100 Days of Solid Ideology
The coalition is 100 days old. And what a hundred days it’s been. They’ve ended the huge waste of building new schools. They’ve said they’ll end detention of children of asylum seekers, and explained that this will be by speeding up deportations. And they’ve delivered their promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’ by supporting the development of Kingsnorth Power Station. This is the most ideological government since Labour won a landslide in 1945. And that ideology has helped them ride out a range of catastrophic mistakes.
Buoyed up by their public school endowed belief that they’re born to rule, Clegg and Cameron (ably assisted by Osborne) have set the foundations for the biggest ever assault on working people. They’re lining up for a final attack on the welfare state, the NHS and the concept of provision for all. The result of a collapse caused by the excesses of private finance and economic mismanagement by corporations will be the removal of support for the most vulnerable.
The extraordinary thing about this government, though, is not its ideological zeal. A passing glimpse at the cuts-thirsty rhetoric of either Clegg – with his lust for “savage cuts” or Cameron – with his weekly condemnation of Gordon Brown’s desire to stabilise the economy would have suggested a determination to destroy vital services. The extraordinary thing is that they are so incredibly incompetent.
This incompetence was prefigured by Chris Grayling’s stunning condemnation of Generals being recruited by political parties. He’d thought Labour had recruited a General. In fact it was his own side. The Tories had forgotten to inform their Home Affairs frontbencher that they’d be announcing high-profile recruits.
Surely, though, no-one expected that David Cameron would go on a world tour of offence. He appears not to have realised that when you’re the Prime Minister people pay attention to what you say. And when you’re in one country and criticise their enemies as an ingratiation strategy the media will report it.
So he went to India and criticised Pakistan for “exporting terror”, told the Americans that the UK was their junior partner in the Second World War even before the Americans had entered the war and said that Gaza was an open prison camp. While those things might be true, it’s pretty clear that Cameron doesn’t really believe them. It’s one of those tricks he picked up at Eton – make friends with one boy by saying nasty things about someone he dislikes.
Had Gordon Brown done any of these things it would have been a sacking matter. Instead we had a discussion Radio 5 about whether Cameron bumbling round the world like a first year pupil trying to make friends was a breath of fresh air.
Possibly the greatest demonstration of Ministerial incompetence has been by the bumptious Michael Gove. His announcement that he would cancel new school buildings as a way of cutting ‘waste’ demonstrates the class hatred at the core of the coalition’s politics. If you’re not wealthy enough to send your children to a fee-paying school then educating those children is clearly a ‘waste’.
You can imagine the scene. Gove, flush with the excitement of stopping a school building programme, speeding to the House of Commons to deliver his glorious body blow to the assorted oiks and proles on the opposition benches. Hah! Education! Only for the children of the wealthy!
In the rush he forgot to check that the list was right. Not only did he announce the wrong list, his apology contained the wrong schools again. Had this been a Labour government the media would have been all over it. Instead most journalists seem utterly disinterested.
The big lesson from this ist that sticking to your beliefs can get you through a set of incredible mistakes. Rather than the New Labour approach of saying what they thought people wanted to hear, the coalition government has pushed ahead with what it believes. It has delivered more of its ideological goals in 100 days than the last government did in 13 years. And that stands to reason in some ways. It’s difficult to like someone who is cagey, who seeks to please, and who is careful about what opinions he or she shares. So people found it difficult to like New Labour.
It’s a painful exercise, but just imagine how much more could have been achieved by the post 1997 governments had they pursued a centre-left agenda with some conviction…