Could the Tories ever be right?

As a political Lefty, I have to think the unthinkable sometimes, just because my own biases might make me blind to the truth. So, what I’m asking myself, could the Tories be right in their main policies?

Mobbing the Tories by American Patriots in 177...

Mobbing the Tories by American revolutionaries in 1775-76; the Tory is about to be tarred and feathered (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My moral compass struggles with this because obviously it is, in my opinion, morally repugnant to put the emphasis on the budget deficit reductions on the poor and the weak while ignoring whole segments of society that not only has the capital to easily fill the deficit gaps, but who also have reserves and incomes that far outweigh the deficits.

In my way of thinking, the cuts in housing benefits for the poor are immoral because the government at the same time introduced a state sponsorship for house buying for the better-off.

That means that if you’re poor, then the government will hound you for pennies and a few quid. If you’re rich, the same government will guarantee tens of thousands or more if you buy a house.

While £100 less per month for a single mother in a council estate is a disaster, economically, the same amount for a middle class couple earning £5000 a month is far less of a problem. It might not be a trivial problem, but it is far easier to downsize £100 for the middle class couple. For the single mother, that loss could mean the difference between struggling and homelessness.

With the emphasis on cutting for the poor, and ring-fencing the benefits for those who earn well, the moral nature of the problem seems clear to my lefty heart. It seems clear that the government could be far more effective in reducing the deficit by reducing the benefits going to the more well-off than to attack the poor and the sick. It seems to me that going after the better-off, it would also not have such a drastic impact on the general economy because the government could do much less.

To cut benefits and such to the poor, you have to cut to the bone. To cut benefits and such that mainly go to the middle-class and above, you’d only need to cut marginally because the state income would be far greater. There are many more middle class people than there are poor people. Getting say 20 bn from 5 million poor people is going to hurt far more than getting 20bn from say 40 million better-off people.

The Tories will use very moralist rhetoric against the poor, but will use far different language to describe the house buying benefits. To my lefty heart this will make my blood boil, and I will reach for the internets to vent my wounded sense of fairness.

However, there comes a time when I have to step back and ask myself – are my own biases making me blind? Is there a case to be made for these policies? Could the Tories ever be right? The problem is of course that economics is so shitty as a science that without a formal degree in it, you’re left with trying to navigate biases that you can or you can’t see.

It is easy with a person like Paul Krugman. He might be a Nobel laureate, but the problem with the field of economics is such that he can be a Nobel laureate at the same time that he is a political activist and a partisan pundit. The same is true for the darlings of the right, Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. They seem to be political agents first, and scientists second.

A point of illustration is the latest debacle with Ed Balls of Labour who wants to raise the top tax rate from 45p to 50p for people earning over £150,000 per year. Only 1 per cent of the population earn that much, and it says a lot that Labour can not suggest that the tax should go up for everyone earning more than, say, £50.000 per year. It would fix the deficits far easier than going after the last pennies of the poor, and the government has said that we’re all in this together. Except the rhetoric since Mr. Balls’ suggestion has been that Britain will be an economic wasteland since everyone will pack up and go elsewhere.

We’re ill served by economics being so wed to politics. It means the truth can’t be had, and we’ll never know the exact answer to my question: can the Tories ever be right? And that makes me annoyed, and what makes me more annoyed is that media serves us ill by choosing the bias instead of the hard-work of real research.

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The secret ingredient to youth political engagement in the UK

I have spent part of the day on the periphery of a protest planning meeting. About ten teenagers, three guys and seven girls, are preparing a protest later in the year about, what I believe, is building on ground declared a green zone.

11 9 07 Voter Apathy Bearman Cartoon

Photo credit: Bearman2007

This fits a pattern which I have observed, that a lot of teenagers are actually quite interested in politics. It just takes a different direction than party politics. Because, asking them, only about two said they were definitely going to vote in the European Elections later, and then in the general elections next year.

I spent part of yesterday following a debate on Twitter; yes, a lot of politicians and bureaucrats. Their main concern seemed to be how to reach young voters in the upcoming european elections. There was a lot of talk about shaping a message ‘to reach’ us.

I actually think that is the root of the problem. Most people I know aren’t stupid; they do understand English. If you’ve grappled with some of the source material I and the others have, what a politician would say is simple stuff. What is needed if for politicians to say what they mean, and then stick to what they say. Remember the last election? A lot of kids and young adults actually went and voted. And they crashed the voter registration in 2010 by adding ten per cent to the electoral rolls so that they could vote, mainly, for Nick Clegg because of his party’s student policy stances…

When you look at the statistics. The two groups most ready to volunteer for charities and action groups are the over 65s, and the under 25s. The rest, presumably, book conferences where they can talk about youth’s political apathy, and about how they can massage their message to some elusive formula that will open the ears of the sceptical teen voter.

From this Guardian article. Emphasis mine:

When Cameron next attempts to explain what he means by Big Society (ideally without an egg-throwing unhuggable hoodie in the background), he would do well to remember that, over the last year, it was the under-25s, as well as the over-65s, who scored the highest levels of volunteering in the country.

So, I can save them hundreds of pounds each year in the future. The secret formula to get us to listen to you is: say what you mean, do what you say once elected, and keep at it over a whole career. As it is now, I doubt anyone will trust a politician who comes and says “Trust me, I’m different.” Nick Clegg did that in 2010, reaped the rewards, and look at how people view his party now once the party went back on everything they’d said and promised.

The problem is not that the politicians speak a different language, and that they need to choose words and sentences that match some kind of universal teenage lingua franca. The secret ingredient to connecting with us is the same as with connecting to everyone else. Speak the truth. Mean what you say. Keep your promises. The problem does not lie with youth being apathetic. The problem lies with the politicians and bureaucrats who over decades have given voters, and not just youth, every reason to be highly sceptical of the political class.

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