It is interesting to see the ConservativeHome write up of the Freedom Association’s ‘Tea Party’ event in Brighton today.
While the comment thread has largely focused on the merits of Dan Hannan MEP’s speech and a of revision of Reaganomics, one comment stood out and the second paragraph of it is worthy of particular attention for what it tells us about the Cameron Conservatives.
It was a contribution by the ‘progressive’ Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North Durham, David Skelton:
The ‘tea party’ movement is the kind of very right wing fringe movement in US politics that we could do without replicating in the UK. I have blogged about it here:
Skelton’s dismissal of the ‘Tea Party’ movement as a ‘very right wing fringe movement’ and his rejection of an equivalent movement taking hold in the UK is exactly the kind of Cameroon, party line consensus rubbish that has come to characterise Cameron’s chosen ones, the elite tier of the Tory party.
The link takes us to Platform 10 (the self styled home of the Cameroon Modern liberal Conservatives who are apparently changing the way politics works in the UK) and reveals the kind of narrow minded defence of the rotten, big government, centralised political system in this country that is normally the preserve of Labour and Lib Dem talking heads. It is worthy of a fisk, so I’ll begin…
So the British version of the ‘Tea Party’ movement was apparently launched in Brighton today. Seemingly, most of that delightful seaside resort responded with indifference at this apparently ‘historic’ event. Personally, I’m pretty alarmed that the most crankish part of an increasingly crankish Republican Party (see my post here about the rightward drift of an already right wing GOP) seems to want to replicate itself over here. The last thing we need is a British version of the tea party movement.
Personally I’m not interested in getting them out and flopping them on the table to be measured, but it seems important to Skelton. So perhaps he should have read more carefully the ConservativeHome write up which mentions the venue was standing room only, and a commenter who explained the speech had to be interrupted to allow more people to be squeezed in. It hardly seems to be evidence of indifference.
Do not be deceived either by Skelton’s attempt to tag the Tea Party movement as a ‘crankish’ extreme element of the Republican Party, because it’s a red herring. The movement protested against wasteful tax and spend by the Bush administration before Obama was elected and far from being part of the Republican Party, actually declined requests by the from Republican National Committee Chairman to speak at one of their protests.
Why is a British version of the Tea Party movement ‘the last thing we need’? The only possible explanation is that authoritarians like David Skelton resent being told by the public that wasteful spending and the accumulation of public debt has to be reversed. I’m sure voters in North Durham will be delighted to learn the man campaigning to represent them doesn’t like being told by them what they might prefer.
The first reason I don’t like this idea is that it is an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction from the election campaign to come. While we should be resolutely and absolutely focused on the election, some members of the Party seem to think that their time is better spent on British ‘tea parties’. It seems like a very curious sense of priorities on the part of the ‘tea party’ organisers to me.
How very democratic of Mr Skelton. It’s not a new idea to take politics out of an election campaign, but to articulate it so openly is certainly a new one on me. It might be lost on Skelton, but the grassroots of his party might feel more strongly about attempting to make government accountable to the wishes of the electorate than simply trying to put the arses of CCHQ stooges onto the green benches in the House of Commons. While Skelton might think this a curious sense of priorities, many other people will note his lack of principle and attentiveness to the concerns of taxpayers.
Secondly, the entire ‘tea party’ movement in the States is driven by a near hysterical anti Government agenda. There is no coherent theory of Government in the tea party movement. There is no acceptance that Government is necessary and can be a force for good. The American tea party movement is driven by a divisive, shrill, simplistic view of politics that is driving moderate Republicans like Charlie Crist out of the GOP. This is just the kind of politics we do not need in the UK.
Government is unpopular because it is treating voters with contempt. Having sought a mandate from the people, the Obama administration is now pursuing its own agenda that sees it manipulating the free market economy of the USA and storing up a damaging debt mountain. The coherent theory of government among Tea Party activists is representative democracy and accountability. Note the word ‘moderate’. It is the new code for ‘consensus’, one of the guys that can be relied upon not to be adversarial or rock the boat too much. It’s the new model politics of the post-democratic age.
To say the Tea Party activists do not accept that government is necessary is plainly false. What they want is the government to follow the wishes of the people that elected it. If Skelton can’t understand that then the First Class Honours degree he was awarded from the world renowned politics faculty at Hull seems to have been wasted on him. Skelton clearly feels that politics cannot be simplistic. Presumably that’s why the Conservatives reserve candidacies for those who seek to make it more complex and disconnected from the people MPs are elected to serve.
Thirdly, look at the nature of the tea party movement in the US. They are driven by the hysterical and frankly at times delusional agenda of Fox News presenters like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, as well as various right wing shock-jocks. The Times talks of a “dark underbelly” at the heart of the tea party movement, crystallised by the utterly offensive speech by Tom Tancredo at the start of the tea party convention in Nashville last month. Conservative journalist Jonathan Kay turned up at the tea party convention and was shocked by the “toxic fantasies being spewed from the podium”, including the thoroughly horrific and offensive ‘birther’ movement, which was well represented at the convention.
What about the issue at hand? Why the attack on people who have absolutely no bearing on a British equivalent of a Tea Party movement? No exploration of American politics by a centre ground drone is complete without the obligatory sneering at Fox News. It is hardly a surprise that Skelton has reached for the smear template and homed in on one ignorant speech to paint all Tea Party activists with the same brush. All movements have their share of ignorant fanatics, including the Conservative Party. Perhaps Skelton, despite his stellar qualification, cannot tell the difference between a membership organisation turning up for a convention and a loose association of individuals who are committed to lower taxes and better government that has attracted some unsavoury hangers-on to a large rally.
Kay argued that the US tea party is “dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality.” Of course, any movement that looks to Sarah Palin as a potential President surely fits the definition of being “dangerously detached from reality.”
Running out of things to say, Skelton has built a strawman, called it Sarah Palin and set about attacking it. While Skelton might scoff at anyone who gives Palin the time of day, he seems incapable of grasping that she is at least talking to the issues that concern people yet are being ignored by the kind of politician he is so eager to become. The kind of politician that believes they know what is best for us. The kind of authoritarian and paternalist career builder who feels it is beneath them to be accountable to the people they are supposed to represent.
Fox News, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh et al can keep their right wing conspiracy theories. The tea party movement is something that British politics can absolutely do without.
On the contrary, a Tea Party movement or similar is needed in this country more now than ever before. Only a big government centraliser could describe a protest against rising taxes to fund unnecessary debt and wasteful spending as being something politics in this country can do without. Sadly for real conservatives in North Durham, the man selected to be their candidate is not a conservative at all.
David Skelton’s campaign blog site has the web address www.voteskeltonforchange.blogspot.com. A more honest description would be ‘vote skelton for less government accountability, fiscal and economic responsibility and a rejection of the notion that people should organise themselves outside the party political consensus to demand their voices be heard and their wishes be followed’.
Skelton is just another in a long line of wannabe machine politicians, uttering all the right noises for the party leader in an unthinking and unquestioning manner while ignoring the agenda of the voters. He is an example of the Modern Conservative Party that David Cameron is finding out is a very tough sell.