STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Conservative Sham in Britain?
By Staff News & Analysis - May 13, 2010

In full: the Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition agreement … This document sets out agreements reached between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on a range of issues. … These are the issues that needed to be resolved between us in order for us to work together as a strong and stable government. It will be followed in due course by a final Coalition Agreement, covering the full range of policy and including foreign, defence and domestic policy issues not covered in this document. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: A serious document for a serious economic and political challenge.

Free-Market Analysis: We will take a back seat to no one when it comes to relief that the horrible modern era of Labour governance is over for Britain. We are happy that we will not have to read about the sociopathic ramblings of Gordon Brown (left) anymore, or watch as he and/or his ministers lie their way through another press conference.

Brown's sin, in our view – above and beyond his evident intention to place every single last Briton either on welfare or in prison – was his singular lack of charm, which made his personality and public pronouncements ever more grating. Here was a man who sold British gold at US$250 an ounce but insisted that one of his great strengths was his economic acumen. He was always making speeches intended to save the world, but somewhere in all those grand schemes he misplaced Britain, which is in catastrophic shape on so many levels.

Most politicians – Tony Blair included – have a redeeming quality: Like actors they project charm, even if they are patently un-charming behind the scenes. Brown could not even offer a wit of charm. He looked like an irritable man; behind a lectern, he projected dishonesty and perpetual rage. And the reports that he was indeed this sort of person were thus entirely credible, even before he was tape-recorded lambasting a British working-class woman for being racist. And it is perhaps fitting that he may have lost his final chance at staying in power by blowing up when the possibility of his resignation was mentioned. The result sealed his fate and put the Tories in power. Hoisted so to speak on his own petard.

But anyone who believes that a Tory regime will set Britain back on track to free-markets and less state interference generally is probably dreaming. The Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition agreement, which the UK Telegraph published in full (and we have excerpted below) should put that supposition to rest. The British have come a long way since Margaret Thatcher's free-market rhetoric astonished the socialist Brit media and horrified its militant unions. Today, Britain must be considered a socialist paradise – certainly after a decade-plus run of New Labour put it "aright."

New Labour certainly did manage to fix Britain – in a negative way. The country is regularly mentioned in the same breath with bankrupt Greece, Spain and other Southern European PIGS. Its debts are out of control, its revenues are plunging, taxes are going up and its top people, scientists and entrepreneurs are getting the hell out while they still can. Because of the ongoing financial crisis, jobs are scarce in Britain, just as they are in the States (and elsewhere in Europe, too); because Britain is so top-heavy with inefficient public services including health care and education, basic services have suffered tremendously.

Turns out that the "special relationship" with the US, somewhat fractured now, mostly involved following a sociopathic American president into serial wars, torturing, renditions, etc. The Brits still aren't disentangled with these wars (anymore than the Americans are) but unlike the Americans, public opinion regarding these vicious endless struggles is extremely negative. The political elite responsible, especially including former Prime Minister Tony Blair hardly dare show their faces out in public, and this may explain generally the political class's incipient and growing paranoia.

Perhaps it is this paranoia that explains the virtual explosion of spying by the government on its own citizens. London is said to have more public spy cameras than any other city on earth. Wiretapping, Internet spying, and other surveillance schemes are ubiquitous and becoming moreso. Civil bullying is generally on the rise. Local British authorities routinely destroy whole houses for minor zoning violations. Citizens go to jail for defending themselves against thieves in their own homes and may also see the inside of jails if they litter in the wrong places. Public drunkeness is up, basic courtesy is down, the Parliament is the seat of regular corruption and British social pact between the rulers and ruled seems to have come undone.

The Tories as a leading party are full of "conservatives" – but that term is even more distorted in Britain than America. In America, the conservative movement at least pays lip service to free-markets and supposedly seeks to turn back government involvement in the marketplace (except where the military industrial complex is concerned). But in Britain, we have the peculiar sight of a conservative party that under its new prime minister is both market oriented and voraciously Green. Here's just a sample (excerpted from the full text) of what's in the Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition agreement:

• Deficit Reduction

The parties agree that modest cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services can be made within the financial year 2010-11, subject to advice from the Treasury and the Bank of England on their feasibility and advisability. Some proportion of these savings can be used to support jobs, for example through the cancelling of some backdated demands for business rates. Other policies upon which we are agreed will further support job creation and green investment, such as work programmes for the unemployed and a green deal for energy efficiency investment.

The parties agree that reductions can be made to the Child Trust Fund and tax credits for higher earners.

• Spending Review – NHS, Schools and a Fairer Society

The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision would have on other departments. The target of spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid will also remain in place.

The Government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain's nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives. We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.

We will restore the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a "triple guarantee" that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%, as proposed by the Liberal Democrats.

• Tax Measures

The parties agree that tackling tax avoidance is essential for the new government, and that all efforts will be made to do so, including detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals.

• Banking Reform

We agree that a banking levy will be introduced. We will seek a detailed agreement on implementation.

We agree to bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.

• Political Reform

The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics.

• Pensions and Welfare

The parties agree to phase out the default retirement age and hold a review to set the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66, although it will not be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women. We agree to end the rules requiring compulsory annuitisation at 75.

• Relations with the EU

We agree that the British Government will be a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty.

• Environment

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy, including

The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.

Measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence. Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity. Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

This is the Conservative brief? Higher taxes, more cooperation with the EU and an increasingly Green industrial society? The Tory regime may move Britain one step forward toward a free-market once again, but in many ways they are apparently positioning the nation to take two steps back, as well. They may come to regret this. We would tend to the believe that the British electorate, as brow-beaten as it is, is beginning to stand up for something other than business as usual. It has taken the British public a good deal of time to do this – as it always does – but we think the winds-of-change are blowing in Britain just as they are elsewhere.

The British culture generally is a strange one in that the British are seemingly brought up to see themselves as subjects and to expect that the upper class will to a degree look out for them – just as the lower class are to treat the upper classes with some measure of civility. It has taken a good deal of time for the British – many of whom lost loved ones in the World Wars One and Two – to realize that at the very top, their leaders are selling them out relentlessly and without remorse. Is this knowledge percolating through the 'Net and through society? We think perhaps that British anger has begun to smolder like peat moss.

After Thoughts

History shows the tribes of Europe (and they are tribes) can be both brutal and relentless. In the past few decades we think they have been bought off. Not anymore. We have seen flare ups in Greece now (and previously in Ireland over the IRA). Germany is increasingly exercised, and we anticipate there will be more such irritation (just wait until the French get into it). If the Tories cannot come up with something better than what they have developed with the Liberal Democrats in this wretched agreement, we would anticipate they will not enjoy their victory for long.

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