Monday, 5 October 2009
Tories and the public sector
This cartoon from Leon Kuhn, published in Socialist Worker, neatly captures the competition between Labour and Tories to slash public funding. In a way it's strange - it isn't as if cutbacks in the public sector are electorally popular. But both parties are ideologically committed to the neoliberal agenda and determined to make working class people pay for the crisis. They spin this as 'making tough choices' and 'cutting waste', making a virtue of their willingness to take 'unpopular' action.
The Tories, meeting for their conference this week, know they will almost definitely be in government by next June. David Cameron can't risk lots of false promises which can't be delivered, so increasingly we are getting a realistic sense of what they will do in office. My suspicion is that the gulf between them and Labour in opinion polls affords them the luxury of feeling they can make announcements that may alientate some voters.
Despite all this, there is simply no evidence of a shift to the right in popular attitudes and ideas. With the possible exception of a couple of issues, notably immigration, there's been no discernible change over the last few years. On subjects like public sector spending the majority of people are decidedly more progressive than the political class. Rises in the Tories' votes and poll ratings remain, first and foremost, a symptom of widespread disgust at this Labour government.