Letter From Britain – Tories Embrace Brussels 6

Despite their good chances to win the general election, there is a great deal of discontentment with the Conservatives in Britain. The old and mostly false image of uncaring snobs was recently revived by Gordon Brown after he stated that Tory tax plans were ‘dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton’. But while this author certainly has no problems with old Etonians, he finds that a somewhat snobbish stupidity exists in the Conservative Party, and it certainly does not appeal to all.

I am a student, I am a libertarian, and I define myself as right wing insofar as the political spectrum actually makes sense. The spectrum exists – it is congested, confusing and mixed up, but it is there – and I have found a spot to stand on and to defend.

It is then remarkable how disappointing, how saddening and so how very depressing it is that when I meet a Tory, he can be so very different to everything that I believe in.

I have said ‘he’ because the example I am about to use includes a bunch of male thirty-somethings, who all reminded me how unfortunate it appears the British people might be after the next election.

It was a dinner in the fortified city of York, in a cosy, warm, ale-saturated inn. Conservative party members from all over the country – party activists, parliamentary candidates and councillors – flocked to this inn to engage in drunken nostalgia of their University of York Conservative Society days. I was there discretely, a guest and no more.

Now the old stereotype that is pertained to the Tories is that of an eccentric, snobbish, uncaring, vain twit. I have never liked or much believed this stereotype, and to look at the achievements and personalities of great Conservative politicians one can rarely find any truth in this image.

This particular notion of mine was not holding up particularly well at the inn, where the eccentric, snobbish, uncaring, vain twits were screaming, shouting, drinking, reminiscing of the food fight at the previous year’s event and gleefully hoarding Brussels sprouts in case of another such incident.

They were crass, vulgar individuals who enjoyed the vanity of riches and demonstrated the decadence of those who could not truthfully attain something without the help of others.

One of my few talents is my ability to get myself into trouble. Before I was asked to leave for telling these persons what I thought of them, I did – perhaps in hindsight unwisely – tell them that they were “not the thinkers of the party.” There is a great deal of truth to this. Of the many I spoke to, most appeared to have never had a real job, but had immediately stood for some form of office and had lived off parents’ money. Are these to be our politicians – persons with no experience, no achievements, and not one example of worthiness?

Such persons present who indulged in such vulgar activity included Frank Young, the Conservative Campaign Director for London; Iain Lindley, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Worsley and Eccles South; Gareth Knight, Director of Conservatives for International Travel; Duncan Flynn; Richard Price; and Nick Reeves.

There has come into existence a path for such like-minded people: Firstly, one joins the Conservative Party at University and gets involved locally. Secondly, one starts to perfect the image by learning of which port to drink at parties, which pinstripe suit to always wear – no matter how informal the occasion – and which public persons might be cheered and which persons might be booed. Very occasionally they might discuss politics – recycled titbits from the Times’ comment page. Finally, the slightly more intelligent ones will join the civil service while the more boorish, obtuse ones attempt to become Conservative Politicians.

The people present had followed that path’s instructions to the letter. It was noticeable that other expected guests – Chloe Smith MP and Jonathan Isaby to name but two – were not present, perhaps because they had achieved something: it would be best to call it, well, actual success.

Now I believe that the left wing is wrong; usually well-intentioned, but wrong. I take issue with the premises of their ethics and the consequences of their politics. However, I can accept and even encourage their existence because they are politically engaged, and they contribute to the academic and ethical wrangling that makes the United Kingdom a democracy. Among the people I met in that inn, there was no such engagement; instead there was a determination to become part of an ideal and all its frivolities rather than an attempt to actually discuss and achieve the ideal itself.

I must stress that these appalling persons did not represent the entire room; there were other people there that I count as my friends and I believe to be far more interesting and involved than I might ever be. And just as the vainglorious persons did not represent all those in the room, it must be said that they did also not represent the entire Conservative Party.

While the Conservatives appear to have embraced Brussels just as much as in the Conservatives in that inn, Cameron, as well as Blair, has at least helped to achieve something, that is, the end of tribal politics. Both have attempted to embrace the middle ground – they have attempted to make sure that their parties no longer exist to appeal to a particular type of person but have room for voters from a variety of backgrounds. This is laudable, but it does not endear me to Cameron.

I will not vote for Cameron because I do not trust him. Whether or not his promises speak from the heart or are a political ploy I do not care, because both lead me to disagree with him. The former I find mostly unappealing and the latter I find phoney and thus dangerous.

It was in that inn, among the Conservative Party’s foot-soldiers and political socialites, that I encountered the attitude that sickens me. The general topic of speeches during the evening ran on the line, ‘When we get into power…” This is what I find frightening: the yearning to be ‘in power’. To be a politician should be a duty and not a job; it is to be a servant and not a ruler; and it is to be an honour and not a prerogative.

So I despise the snobbish Tory and I do not trust the new Tory, and this leaves me with few places to go.

It is hopeful to note that it is unlikely we shall see the persons of that inn in the future, because having failed so hopelessly now, it is unlikely they shall succeed in years to come. But it is with caution that we should look upon the Conservative party, which appears to be either false or divided – and so neither appeal to me.

