Sunday, 16 July 2017

Tories: a party of integrity

There are moments when I fear I do the British Tory Party an injustice. 

At times, it strikes me as profoundly dishonest, bordering on corrupt. However, this is merely a matter of point of view and that, viewed in a different light, the Tory Party does just what it’s committed to doing, in full and without reservation.

Conservative fundraising dinner.
Where the wealthy buy access to ministers, and get what the paid for
When a flight or a train I’m planning to catch is delayed or cancelled, I don’t just feel irritation at the inconvenience, I also have a sense of being cheated. It feels to me that when I handed over money for my ticket, the train company or airline entered into a contract with me to deliver me, on time, to the agreed destination. When it fails to do that, I feel they’ve broken their commitment to me.

There are, of course, circumstances beyond the control of the companies: they can’t be blamed for an icebound airport or, as happened on a recent train journey of mine, a fire at London’s Euston station. No, I’m talking about the kind of delay explained away as “due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft”. What? “We’re late because we were late already”? We’re supposed to say, “oh, well, that’s OK then”?

It’s clearly an increasingly widespread belief that such behaviour isn’t acceptable. That’s why airlines and train companies are having to reimburse passengers for poor service. There is a general feeling that it is in the nature of a paid, commercial transaction that the provider of the service enters a commitment to its customers, and must honour it or compensate them.

The British Conservative and Unionist Party is nothing if it is not the embodiment of the commercial spirit. It is just what it’s paid for. Like a good company, it takes payments from its customers and delivers a service to them.

Some voters are naïve enough to think that this means it owes a service to everyone. We all pay, after all. But the reality is that we pay the government, through taxation, but even when the Tories are in power, that isn’t the same thing as the Tory Party. A great many of us pay nothing to the Tory Party; some, and I include myself in this number, are even benighted enough to make contributions to a different party. In my case, the one best placed to replace it in power.

How can we possibly expect the Tories to look after us?

Indeed, they don’t. The last ten years have seen the lowest rate of income growth in Britain for – wait for it – drum roll – 150 years. The ten years of weak growth have been covered by three years of financial crash followed by seven years – yes, you’ve got it – of Tory government.

As income growth across the board stalls and inflation rises, the Resolution Foundation – from whose report that figure came – finds that living standards are falling, and have been falling for three quarters now.

This is affecting the vast majority of the income distribution. Inequality is falling across 99% of the population. But that does leave a precious 1%.

It’s what’s happening to that 1% that changes the picture. That is, of course, the 1% at the top. Where I use the words top and bottom in terms of income, naturally, not worth. Their income is now growing fast enough to account, on its own, for growing inequality in Britain, despite the lowering inequality across the other 99%.

Indeed, with 8.5% of the all national income, the top 1% have now recovered to where they were before the crash. That’s just short of the all-time high, back in 2009-2010, of 8.7%.

So the Tories have delivered. Just not to everyone. All that guff about “all in it together” that we were given back in 2010 – well, it was just guff.

Now let’s see who pays for the Tory Party.

According to the Electoral Commission, as the recent general election campaign got under way, in the week of 3 to 9 May, the Conservatives received £4.1m as opposed to the £2.7m that went to Labour. Some of the contributions were particularly striking:

  • John Griffin, founder of the huge and growing taxi company Addision Lee, paid £900,000.
  • John Armitage, Britain's ninth-richest hedge fund manager, stumped up £500,000
  • Sir Henry and Lady Keswick gave £25,000 each. Sir Henry previously owned the right-wing magazine, The Spectator.
  • David Mayhew, who formerly chaired banking group JP Morgan Cazenove, gave £25,000
  • Property developer David Rowland gave £200,000.

So it goes on. The outstandingly wealthy paid for Tory success at the polls. I say ‘paid’ advisedly: these aren’t gifts, they are purchases. And as when I buy a rail or air ticket, the purchaser expects something in return.

The Tories are delivering. No “delayed because we were late” for them. They take the money, they send the wealth flowing back towards the wealthiest.

Which, when you think about, is a kind of integrity of its own. Isn’t it?

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