolerate jim for another 5 ( a might long time to be opposition leader these days) or would they think “if we lose by pretending to be liberal then we may as well lose by going back to out rightist roots”

    or..

    Cameron does a deal with SNP where he urges Scottish Tories to support independance. By getting rid of Scotland if Cameron is a minority PM, he would be ridding himself of 75 Labour/Libdem MPs at a stroke thus guaranteeing a Tory majority in England for perpetuity

    remember, even in 2001, more English votes went Tory than Labour. It was the Celtic fringe that won it for Labour

  • David Crookes

    Two very interesting posts (#2 and #3). Some time ago a former SoS for NI said to a friend of mine that in twenty years’ time the UK would effectively be the United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland.

    I wonder where that would leave the many unionists of my acquaintance who believe that they like Scottish people (without knowing very many of them), who believe that they hate English people (without knowing more than a few of them), and who believe that at some distant point in the past they may have heard of Wales.

  • granni trixie

    Will be interesting to see how Sir Reg and co see Conservative policies/attitudes on “the mainland” – presumably UU thinks they are
    vote catchers in NI?

  • LabourNIman

    who knows maybe Cameron will let Reg stand for MP in england come the 2015 election.. after all that was Trimbles plan until they made him a lord.

    If DC loses this election I think we could actually see a split like what happened in the 80’s that created the joke that is the Lib Dems.

    Could you imagine UKIP and maybe 10-15 conservative MP’s (maybe UUP or TUV joining in) merging to create the uber, uber, we really are conservative and unionist party?

    Fun times.

  • If it is a hung parliament, the DUP will be kicking themselves for having bedded down with SF too early. Allowing for a fairly bad election for the DUP perhaps losing just a couple of seats it will be interesting to see how Cameron tries to switch horses from the UUP to the DUP. What would the DUP realistically be able to ask for in return for support from the Tories given the Tories have to follow the GFA/STA. Presumably a few extra quid?

    If DUP votes are not enough then of somewhat more significance for British voters, a hung parliament may well herald the end of the first past the post system if Lib Dems votes are needed by either the Labour Party or the Tories.

  • Marcionite

    Mr Crookes, perhaps far sighted unionists will have to decide which country of the UK they ultimately want to be hitched to. It may not necessarily be England; an independant Scotland would still retain the Queen also most NI unonist roots are in Scotland and not England. Is there a case for NI alligning it’s sovereignty with Scotland and sending our MPs instead to Holyrood? Imagine a merged soccer league and the carnival atmosphere of Celtic playing Linfield at Windsor twice a year.
    Seriously, it’s not England that evokes loyalism but the Crown and Scottish ancestry and religion

  • LabourNIman

    Moderate Unionist – simple, DUPers will ask for SF to lose their allowances for london. It would be a big PR victory for DUP and would actually save us a few million.

    They could also ask for tightening on donations, seeing as SF get a lot of money from overseas it would also hit them hard.

  • David Crookes

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone end a sentence with the words, ‘…..but if you stand for the UUP you have a chance of getting into the British Cabinet.’

    Can’t you see it. RE and MMcG being called in and asked which of the three great offices of state they would like.

    Fun times is right.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Marcionite (#8), you’re the quare comeejin when it comes to football, but how many Scottish people would care for such a union as you suggest? NI and Scotland are a bit like me and Paris Hilton. I may love her, but she has no reason to love me.

    Sharp one, LabourNIman (#9). Yes. They might indeed ask for something negative. But maybe they’d have enough wit to ask for a big library support grant.

    Don’t know what everyone is laughing at. Books are important in NI. I read a book myself once. Green, it was.

  • Marcionite

    Mr Crookes, Glasgow Hilton you mean ?

    The UK has never experienced an entire consitiuent country seccede. Eire doesn’t count as it left a rump Ireland behind (NI) therefore the UK still consisted off the 4 nations.

    However, if a consituent country did leave in it’s entirity, would what is left claim to be a united kingdom? Would the other Acts of Union be rendered null and void leaving England Wales and NI to vote for creating a newly constituted nation state?

    If you leave your wife, do you really want custody of the child from her first marriage ? Similarly, would England want lumbered with NI if Scotland left?