Viewpoint from Britain: the impotent media in the US elections 142

As I write this on the ultimate day of campaigning, the mainstream media has already decided the outcome of the US elections. Obama is everywhere – he is deemed a harbinger of hope and change to not just many Americans, but to a large proportion of the global populace as well. One young Palestinian in the Gaza strip was cold calling American households last week, persuading them to vote for this deity.
It is an old story, especially in the United States, that the media fails to correctly predict the election performance of conservative politicians. It is fair to say that the majority of the American media is fairly liberal; the noticeable exception is Fox News. These left wing media outlets spout ideas and opinions that are often adopted as ideals by society, An important and misleading consequence of the political position of the mainstream news services is the fallacious polls that the same media and the public love to exhibit and evaluate respectively. There is one theory proposed by the political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, called the ‘Spiral of Silence’, which is the idea that one is less likely to publicly support an idea that is carried by the minority for fear of isolation and requital from society. As a result, a particular motion is likely to receive less and less public support, thus exposing said idea to fewer and fewer people.
In England, one phenomenon of unexpected success is called the ‘Shy Tory Factor’. This term was coined in the 1990s by British opinion polling companies in response to the 1992 General Election. Despite the Conservative Party trailing 1% behind Labour, the former won the election with a lead of about 7.6%.
This discrepancy can be explained by a number of theories. The first is the fact I just previously mentioned – that the greater representation of the political left by the media gives rise to false hope and perhaps even can provide a dangerous sense of complacency to left wing politicians. The second theory is what I believe to be the narcissistic individual’s public need for society’s deference, an egotistical façade that hides the individual’s private whim – thus exists a covert growth of idiosyncratic sentiments. If a government at the end of its second or third term is unpopular with the mainstream left, then while publicly the virtuous middle class may denounce the ‘failing government’, those same ‘principled’ men and women will rush to vote for them when the polls open – perhaps because of a private admiration or quiet understanding of the abhorrent government’s policies, or perhaps just because of a lack of alternative acceptable politicians standing.
The third possibility for the inconsistency between predictions and realities is a word that has governed the concept of equality in the last hundred years: race. It seems apparent to me that race is a defining factor in the human consciousness, and however much equality is sought, there is a part of each single soul that craves identity. For example, in a completely different context, most Muslims will support a Palestinian state whereas more Jews will support the Jewish Israeli state. The concept of identity is prevalent in the quest for independent opinion, and for this reason Obama has bastions of support among some communities but not others. A recent YouGov poll found that Obama has an 82% lead among black voters, whereas Obama is trailing by 5% among white voters. In some states Obama appears to have almost 97% of the black vote.
Obama has a huge amount of support from the black vote, but this is not enough to win the election alone. Obama’s election team knows this and that is why they have campaigned so heavily amongst the white middle class America. These efforts appear to have worked and the polls are in Obama’s favour. Many newspaper columnists are speaking of Obama’s victory as if there need be no contest at all.
This could be a huge mistake. There is a phenomenon in elections, similar to the ‘Shy Tory Factor’, called the ‘Bradley Factor’. This is named after Tom Bradley, the candidate for the governor of California election. Despite enjoying a position far ahead in the polls, Bradley lost to his Republican rival. It was attributed to white voters privately voting differently from their public declaration to pollsters. This theory is similar to my previously mentioned suggestions for the ‘Shy Tory Factor’. There are many other examples of black politicians experiencing the effect of the Bradley factor: Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson, David Dinkins and Wilson Goode. In fact David Duke, the Nazi sympathizer and KKK member, experienced an inverted Bradley factor when he received a much larger proportion of the votes than polls had shown. The same happens in Britain: the BNP regularly does much better than expected, and no one is ever more surprised than the liberal media.
Juxtaposed against the Bradley factor is a suggested reverse Bradley factor and a concept known as the ‘Fishtown effect’. Douglas Wilder, the first black state governor has suggested that many Republicans will secretly vote for Obama while publicly declaring otherwise. The ‘Fishtown Effect’ however is the suggestion that usually bigoted white voters will vote for a black candidate because of economic concerns; in the present financial climate this theory could have a significant influence on the election.
But is the Bradley factor truly an example of cold, calculated racism? I would suggest that it is not the wish of one race to dismiss another, but rather a quest for identity and fraternalism. The uncertainties and confusion results from the furious denunciations from the media, who vilify individual figures, cultures and ideas. And regardless of the results of Tuesday’s election, sections of the World’s media, from Bangkok to San Francisco, will condemn the discriminatory minds of the American public. From the hoi polloi to the richest mansion dwellers, the inhabitants will be branded racists. If Obama loses the election, the voters will be accused of anachronistic racism; if Obama wins, some will be accused of lacking integrity and letting fear of inequality dictate their vote. Stanford University has worked hard to be ahead of the game. Christian Science Monitor: “Stanford University suggests that racial prejudice is eroding as much as 6 percentage points from Senator Obama’s support. One commentator has even suggested that white racism would be the only explanation for an Obama loss this November.”
And the true villain is actually the media – their shameless selective reporting, their composition of supercilious ideals and their lack of objectivity have irrevocably destroyed the continuation of a nonpartisan candid and free press. Although keen to malign other Democrats and the Republicans, the media has been hesitant to report news and rumours about Obama: from the incongruous gap between the discovery and the media report of the villainy of Reverend Wright’s speeches, to the bizarre association with Bill Ayers, and now the LA Times is overrun with requests that they persistently ignore, to release videotape they possess of Obama with a suspected PLO terrorist named Rashid Khalidi. Why would a very large newspaper not release a sensational news story so pivotal as this?
So do I believe the associations with Obama uncovered by the right and McCain’s camp are as serious as some would paint them? – Not really. I do believe though, that the burnt soul of the unscrupulously bias media is poisoning the democracy of the Western countries. I believe the same media is to blame for the misinformation and intolerance in politics that breeds bountifully during times of wanton ideals. However, I do know there is always independent thought, which leaves the opinionated editors and columnists shouting at deaf ears. And certainly the hurly burly media world can no longer explain a truth or encourage an honest purpose; it is an impotent force, multiplying in presence but with a fading influence; useless in a world of disobedient readers.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, November 3, 2008

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