Groundhog Day Comes Round Again

Today I am posting Peter Hitchens blog, from the day after the elections.

There are two main reasons for this: 

1. The  first sentence of the post will I am sure, bring great joy to those -and there are quite a few – who continue to respond to my circulation and endorsement of Mr Hitchens views with amusement and bemusement (though I am pretty sure they have not widely read his articles and books)

2. It nicely sums up the reasons for the election results, in a way that I can not do.


“Let me start by saying without equivocation that I was wrong. I am genuinely grateful to the many persons on Twitter who were quick to point this out to me this morning.  I believed, in my heart, that the Tory Party could never again win a Westminster majority. They have done so. You couldn’t be much wronger than that.

I never for a moment imagined that Big Money and Big Lies could so successfully scare, cajole and diddle the electorate of this country. I grew up in a Britain both better-educated and more honest than the one we have today. Perhaps that is why I could not see this possibility.   I have not seen, in my lifetime, a campaign so dishonest, so crude, so based in fear and so redolent of third-world and banana republic political tactics.

Actually, I think Mr Cameron is even more surprised than I am. I do not think he ever thought that he would achieve such a result. I’m not even certain he wanted it, as the Liberal Democrats were a very useful alibi for not doing all kinds of conservative things he himself secretly didn’t want to do, and for doing all kinds of left-liberal  things he secretly did want to do.

How and why did this happen?

Most of you will know the witty and rather profound film ‘Groundhog Day’, in which an obnoxious TV presenter is forced to live the same day over and over again, until he understands that he himself is required to change for the better. When he does (and the moment of realisation, involving a joyous quotation from Chekhov, is surprisingly moving), the calendar at last begins to move again.

This morning I felt as if I were stuck in such a film, and that I had woken up once more to the same unappealing day, indeed to the same unappealing decade, but also that there was nothing I could ever do to release myself from it. No doubt I have done many things in this life for which I thoroughly deserve to be punished but millions of other people are trapped with me in a political calendar which never, ever turns.

The problem with Britain’s political Groundhog day is this. Every five years or so, the conservative patriotic people of Britain are somehow dragooned into a ceremony in which they vote for a party which pretends to sympathise with them.

It then turns out that it doesn’t actually do so, that in fact it believes in a series of left-wing and radical policies which are the near-exact opposite of what those voters want.

Five years of growing disenchantment pass,  featuring new concessions to the EU, more political correctness, more education gimmicks designed to avoid the reintroduction of academic selection,  a continuing failure to cope with or even acknowledge the levels of disorder and dishonesty, and a quiet debauching of the currency.

Somehow, at the next election, those voters are persuaded, frightened or otherwise bamboozled into voting once again for the Tory Groundhog.

And the next morning they awake and find themselves in the same five-year-long gap between promise and reality.

The crudest and cheapest methods seem sufficient to rob them of any memory that they have been fooled before. The crudest and cheapest of these is the supposed danger of rule by a Labour Party all of whose policies were long ago adopted in detail by the Tory Party. The difference between the two is that Labour is at least open about its passion for foreign rule, equality and diversity, confiscatory taxation, unsound public finances, mass immigration,  terrible schools and lax criminal justice.

Labour , by the way, has to promise its own fake programme of social transformation  to its own deluded electorate, who harbour the same lingering illusion that their party possesses actual principles, and will pursue them in office. Indeed, I imagine that for Labour supporters a matching Groundhog Day is constantly unreeling. That is a matter for them.

The truth is that both major parties are now just commercial organisations, who raise money wherever they can get it to buy their way into office through unscrupulous election campaigns. They then presumably reward their donors once they are in office. The electorate are a constitutional necessity for this process, but otherwise their fears, hopes and desires are largely irrelevant. They are to be fooled and distracted with scares (‘The other lot will privatise the NHS!’ ‘The other lot will nationalise your children’s toys and then wreck the economy!’ ) or with loss-leader cut-rate offers, like supermarkets (‘Vote for us and get a cheap mortgage!!’ ‘Vote for us and have your rent frozen!’) . Even if these wild pledges are implemented, the customer will pay for them through higher taxes elsewhere, just as with supermarket loss-leaders.

