Saturday, January 17, 2009

Conservatives: it's not ideas, it's money that will gain us power...

I have been consistently critical of the lack of hard policy coming from the Conservative Party over the past year. The Cameron-led attempt to re-enact the Labour strategy pre-1997 had been pretty successful until the wheels fell off of the economy and it became clear that the lack of stated policy masked an absence of any real, coherent policy worth writing home about.

The political strategy appears to be to oppose anything that is unpopular, suggest that you're thinking about doing things that appear popular, and state that you wouldn't have managed the economy in the same way that Labour did. In normal circumstances, that might have been enough. However, in the gathering crisis, voters are keen to see something being done. I'm not convinced that there is a sense at to what that is, but the sense of activity is vaguely reassuring.

The Conservatives have responded with a flurry of speeches which, when analysed, give little steer as to what their underpinning philosophy is. Unconvincing on tax cuts, unconvincing on the role of government, unconvincing on the environment or the economy, their support is founded on not being Labour, rather than on being for anything.

Clearly, there is a realisation that this is the case at the top of the Conservative Party, and this comment, from their Treasurer, when asked if it meant he was trying to crush Labour financially;

"We will blow them out of the water."

Now I am not so naive to think that money has no place in politics. In order to get the message across, a political party needs resources, both financial and human. However, if the leading opposition party needs to 'blow its opponent out of the water' in order to win the argument, it implies that what they are offering isn't that great. Add the advantages of favourable media coverage, and you really worry about the ability of the Conservatives to make a positive case to earn voter support.
Of course, this also makes the case for campaign finance reform here in the United Kingdom. The impact of campaign spending on the result of the US Presidential election cannot be ignored. The Obama campaign outspent the McCain campaign by a vast margin, yet they only won by 5% or so. Had the two campaigns been equally resourced, who knows how things would have panned out?
In a multi-party democracy, the impacts on campaign spending are even greater. With one party of business, and one of labour and the unions, other political voices are in risk of being pushed to the margins. Given the drop in voter turnout in recent decades, might providing all political parties with the means that reflect their electoral strength provide potential voters with meaningful choice?

1 comment:

Oranjepan said...

Where does Cameron think all this funding is going to come from, if he is prepared to alienate backers in the city by opposing expansion of Heathrow?

Or is his strident opposition to Heathrow an environmental sham?

Does he think that hundreds of thousands of new reactionary nimby members will replace one Lord Ashcroft?