When they are worried that they might be about to lose the local elections very badly because their pollsters are telling them that they’ve lost the young people’s vote then it is remarkable how caring they can be.
After years of hounding ‘immigrants’ the issue of the Windrush generation has suddenly become dear to the hearts of some remarkable people. Theresa May included. She obviously didn’t expect when she ordered Home Office Departmental officials to pay for advertising vehicles to drive around London with signs saying “go home” that there might be the teensiest little problem over those same officials thinking it was their job to be nasty and awkward. Instead she has suddenly discovered the need for those same officials to be flexible and to treat the individual fairly. The young children locked up in Yarl’s Wood immigration centre under the caring sharing management of Serco must be so pleased with the change.
Then of course there is the sudden discovery of a searing commitment to green causes in a party that previously appointed a leading climate change denier to run the Ministry with ‘responsibility’ for the environment. Now reviews into the possibility of introducing some genuinely helpful policy changes are being announced. Remarkably some actually helpful policies are being implemented. Very few actual policies, you understand, because they might want to change their mind if the Green vote goes down in the elections and all they really want is some really good publicity catching reviews. Young voters care about green issues. Conservatives need young voters. They can afford a few helpful headlines in advance of an election provided no one asks them to change their policy on things like fracking or clumsy over-priced nuclear power stations. Or ask why their commitment is to get rid of avoidable plastic use by 2042. By which time there could be more plastic in the sea than fish. Or why they are so busy negotiating new trade deals that will force our farmers to adopt lower environmental standards or go bankrupt. Or why they cut so much funding to local authorities that their recycling activities have struggled for finance.
On top of their greenwash, they are making much of the financial help they have given to first time buyers via the Help to Buy Scheme. This sounds great and wins votes from people who are grateful for the financial support. Unfortunately, it wastes hundreds of millions of pounds on raising the price of houses by even more than the subsidy to buy helps with an individual’s ability to afford to buy. The most basic economic textbook will tell you that unless you increase supply then subsidising demand puts the price up. The most basic knowledge of Conservative psychology will tell you that they will do anything, no matter how stupid and counterproductive, to try and hold on the reputation of being the party of home owners. Generation rent knows that starting out with £40,000 debt from being a student doesn’t help you buy a house. Generation rent has no hope of getting a council house and must know who sold them all off and who could use that wasteful Help to Buy money as deposits on a major programme of building council homes for need. Generation rent is either still living with parents or on insecure six months tenancies. The new, caring, Conservatives are promising to build millions of new homes. Not ones young people can actually afford such as one or two bedroom starter homes but large executive homes on the green belt that make a lot of money for building speculators. If you want to know who is financing all the publicity for the cuddly Conservatives check out the number of house builders who contribute to their finances locally and nationally.
Yet of all these claims to be caring Conservatives perhaps the one that is most brazen is the one about competently managing the economy for the benefit of all. This month wages crept above inflation. They still haven’t got back to where they were before the financial crash ten years ago. That is the longest period of real terms wage decline since the nineteenth century. Hardly economic competence. Nurses and teachers have had huge pay cuts in real terms. Finally, in advance of the election, a settlement has been reached with nurses that might just see their pay equal inflation for the next three years. Or might not. Nothing meaningful has been done to help people on zero hours contracts, dodgy self-employment schemes or exploitative internships. After a mountain of publicity in advance of the General Election about their determination to tackle zero hours contracts the only thing that changed after the election was that workers got the right to ask their boss nicely if they could have a better contract. That right already existed. The reason people aren’t doing it is that if you ask an exploitative boss nicely for a better contract you don’t get offered work next week and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
That is the way things work for the Conservatives. Announce some nice friendly policies in the run up to an election, try and find as many distractions as you can from the harsh reality of the impact of cuts, and get a lot of messages out there about how scary things will be if any opponents who actually give a damn get into power.
Fortunately, reality has a way of biting back against those who rely on spin instead of substance. I trust everyone of good intent will be getting out there on May 3rd and voting. And that every young person who has ever shared a Facebook post or a tweet that is critical of this government makes an equal effort to get out there and vote. The best answer to politicians who are desperately trying to change their reputation a few weeks before an election is to vote for someone a little more honest. Such as someone from the Green Party.