Monday, March 11, 2013

Eight glorious years

Things seem to have gang slightly agley. The economy's not in the best of shape (and I can see yet more growth suppressing flakes outside my window right now). Labour are executing a very discplined Fortinbras policy, leaving few hostages to fortune and setting the terms of debate (so every cut in public spending, which people generally support, becomes a tax - the bedroom tax, the granny tax, the 'tax on mums' - which people generally oppose). Polling is starting to look rather beastly.

A large part of the strife the Tories are in is inevitable. Despite wittering and warbling from the left, whoever had won the election in 2010 would have done more or less exactly what George Osborne has done - talk tough on deficit reduction plans, while covertly soft-pedaling as hard as possible to avoid depressing a pretty stagnant economy. None of the parties would have provided a 'fiscal stimulus', because the money to do so isn't there - according to the Bank of England. Britain in 2013 is still hungover from the binge years. Part of the reason that we haven't seen the size of the economy bounce back to 2008 levels is that much of that economy was froth on the surface - illusory wealth that hasn't returned because it was never really there.

People don't like hangovers, and they don't like governments that reduce public spending. Dan Hannan said, in relation to Hugo Chavez, that in Venezuela there is a saying that "there are no good nor bad presidents, only presidents when the oil price is high and when it is low." I suspect that David Cameron would have been an extremely good 'good times' Prime Minister. We may never know.

One point that does need addressing, though, is the one raised by Iain Martin's 'activist' friend here.

"Eight years after becoming Conservative Party Leader … Thatcher had got inflation from 22 per cent to 4 per cent and beaten the Argies. Heath had joined the EU. Churchill had won World War Two. Baldwin had seen off the General Strike and the Great Depression and broken both the Liberal and Labour parties, utterly. (No other Conservative leader lasted eight years post World War One). Cameron, on the other hand has … well, there's … umm …"

Well, for a start Cameron hasn't lost two elections, unlike Baldwin (1923 and 1929), Heath (1966 and 1974) and Churchill (1945 and 1950). For a second, he hasn't triggered devastating industrial unrest, unlike Baldwin and Heath. Equally, YMMV, but none of Cameron's policy decisions have been as disastrous as Imperial Preference, or a return to the Gold Standard.

And as a final point, Cameron has been Prime Minister for just under three years. The comparitor with Thatcher would therefore be March 1982. Inflation was 10.4% up slightly since the 1979 election, unemployment had recently risen over three million - roughly 12.5% and the Tories were polling behind (or at best equal to) Michael Foot's Labour Party. Just because we're conservatives doesn't mean we're forced to use rose-tinted glasses.


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