    Independance for NI is an option too. SF could gain Defence and Foreign Affairs as two new departments at Stormont

  • Marcionite

    Mr Crookes, Glasgow Hilton you mean ?

    The UK has never experienced an entire consitiuent country seccede. Eire doesn’t count as it left a rump Ireland behind (NI) therefore the UK still consisted off the 4 nations.

    However, if a consituent country did leave in it’s entirity, would what is left claim to be a united kingdom? Would the other Acts of Union be rendered null and void leaving England Wales and NI to vote for creating a newly constituted nation state?

    If you leave your wife, do you really want custody of the child from her first marriage ? Similarly, would England want lumbered with NI if Scotland left?

    Independance for NI is an option too. SF could gain Defence and Foreign Affairs as two new departments at Stormont

  • David Crookes

    Now hold on, Marcionite (#12). NI has to be the head, not the ‘rump’. By the way, my Oriental slaves call me 大卫無上師, but you can use my forename.

    Are we all having great fun thinking a lot of wild ‘what-if?’ thoughts? That’s good! Too many people are trying to get back to the Edwardian age. They should be listening to the Sluggerine Sibyls.

    There MAY be a shakedown of the UK and the RoI before long, and it MAY be accompanied by a shakedown of the British party system, although the Lib Dems will always be a self-important joke. Let us merrily consider what good might come out of either kind of shakedown. An excess of solemnity stops you having ideas.

  • LabourNIman,

    re. “Allowances” – good public relations but they are unlikley to get anything of substance.

    David Crookes,

    re. LibDems as a Joke. If there is a hung parliament they will be in a very good position to hold out for electoral reform and that might almost guarantee them a say in future governments.

    One of the reasons elctoral reform is not popular in Britain is the misguided idea that Britian is governed better than mainland Europe.

  • Paddy Matthews

    @marcionite:

    remember, even in 2001, more English votes went Tory than Labour.

    No, it was only in 2005 that the Tories managed to outpoll Labour in England, and then only by 65,000 votes (0.2%) out of 22.7 million. In 2001, Labour had been 6.3% ahead.

    It was the Celtic fringe that won it for Labour

    Actually, Labour took 286 out of 529 English seats.

    http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2005/RP05-033.pdf

  • David Crookes

    Moderate Unionist (#15), you’re not wrong: if the Lib Dems maintain their present numbers, they may indeed get into government. Of course they’ll still be a joke.

    One of the greatest moments in British politics was the day or night when the Monster Raving Loony Party beat David Owen into fourth place, and offered to merge with his party. That was David Owen finished.

    Another hilarity was born on the day when David Steel said, ‘Go home to your constituencies and prepare for government.’ That was years ago, and I’m still laughing.

    I don’t mind parties which claim to be more competent or more reasonable than other parties. What I can’t stick is a party that represents itself as being more virtuous than other parties. Often you find the virtuous party with its arms up to the elbows in the trough, same as everyone else.

    Now back to the Conservatives. Some gloomy election agents believe that there’ll never be a Tory government in Britain until everyone has forgotten about Brian Mawhinney, Edwina Currie, & Co. It’s difficult enough for David Cameron. A prominent Conservative told me some time ago that DC was far more right-wing than he or anyone else dared to admit, and that his first duty was to get elected. But I reckon you do well to say what you really believe.

  • LabourNIman

    David Crookes – the signs are there.

    DC has jumped in bed with Rupert Murdoch and have promised to remove impartiality from news broadcasting, all but destroy the BBC’s ability to be competitive and will lead to sky news becoming the UK version of Fox news.

    Plus, do you honestly think he started a new european alliance without knowing how right wing the other parties were?

  • None of these polls take into account the fact that in a large number of seats the Conservative Party only need a small swing to give them the seat. I still see the Consevatives forming the next government.

  • “But I reckon you do well to say what you really believe. ”

    You have to ask yourself who was the best Labour leader, Michael Foot or Tony Blair? Many people might go for the boul Mickey as he always told the truth but then again many more would tell you it was Tony Blair becuase he never did.

    If Davey is a mad-dog-ring-winger he’s best keeping that to himself if we wants to get elected and then unleashing his mad-dog policies after he gets in.

  • David Crookes

    LabourNIman (#18), I wondered if the new European alliance was meant to sweeten the hanging-and-flogging Europhobes back home. Letting RM come om board is like asking a full-grown monitor lizard to have you for lunch.

