For many recent Labour voters the last couple of years have been a bit of a troubling time – with some of the actions of the government (particularly with regard to the War in Iraq) seeming to be violently and almost universally at odds with the views of the electorate. As a result, I think it’s fair to say that their popularity has waned. But while people have become vaguely disillusioned with Labour, the other political parties haven’t really seemed to be particularly inspiring any kind of reaction at all. In a way it’s a bit of a surprise – whether you like the policies or not, it’s difficult to deny that the Conservative policy raft has been more interesting than it has been for a long time. But that doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference either way. On the whole – with the exception of occasional terrifying statements by Oliver Letwin, the only things they do that get any press or interest from the public have been their bi-weekly attempts to commit televised hari-kiri.
There’s a whole range of reasons why they might not have made sufficient political hay recently. Obviously there’s the increase in general political disillusionment. Certainly the current government hasn’t done an awful lot to stem that particular tide. Also, no one realistically thinks that the Conservative party can quite hold themselves together long enough to put any of their shiny new (if occasionally barking) policies into practice? Their regular apocalyptic tailspins have made them the “Kenny” of Westminter’s “South Park”.
Another position – and one I tend to subscribe to – is that because they’ve simply tried to be perceived as vaguely socially tolerant (and had a “nice” non-threatening leader), minority groups, trade unions and the like have stopped thinking of them as an actual danger any more. And while that group has had their anxieties eased a bit that doesn’t mean that they (or other people in the centre-ground) are yet convinced that they’re trustworthy, representative of public opinion or – well – totally in touch with reality… And while they’re waiting for evidence, they’re quite comfortable to background them…
Well as far as I’m concerned, the discomfort remains and the anxiety is back. That’s not to say that I think Michael Howard has much of a chance of being Prime Minister. And it’s not to say that I think the party will be any more united under his leadership. But – if they put him in charge of their party – they will have made certain parts of this argument crystal clear for me again. Instead of being able to view the Conservative party as representing an alternative – perhaps more market / efficiency driven – approach to running the country, appointing Michael Howard is no more or less than running up the Conservative Skull and Crossbones again and setting sail for the easy targets of cheap political swag.
Tom Watson has put up a post that reminds us of the facts about Michael Howard. There’s terrifying stuff in there. I’m going to highlight a few of the ones that scare me most personally, but please – read the full list…
“As Home Secretary, he believed that the answer to crime was simply to lock more people up: “an increase in the number of criminals in prison leads to a large fall in crime” (POLITICS, MORALITY AND THE NATION STATE lecture, ST. MICHAEL CHURCH, CORNHILL, CITY OF LONDON, 10 January 2003)”
“Howard criticised Jack Straw’s decision to detain General Pinochet and actively campaigned for his release: “We think this has gone on far too long. We think he should be sent back to Chile.” (BBC Interview, 26 November 1998)”
“Howard opposed the introduction of the Human Rights Act.”
“Howard was judged to have flouted the European Convention on Human Rights following unlawfully delaying the release of five long-serving IRA prisoners – the SEVENTH time he had been found to be acting illegally in just two years as Home Secretary. (September 1995)”
“Howard voted against equal rights for homosexuals by opposing lowering the homosexual age of consent to 16”
And if you still needed evidence that this man must not be allowed to become Prime Minister at any cost, then how about these two draconian, vile-worded and dangerously regressive/oppressive policies:
“Howard was the Minister in Charge of bringing in the Poll Tax in 1988. Even after Thatcher had gone, and after the poll tax riots, he insisted he still believed in the policy (July 1991)”
“Howard was the Minister who brought in Clause 28 of the Local Government Act banning the “promotion” of homosexuality (March 1988)”