Style slashed as Tories cut more political waste; follows substance as Cameron wages war on rhetorical inefficiency

Here’s an interesting, if partial, view of the Tory party from an American politics student: The Tories a joke in Washington.

As successful as David Cameron’s been at making the right noises (or lack of the wrong ones) to win over much of the domestic media and readers thereof, he strikes me as a political lightweight on an international level.

Regardless, the Tory war to win over the hearts and mindlessness of the public continues with all the subtlety of Manatee gang rape. With the shepherd on his side, Cameron proceeded to woo the sheep, publishing his 10 key pledges in The Sun on Friday.

For what purports to be the 10 most important policy areas Cameron has under his well-tailored sleeve, they are depressingly uninspiring, weakly phrased and a bizarre mix of piddling specifics (see no. 5: introduce a free sports and entertainment Tickets for Troops programme) and vague platitudes (no 7: we will get to grips with national debt and public spending).

The Financial Times dissects (demolishes?) Cameron’s 10-point plan and come to similar conclusions. By my count: two of the ten are already taking place under Labour, three raise too many questions, another three are token gestures* and only two are considered new and worthwhile.

For the record, the two pledges the FT are most favourable towards are #5, a new Military Covenant with the troops, and #7, tackling the national debt. I’ll point out that Cameron does not mention a ‘new’ Military Covenant but simply pledges to honour the current one (who wouldn’t?) and that “getting to grips” with debt and spending is something any serious political party would be expected to do.

Nobody can deny the power of style over substance (of which popular love songs are the best testament; this morning I had the misfortune of listening to Maroon 5’s She Will be Loved, which, while clearly encouraging guys to prey on vulnerable teenage girls, will still be dedicated to Becky on every Late Night Love radio show…). Unfortunately, this list fails even to possess style. Annoyingly, I doubt that’ll matter.

The most frustrating point, in its sheer tenacity, is #3 which continues the Tories’ four-year mission to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Despairingly jingoistic and fundamentally stupid, I simply can not see why anybody could possibly care about this issue. What is it about the present Human Rights Act that rankles? The right to life? Prohibition of torture? Right to respect for private and family life? Despite Cameron announcing his intent to overturn this fifty-year-old convention way back in 2006 (did people even Tweet back then!?), a search on both the Conservative party website and the wider infowebs did not produce even a draft alternative**. At best the elusive Tory Bill of Rights is nothing more than populist pageantry; at worst, it’s a plot to enshrine Conservative (big ‘C’) values into British law.

Most likely they haven’t given enough thought about it either way.

And that seems to be the best summation of Tory policy. These are worrying times for Labour supporters and Tory distrusters. The Gordon Brown narrative is so deeply embedded in the national thought-hole, I think spectators (i.e. voters) would feel cheated if this play didn’t have the obvious cinematic ending – what this means for the country is, as always, second to how good a story it makes.

*My favourite of these is #8, promising to “restore discipline to schools by giving heads the final say on exclusions”. As the FT point out: “Out of 8,130 children excluded last year, only in 60 cases was a head’s exclusion overturned on appeal”. That’s only 0.7% of cases!

**If anyone does find this slippery sucker, let me know.


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