    Moderate Unionist (#20), MF was a great Number Two. After he broke his leg all the punch seemed to go out of him. The speech which he made on the night that ended Callaghan’s reign was one of the best things I have ever heard. (‘The Boy David’!) Most of the parliamentary oratory that you hear nowadays, by contrast, rarely rises above the grammatical and vocabular level of a television serial drama.

    Why are we all up so late? Could we be sad people? No, of course not. We’re getting into practice for sitting up all night after the soon-coming election, with tea and snacks every hour or so. It looks as if it’s going to be a pretty interesting night.

  • aquifer

    Cameron is half right but still useless. Thatcher brought in separate taxation for people in marriages, so that one partner cannot afford to stay at home to look after the children or help to keep their partner in employment by shouldering the domestic load. No fault divorces promote the fiction that the state has no interest in marriage, while struggling to build social houses big enough to accommodate the visiting children of separatees. The state flatters its paternal male ego by supporting single female parenthood, regardless of the consequences for children of either sex without stable male role models.

    In the end, he will be an apologist for fat cats and a corrosive cruel wilful burden on the poor.

    I’m waiting in anticipation of Mandelson, if his cutting edge is still sharp, filleting him out before polling day.

  • Reader

    Moderate Unionist: You have to ask yourself who was the best Labour leader, Michael Foot or Tony Blair?
    It has to be Michael Foot. After all, he was “a legend in the labour party” – as the crossword clue put it.

  • Reader,

    too cryptic for me?

    DC,

    ” The speech which he made on the night that ended Callaghan’s reign was one of the best things I have ever heard”

    But that does not alter the fact that if you are ‘ahead’ of the population in terms of your political views of the world, whether mad-dog-left in the case of Michael Foot or mad-dog-right as suggested about Davey Cam then it is best, as Matthew 5: 14-16 might suggest, to keep your light under a bushel basket.

  • David Crookes

    Aquifer, most of your first paragraph (#22) should be carved in stone. The worship of money and career, like the war on stable marriage, is having all kinds of unpleasant consequences.

    Moderate Unionist (#24): yes, you’re right, and I’m wrong. As the Chinese proverb says, houl yer bake until you’re in the driving seat (as long as you don’t compromise yourself fatally in the interim). The mad dogs can be very entertaining, but British voters want to feel safe. I’m going to stop leaking all my plans for the future.

    It’s a wonderful day outside, and I should be trying to persuade the back lawn that the border is still the border. Fun times, as someone said yesterday! There are so many unwonted terms being brought into the psephological equation that the election when it comes should be a real hum-dinger. What have we got to put into the melting-pot? A Tory party whose Eurofissure has been covered over with black polythene. A Labour party whose leader has begun to look strong and principled. An utterly pointless lot of Lib Dems. An SNP that sees some form of independence within its grasp. A Welsh assembly that wants more power. A dodo UUP which hopes to rise like the phoenix and nest in the dispatch box of a cabinet minister. A DUP which may surprise everyone by holding on to its vote (except in the Strangford constituency). A TUV which expects to win no seats but is going to jump in lots of puddles and have lots of fun soaking lots of people. A SF which has really very little to worry about now that the Liam Duck has transformed himself into a theological swan. An SDLP whose fortissimo leadership contest has given way to a semibreve rest with a pause-mark over it.

    What remains? The possibility of ‘events’. A lot of things can change within a period of eight weeks.

  • Driftwood

    MU
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/7342739/Gordon-Brown-on-course-to-win-the-election-Youve-got-to-be-joking.html

    Boris rightly states that the bookies, and Betfair in particular are better indicators than any poll.
    It matters more when there’s money on it.
    And there is money to be made, in our own little parish and on the mainland.

  • Sammy Morse

    There is absolutely no reason why a hung parliament needs to make either coalition government or electoral reform happen -unfortunately. Canada, for example, has had a minority Tory government for some years.

    Crystal balls seem particularly useless at the moment.

    we could actually see a split like what happened in the 80’s that created the joke that is the Lib Dems.

    I wish the warmongering shower of torturers who prostituted the British economy out to a bunch of spivs in the City and presided over continually growing inequalities between rich and poor called the British Labour Party was a joke. Unfortunately it is too serious for that.