By playing our part in this ludicrous pantomime, we license it to continue forever.  I have thought for years that the key to ending it was simple and obvious.  We could revenge ourselves on these fakes by refusing to vote for them. The arrival of new parties, UKIP on one side, the Greens on the other, made such a revolt and redemption even easier.

But I must now admit that the people of this country actually seem to prefer to live the same experience over and over again, and seem astonishingly ready to believe the crudest propaganda. I seethe with frustrated amazement at the Tory claim  to have fixed the economy, so blazingly untrue that in commercial advertising it would get them into serious trouble with the authorities.

Ailing GDP figures just before the election were barely mentioned in the media, but easily-obtained statistics on productivity, trade, manufacturing and construction, are all bad and the Tories have  missed their own target (whether wise or not)on deficit reduction. In any case, the Tory record on the economy is dreadful.

The idea that they are economically competent in general simply doesn’t stand up to examination. Leave aside Winston Churchill’s disastrous decision to force us back on the Gold Standard , have we all forgotten the ERM catastrophe, in which a Tory government threw £27 Billion into the sea for nothing, because their best brains had mistakenly lashed sterling to the EU’s exchange rate ? What about  the irresponsible Reggie Maudling boom of the early 1960s (Maudling left a note for his Labour successor , Jim Callaghan, saying ‘Sorry to leave it in such a mess, old cock’ which was almost certainly what Liam Byrne had in mind when he left his famous note saying ‘Sorry there’s no money’. What of Harold Macmillan’s decision to spend wildly in 1958  which caused his entire Treasury team to resign in protest , the irresponsible Tony Barber boom of the early 1970s, and of course the devastation of manufacturing industry in the early years of the Thatcher government? Now we have a dangerous housing bubble, official money-printing and the organised theft from savers by the abolition of interest on deposits. I’m not actually saying Labour are much better, or any better, but to vote Tory because you think the economy is safe in their hands is actually daft.

As for the Scottish scare, this is if anything even more shocking. Mr Cameron’s macho mishandling of the referendum, refusing an option for Devo Max, came close to bringing about a pro-secession vote. So did his generally cack-handed management of the campaign.  Then, his partisan and petty pursuit of ‘English votes for English laws’ (plus his discourteous gloating about the Queen allegedly ‘purring’ at the result) infuriated Scottish voters who had until then taken the ‘vow’ of maximum concessions seriously. It probably precipitated the landslide to the SNP (one of the few occasions when this expression ‘landslide’has been justified). I have written here about Michael Portillo’s interesting admission that he no longer clung to traditional Unionism. I think we have every reason to suspect that many others in the Tory Party would privately be quite happy to say goodbye to Scotland.

A Tory Party really concerned about the loss of Scotland would have done as Norman Tebbit suggested, and urged its supporters to vote Labour to stop the SNP. Instead, to the dismay of elder statesmen and experts such as Michael Forsyth, it talked up the SNP, paying elaborate compliments to Nicola Sturgeon after the leaders’ debate (George Osborne and Michael Gove were observed doing this) .  To claim, while behaving in this fashion, that the Tory Party is a bulwark against the SNP and Labour is in their clutches is absurd. The SNP are delighted by the Tory victory, which makes it all but certain that they will get a repeat landslide in next year’s Scottish general election, with a manifesto commitment to a second referendum, which I think they will then win. Let us see how Mr Cameron now copes with the SNP’s sweeping victory, for which he must take so much of the blame.

At least the Sun newspaper was brazenly open about its ludicrous inconsistency, campaigning for a Tory (and supposedly Unionist) victory south of the border, and for the unquestionably separatist SNP north of it.

As for the famous EU referendum, who really thinks that the propaganda forces which got Mr Cameron his unexpected majority won’t also be activated to achieve a huge vote to stay in the EU? And then the issue will be closed forever.

What is the point of saying all this now, when it’s all over? Because it is true, and because to speak the truth is valuable in itself, at all times.”

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