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Is Gay Marriage the Conservative Party’s Clause Four?

Saturday’s Times had a front page article about tensions within the Conservative Party: between the top and the grass roots. Apparently, a senior Tory considers some of the activists to be “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.

Loon bird

My response is “What do you expect when political parties are so un-representative of the population at large?”

The percentage of the population that pays to be members of the main political parties is very low. Of these, the percentage that is active is also small. Thus, the percentage of the population that is politically active is extremely small.

If you think about the reasons why only such a small percentage of people become politically active, it becomes clear that it is because they have an agenda of some sort. They’re not doing it solely to support the political process in general, they are doing it to push their own world view.

In the case of the Conservative party activists, that agenda tends to be a right wing little England (not Britain) agenda. It hankers after a (non existent) golden age of empire, where the middle classes were in charge and the workers knew their place. It’s views are almost entirely negative: anti-Europe, anti Immigration, anti gay.

The Party knows that this view is not representative of the population at large, which has much larger items on its agenda: how am I going to pay my mortgage, what do I live on when I get old, where are my children going to live when they want homes of their own. These are the real issues: the rest is just intellectual masturbation. And this is where the trouble lies.

Regardless of the objectives of the activists, party HQ has only one real objective: to be (re) elected. Unfortunately, for the parties, because of the poor level of participation in party politics, none of the parties can be elected solely on the votes of their paid up members. To be elected, all parties know that they need the support of the middle ground.

Labour understood this when John Smith became leader. Blair implemented the resulting policies and moved Labour into the centre ground after defeating Militant Tendency. The Tories did much the same when Cameron took over as leader.

In both cases, the actions of the top infuriate the grass roots. Unfortunately for the Conservative party, they are more beholden to their grass roots. A lot is spoken of Labour’s dependence on the unions for their funding, but at least they are dealing with a group of leaders who understand the needs of real politik. The same cannot be said for the Tory party and their “swivel-eyed loons”.

Perhaps Gay Marriage is the Tory party’s equivalent to Labour’s Clause Four moment.

Bring on the nanny state

We live in a nanny state: get over it

I was listening to the radio yesterday lunchtime (7th November) and there was a debate going on about a recent piece of guidance from the government. Apparently, the advice on alcohol consumption has changed: we are now being advised to avoid alcohol for three days a week, rather than two.

Inevitably, one of the contributors raised the notion that we are creeping towards a so-called “Nanny state”. She went on to decry the advice as being an intrusion into the civil liberties of the individual.

Lets get this straight. We do live in a nanny state: if by that you mean that the government reserves the right to advise its population on how to live a better life. Moreover, by your individual actions, you have signed up to it.

As soon as anybody accepts treatment from the NHS, they tacitly accept a contract that gives the state some rights over their life. The NHS is paid for by the tax payer, and as a tax payer I want the NHS to be giving good value for money, in the wider sense. Part of that is to encourage lifestyle changes that improve health and reduce NHS costs.

It is an indisputable fact (I contend) that there is a linkage between excessive smoking and alcohol consumption on the one hand, and poor health outcomes on the other. In turn, poor health results in increased treatment by the NHS. Thus there is a direct correlation between excessive drinking and smoking, and NHS expenditure. Therefore, the NHS has a duty to advise the population on how it can reduce its use of an expensive service option.

I have no problem if somebody chooses to smoke or drink themselves to death or into poor health. However, I do have a problem if they then expect the tax payer to pay the bill for their poor lifestyle choices.

You want to smoke/drink excessively? Fine, just don’t expect the NHS to fix you later.