‘The stupid is accelerating’

Dr Crippen has an interesting post up at rightwing forum Conservative Home. In it he makes a convincing argument for the possibility of a Labour fourth term.

Over the last few months, amongst the chattering classes at any rate, it has become taken for granted that the Conservatives will win the next election. There has been some discussion about the size of the majority and, amongst Tory supporters, a considerable amount of schadenfreude as they list the Labour cabinet ministers who will lose their seats. But no one entertains the prospect that Labour might pull off an astonishing fourth victory.

The doctor thinks it can. Why?

By taking cheap shots at the NHS from abroad, [Daniel] Hannan has made sure that his valuable suggestions about health care reform cannot be considered or discussed by the Conservatives. He has also made sure that some of the reforms that the NHS so desperately needs, reforms that were being considered behind the scenes by the Conservatives, will not see the light of day. Once again, the NHS will be at the forefront of the next general election. Once again, no politician dare suggest wholesale reforms. Whatever the chatterati may think, and however different the reality may be, the ‘patients on the street’ are committed to their idealised, fantasy image of their NHS.

Twelve years of appalling New Labour mismanagement of UK health care will count for nothing if Peter Mandelson can persuade the ‘man in the street’ that the NHS will not be ‘safe’ in the hands of an incoming Conservative government.

The truth is, if I were on the right wing I would be very worried about the recent conservative onslaught on the NHS. No British rightwing pundit would dare to say in a UK conservative publication what Hannan said on Fox News. British conservatism derives its success from Voice Of The People politics. Tory politicians and pundits claim to be standing up for the little guy against liberal elites, political correctness, immigrants, health and safety laws and the like.

The problem is that you cannot claim to be the Voice Of The People if you want to prevent The People from seeing a doctor when they get sick. Working class reactionaries will respond to rhetoric on taxes, crime and immigration but they will not like the idea of hospital vouchers or paying for essential operations. This is an issue that crosses tribal political boundaries. Sarah Palin’s Twitter page crashed when she attacked the system’s ‘death panels’.

I would personally be finished without the NHS, for in the absence of state-provided cognitive behavioural therapy I’d still be mumbling to myself in a Salford attic, and would probably remain there for the rest of my days. And millions of people have a story like that. The personal becomes political. The Devil’s Kitchen says that criticising the NHS is not treason. Probably it’s not. But in the gut it feels like treason. It feels like an attack on British values.   

American conservatives have never known state medicine and therefore don’t have the inhibitions of their UK counterparts. Hannan might have thought it a good idea to carve out a secondary income by saying ludicrous things on the Fox propaganda channel but thanks to YouTube, it will come back to haunt him.

This whole thing at first glance seems like a typical rightwing beserker that will blow over in a few days but the rhetoric we are hearing is so deranged and poisonous that it has real potential to damage contemporary conservatism. It’s worse than anything David Brock wrote about. David Aaronovitch quotes a US commenter: ‘[T]he stupid is accelerating.’

It’s not as if the UK Conservative Party was in a strong position to begin with. Its slick liberal image was based on the same New Labour presentation-heavy politics that the Tory grassroots have always hated and the public have grown to despise. Underneath that surface, you uncover some very nasty priorities. The expense claims for moats and duckponds, the fact that Cameron helped to write the Tory 2005 manifesto, Fraser Nelson’s dangerous candour on public spending, party alliances with American wingnuts and European fascists… the darkness is seeping out.

Little things can make a difference because UK political engagement is in a state of decline. The political history of the last fifteen years has seen political parties lose more and more substantial policy difference, with a corresponding drop in voter turnout and party membership. British politicians are like children fighting over a diminishing electoral cake. In a situation like this, conservative attitudes to public health could let Labour pull the triangulation trick one more time.

As I said, if I were on the right I’d be worried. Since I’m on the left, I’m laughing.


The UK Conservative Party: still worthless shitheads after all these years


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