Tuesday, June 12, 2007

UKIP, the Tories and me

I have been thinking about such things recently, as people challenge me on my party allegiance; both friends and certain bloggers have wondered why I should be a member of UKIP. Why, they say, not try to change the Conservatives from within?

The first point that I would make is that I am not a mindless party drone. Indeed, this would hardly be possible since there is no party that represents the entirety of my views (although one acknowledges that the majority of people must be in the same boat). This is why I have never actually joined a political party before: UKIP's policies simply came close enough to mine to enable me to join them without feeling that I was joining a party whose philosophy was at odds with mine.

I am the libertarian (and ever-evolving) Devil's Kitchen first, and a member of UKIP second.

But being a libertarian, this is—ultimately—the type of government that I want to see in Westminster. Indeed, I want the government to be reminded that they are only loaned their power by the mutual consent of the people: as such, UKIP's call for a smaller state is, for me, one of the most powerful messages that they espouse. From this concept flows all decent libertarian policy; I particularly liked this comment by Mark Wadsworth...
The only rule is, if two libertarians can't agree what the rule should be, then we just don't have a rule at all and let people get on with it.

Many people would see this as a recipe for paralysis; "surely," they cry, "nothing would get done!" Looking at the many thousands of laws that NuLabour has introduced over the years—including over 3,000 new criminal offences—one cannot help but wonder ifr this might not be a good thing.

In fact, I am certain that it is a good thing.

As a number of reports have recently highlighted, education in this country is not about education any more.
The curriculum in state schools in England has been stripped of its content and corrupted by political interference, according to a damning report by an influential, independent think-tank.

It warns of the educational apartheid opening up between the experience of pupils in the state sector and those at independent schools, which have refused to reduce academic content to make way for fashionable causes.

The actual concept of teaching children useful information has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency; politicians have always pointed to exam results to show the progress of their education policy because exam results are easily skewed. And don't take my word for it: read this letter from a Physics teacher. The point is that exams can be used to measure anything that the government wants them to measure: it is only when people move onto positions wherein knowledge cannot be compromised, i.e. the private sector (about the only part left so debased has even university education become), that they realise that their education has become a farce.

And do we need to talk about health? The service has become bogged down with targets without any proper or sensible change to the underlying structure of the organisation. Unimaginable amounts of money have been poured into the NHS and government targets imposed; all that has happened, much like exams, is that these targets have been skewed or corrupted for the sake of political capital. And so fucking dire is the situation that even this corrupting process cannot show good results.

These services should be removed from political control; the state runs things very badly and so should not run them at all. I am a libertarian because I genuinely believe that our society would be better off with fewer services run from the centre.

But surely this is what the Tories believe? After all, as Jackart has pointed out, they are proposing to decentralise the police and introduce local sheriffs. Yes, this is a start, for sure, and a very welcome one.

Well, possibly: I have my doubts. Look at the grammar schools row: at first I thought that the Tories were genuinely moving to remove many schools from state control. Unfortunately, David Willetts destroyed that notion when he proposed that schools could select by race; or, rather, that certain schools absolutely should select pupils by race.
Mr Willetts said his party had drawn up its proposals because there were parts of England where towns were "divided by race and religion into two very distinct groups".

"In those communities which are deeply divided we could use the creation of new academies to improve links between the communities by setting the aim of recruiting students from both those communities," he said.

One can see the logic of his argument, but in order to enforce this idea means more government interference, not less. It smacks of another PFI-style disaster: Squander Two explains very clearly the problem with that.
Companies that were once part of nationalised industries but are now private tend to be run according to a set of principles that I call "cargo-cult capitalism". Just like the cargo cults who build things that look like runways in the belief that these will bring planes bearing bounteous wonders, the managers of these organisations have seen private companies doing things and making profit, but have no conception of the underlying structure that informs their actions. "Oo!" they say, "Private companies sometimes rebrand, so let's rebrand! It's bound to work!" They have no idea why some companies rebrand or what they hope to achieve; they just know that they do it. So British Airways, with one of the best recognised brands and logos in the world, and British Telecom, with one of the best recognised brands in the UK, simply destroy their own identities. Anyone who's worked for British Gas will recognise this mentality.

Cargo-cult capitalism has also thoroughly infected the Labour Government, thereby spreading into things that haven't even been privatised, such as the National "Health" "Service" and John Prescott's house-building schemes. "Oo!" they say, "Private companies can build things so much quicker than we can, so let's get them to build stuff for us! It's bound to work!" Their understanding of why a private firm can build something more quickly than the second subcommittee of deputy under-secretary C's pre-approval public consultation outreach strategy (phase three) is non-existent. So they ask a bunch of private firms if they'd like to do some of their usual work but with four times more red tape than usual and guaranteed interminal delays caused by the whims of jobsworth officials whose pay is not even tangentially related to their speed, then scratch their heads in bafflement when there are so few takers for what seemed like such a wonderful offer.

