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Tories: in hock to wideboys, economically dysfunctional and politically toxic

"We're in this together" - George Osborne speaking at Tory Party conference - a still from Captain Ska video "Liar Liar".It’s tempting. You see the insurmountable difficulties besetting the Tories, and their feeble firefighting efforts, and all you want to do is point and laugh. Heaven knows how much fun I’ve had doing it these last couple of years. Unfortunately, the remorseless grind of long term economic, cultural and political change is just as surely against the Labour Party too, but more of that another time.

The crisis at the root of British Toryism is two-fold. Demographically, it’s an old white people’s party. It has little positive to say to younger cohorts of voters. The one genuinely progressive and popular policy of its time in office – equal marriage – precipitated the debarkation of thousands of blue rinsed bigots into the arms of them smelly old kippers.

Politically, its organic links to British capital have also withered. Thanks to the Tories’ opaque networks of dining clubs, front groups and the like it’s much harder to see where the money comes from. Then again, it’s not difficult to infer from the kinds of policies they push who is stumping up the cash: the socially useless rentiers of the City, the gruesome gang of hedge fund wideboys, property speculators, and (whisper it) Russian oligarchs and shady Sheikhs. JCB’s Anthony Bamford and his Midlands Industrial Council fly the flag for good old “productive” capital, but that’s it. The Tory Party is funded and owned by finance, the superficially dynamic but most short-termist section of British capital.

How did this happen? The blessed Margaret did it. If Toryism wasn’t congenitally stupid it would revile her for what her politics have meant for capital’s tested ‘A’ team. Thatcher’s class war policies of the 1980s were an offensive that successfully subordinated ever greater sections of social life to the dictates of capital. Education, welfare, recalcitrant working class communities, the lot. It worked, after a fashion. Only seldom-read bloggers these days call into question the business domination of everything.

But it was more than the pesky miners and the labour movement Thatcher brought to heel. The “civil war without guns” was preceded and followed by mass closures, mass sackings, mass privatisations. Tory class war was a blunt force trauma inflicted on the body politic.

But the working class were not the only losers. Whole sections of British capital, nominally public owned and not, went up in smoke as the chimneys came crashing down. The British coal industry – the most advanced in the world – and its supply chain, gone. Steel, gone. Ship building, gone. Then came the rest – textiles, pots, manufacturing, all went. And with it a whole load of small and medium sized business vanished. The total composition of British capital rooted in domestic manufacturing collapsed. That the Tory Party began its long collapse as Thatcher rolled out her social programme is no coincidence.

Nor have the Tories been able to recover. New Labour’s prawn cocktail offensives successfully annexed a section of British capital for some time, and how they were handsomely rewarded with PFI, more marketisation of public services, academisation and light touch regulation. Yet they couldn’t be held onto forever.

Banal neoliberalism, the unthought assumption that markets are just groovy, were shown to be anything but barely a year after Blair retired to spend more time with his bank accounts. In politics memories are short, but both Brown and Darling appeared genuinely pained by having to slam down emergency regulation and intervening to save the system from eating itself. If Brown really did save the world from an even more catastrophic depression, he cut a reluctant saviour. British capital showed the Labour Party its gratitude by withdrawing support in time for the 2010 general election. So fickle.

By and large they haven’t gone flooding back to the Tories. Labour’s pale pink social democracy is not palatable, but neither are Dave’s increasingly dysfunctional party. The bulk of British capital is something of a floating voter. Suspicious of Labour’s tax plans, and modest regulatory and wage control ambitions it does sniff new opportunities – but at the price of bigging up workers? On the other hand, Dave offers tax cuts and no regulation but … the EU referendum promises instability, and ongoing UKIP issues could destabilise the party while in office. Nor will the Tories be intervening to smooth out the markets and generate more business opportunities. What a bind.

And that’s the Tories. Demographically and culturally out-of-step, their hock to finance makes them economically dysfunctional to the interests of British capital as a whole, and toxic to everyone else. Yet as they thrash around in mindless agony there remains an outside chance they could crawl their way back into office. As the truism goes, you either do politics. Or politics will do you.

 This article first appeared at All that is Solid


  1. Robert says:

    I can write like this the problem is we all know what the Tories and New labour did, and now we have a Tory Government with a labour and Liberal parties so out of touch voting for them would be just voting for the same thing.

    So maybe you can next write what you think we should do, my own view is we may as well try fighting but how do we that. Miliband is so weak he’s juvenile the silly child eats sweets at conference and you know something I bet he removed all the red ones in case somebody said look he’s red.

    My own feeling the only way to hammer home to labour is not to vote labour but to vote maybe UKIP or maybe green or maybe to sit at home and not bother, but to waste my time voting for the child and the Tory Ball’s no thanks.

  2. William Jones says:

    I’m still a bit puzzled Robert as to where your coming from and what your agenda is,despite your plethera of posts!It seems you just want to be here constantly moaning about issues without posting any positive solutions yourself!

    You keep mentioning New Labour and whilst I would be the last person to utter a good word about them,New Labour are dead,finito.Lets move on!

    Unless of course you will be quite happy at the prospect of five more years of Cameron,just so you can indulge in your apparently favourite pastime of entirely negative moaning?

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