So, I believe that Tory policy has severe problems (and I haven't even mentioned the EU): should I join the Conservative party and try to change it from within? In a word, no.

The Tories so-called "lurch to the Left" is acknowledged, even by strident Tories, as an attempt to capture the middle ground; a strategy to win votes. Now that the leadership is in place, how could I possibly influence them?—especiallly when Cameron dismissed, out of hand, the clamours of dismay and outrage from the party faithful?

Well, as far as I am concerned, the best and most effective way to do so is to ensure that the Conservative policies that I disagree with will ensure that Cameron's Conservatives are denied votes. If votes are what Cameron wants, then the best way to influence his policy is to join a party whose policies I do agree with and show that there are votes in those policies.

Am I therefore saying that UKIP is nothing more than a Tory pressure group? No.

UKIP are not going to form a government in the near future: let us be realistic about this. However, they are far more effective than being a mere Tory pressure group because pressure groups can be utterly ignored or even placated.

A political party that can garner votes is far more effective: look at Cameron's smears and dismissals of the UKIP membership. Unable to engage UKIP on policy, partly because both parties are still forming those policies, Cameron resorted to slightly pathetic name-calling. It didn't work. And UKIP can still take votes off the Conservatives and will take votes off the Conservatives.

This is, ultimately, the only way in which we can drive the Conservatives towards a libertarian agenda. Because, actually, conservatives are not libertarians: libertarianism is far too radical an idea for most conservatives.

But we can drive the Tories to remember that the concept of personal liberty is not simply an out-moded, purely philosophical idea but it is quite simply the best way in which to run a country: by not running it but allowing people to run their own lives instead.


Mark Wadsworth said...

I second the whole lot of that.

BTW, best of luck for NEC elections next week.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

libertarianism is far too radical an idea for most conservatives

That might be true, but I think it would be fair to point out that, at least anecdotally from what I'm seeing of their online activity, the libertarian element in the Party is a respectable and sizeable minority.

I can imagine it's a slightly lonely position to be in with some associations (in fact, I know), but the growing list of Conservative bloggers and commentators who take a libertarian hue is encouraging. It is their involvement and some of the people involved in the candidacy process that maintains my interest in the Party, with the hope that the libertarian, or even the classic liberal element could slowly but surely grow.

Jackart said...

Well argued. I hate Gordon Brown much, nuch more than I like UKIP's policies.

Neal Asher said...

Regarding the education system ... it should now be rebranded as the indoctrination system.

Roger Thornhill said...

For me, Cameron is all about winning, not about policy or belief. He is chasing votes, not leading people, setting an agenda or enlightening the nation. He may succeed because I feel people cleave to the winner and for understandable psychological reasons.

If Cameron wants to win, he should go out there and be an Entrepreneur and win for Britain commercially. If he wants to have a view, convince others and enlighten, then stay a politician.

I am not sure what is worse for the country, a Lawyer or a Marketeer.

Bag said...

Excellent post. Agree with it completely.

Just like to add that joining the Tories and believing that you can change it from the inside is just plain wrong based on Camerons blatant dismissal of others views. Joining them makes him feel that his policies are right and so it actually does the opposite to what you want.

Good luck DK. It's going to be interesting.

Mr. Hughes said...

Well said, Mr. DK! This represents almost precisely the thinking that led me to join UKIP myself - also the first time I'd ever joined a political party. Only I've never had the energy to explain it at such length! The argument that you should change the Cameron Tories 'from the inside' is similar to the ridiculous argument that you should 'engage' with the EU and change that from the inside. In both cases people fail to see that once you are a part of these ghastly organisations all freedom of argument or dissent are effectively cancelled. As you say, power-mad politicians only change their behaviour when they feel their power is genuinely under threat. In the case of Cameron this translates into votes lost, though of course in the case of the EU even this doesn't apply as democracy is not a factor in the onward march of the great euro-empire.
There are times when I get exasperated with some of the petty in-fighting in UKIP and the occasional foot-in-mouth negative publicity they achieve. But then I look at their basic policies and aims and realise that they, imperfect as they may be, are the only hope for a Britain in the future that I can recognise as the Britain I was born and grew up in for the greater part of my life. (By the way - those who haven't read Hitchens' classic 'The Abolition of Britain' are heartily recommended to read it if they want to understand why we need a party like UKIP).

Cleanthes said...

What Roger said.

The mistake that Cameron is making is that he is trying to move to where he thinks the voters are.

Imagine if the Conservatives had tried to do this in 1979.

The correct approach - which you do a good job of expressing - is to convince the voters that there is another way: that there is an alternative and that it is better.

You don't move to the voters: you move the voters to you.

This is the one place to which Labour (in any of its myriad forms, Zanu-, old, militant, whatever) cannot follow. Labour cannot try to follow any party that offers a classical liberal line because it is self-evidently the very antithesis of everything that socialism espouses.

The phrase "clear blue water" forces itself upon me...

Mark Wadsworth said...

"Clear purple water", actually, in this context.