This Weak Conservative Government Refuses To Get Tough With The Unions

Southern Rail Isnt Working

When even staunch New Labour grandee and columnist John McTernan thinks the Tories are behaving like a weaker version of the Labour Party, British conservatism is in real trouble

As the RMT union’s strike on Southern Rail enters its third consecutive day, inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of commuters while a dithering Tory-lite government watches on, wringing its hands, former New Labour political adviser John McTernan uses his Telegraph column to tear into the Conservative Party.

McTernan writes:

We are in the middle of a five-day rail strike on Southern Rail. Commuters are being massively disrupted. And this is just the latest stage in a dispute in which the Luddite RMT union has made it clear that it is fully committed to fighting against the future.

What about the Government? Where are they in this dispute. It is a crystallisation if all their key themes: investment, modernisation, innovation and productivity. But they are silent.

Well not quite. What we have actually seen is the resignation of the then rail minister Claire Perry, who said:  “I am often ashamed to be the Rail Minister.” And so she should have been – just for her pathetic capitulation to the RMT. This, of course, is just what you would have expected from a Miliband government; but this is a Tory government, with a majority.

There is a famous scene in The West Wing episode about President Bartlet appointing a member of the Supreme Court. He meets Justice Joseph Crouch, whose retirement creates the vacancy, and is angrily addressed by Crouch: “I wanted to retire five years ago. Five years. But I waited for a Democrat. Instead I got you.” The Southern Rail dispute is just like that. Commuters in the Home Counties could be forgiven for thinking: “I waited 23 years for a majority Tory government. Instead I got you.” Where are the core Tory values? Where is the support for management’s right to manage?

This is utterly stunning criticism – shocking not only because it is self-evidently true (the Conservatives in government are a shadow of their glorious best under Margaret Thatcher) but because they are now so bad at governing in a conservative fashion that it has fallen to a former New Labour apparatchik to set them straight.

Why on earth has it fallen to a Labour Party grandee to inveigh against the more militant trades union? Where is the useless europhile Greg Clark, supposedly Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy during this whole dispute? Where is Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary? Have they all taken lessons from their new boss in the art of disappearing and avoiding the media during scandals affecting their ministerial briefs?

This criticism is particularly damning:

Where are the core Tory values? Where is the support for management’s right to manage?

Where indeed. This blog has wondered the same thing, as the Tories in government behaved like centralising statists, presided over an unprecedented weakening of our national defence, dithered over the housing crisisfailed to get to grips with the nation’s finances, alienated principled conservatives, and as the leader of a supposedly eurosceptic party did all he could to cheat his way to victory for the Remain camp in the EU referendum. Where are the core Tory values?

A Thatcherite government would have stood boldly on the side of consumers over producers, and thus would have been unafraid to plant its flag squarely in the same corner as Southern Rail’s unfortunate commuters. And unlike the Cameron approach to industrial disputes (seemingly applying maximum pressure on businesses to capitulate to union demands, as seen with the London Tube strikes) a Thatcherite government would have recognised the offensive absurdity of the union demands and unashamedly sided against them.

Needless to say, we do not have a Thatcherite government – despite all of the ingredients being in place for another properly ideological right wing government to flourish. The left-wing opposition is hopelessly divided. The Conservatives are under new leadership for the first time in a decade. Boundary review looks set to help the Tories by correcting decades-old biases in favour of Labour, potentially gifting the Tories tens of additional seats. All of these factors stand ready and waiting to be exploited by a radical Conservative government which understands that it has a duty to do more than hold power for the sake of it.

And yet at every turn, the Tories triangulate and tack to the centre. They did so under coalition government (when they had a modicum of an excuse) and they continue to do so now, when they have none. Right now, there is effectively no opposition. A conservative government right now could make a fair stab at privatising pensions and the NHS, and still not be forced out of office so long as the Corbynite and centrist wings of the Labour Party continue their childish tussle for power. The political landscape is ripe for a radical conservative reduction and reshaping of the state, yet there is almost zero evidence that Theresa May’s government intends to attempt any such bold enterprise.

And for what? Will being a centrist clone of New Labour win the Tories any new fans? Of course not. The swivel-eyed Left have long ago convinced themselves that all Tories are “evil” and “vermin”, no matter what they actually do in government.

We shall win no new fans by trying to adopt the cuddly persona of a young Tony Blair. We will never be liked. Therefore we should focus on being effective, without giving a second thought to winning over the admiration and votes of people who have been raised since birth to despise us. That’s what Margaret Thatcher taught us. And that is the lesson which we seem determined to cast aside in our feverish pursuit of the focus group’s favour.

John McTernan’s quote from The West Wing is very apt. Many conservatives have indeed been waiting for years – since Margaret Thatcher was forced from office, in fact – for another strong Tory leader; somebody committed to conservative, small government principles and willing to fight for them.

Conservatives waited thirteen long years of New Labour government only to get David Cameron. We then endured six years of Cameronism before being presented with the authoritarian Theresa May, foisted on the party in the confused wake of the EU referendum. And whatever electoral success Theresa May enjoys, she may well end up being every bit as much of an ideological disappointment as her predecessor.

But maybe this criticism is premature. Maybe the autumn Conservative Party conference will give birth to a conservative policy platform actually worth voting for. And to be fair to the new prime minister, even Margaret Thatcher bottled her first confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers, staging a tactical retreat before coming back to finish the job in 1984-85.

But right now, British conservatives are in the ludicrous and humiliating position of being upbraided by a Labour Party grandee – someone from the party of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, for heaven’s sake – for being insufficiently dedicated to conservative principles.

And when it falls to Tony Blair’s right hand man to tell the Tories how to get tough with the unions, something is clearly rotten with the state of British conservatism.


David Cameron - Coke Zero Conservative - I Cant Believe Its Not Miliband

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The Daily Smackdown: Sore Loser John McTernan Doesn’t Understand Bullying

John McTernan - Labour Party - Jeremy Corbyn - Bullying

Everyone in the Parliamentary Labour Party is a grown adult. Accusations of “bullying” by Jeremy Corbyn are nothing short of pathetic

John McTernan dials up the centrist Labour victim complex yet further, with a whiny piece in the Telegraph moaning about the supposed “bullying” of Labour MPs by Jeremy Corbyn:

It has long been a watchword of the labour movement that “an injury to one is an injury to all”. The PLP have to put that into action – starting with the Shadow Cabinet. If any frontbencher is moved, let alone sacked, because of how they voted over air strikes on Isil then the entire Shadow Cabinet should resign in solidarity. Immediately. Without hesitation. And the rest of the PLP should refuse to fill the vacancies. Well, at least the nine out of ten who didn’t vote for Corbyn.

[..] To work this action has to be like a successful strike – well-organised, widely supported and ruthlessly executed.

Yes. John McTernan, in his latest foot-stomping tantrum, is seriously invoking the language of industrial action and trade unionism to argue for the continued privilege of Labour’s centrist political-bots to set the tone and direction of the Labour Party, even though their faction overwhelmingly lost the recent leadership election.

Don’t be deceived by McTernan’s claim that this is all about the Syria vote. If a reshuffle does indeed occur – and it should – it will be just as much a response to the two-facedness of those shadow cabinet members who willingly chose to serve under Corbyn and profess loyalty to his face, while briefing against him anonymously to the media.

And take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of Labour’s centrists – generally those people furthest removed from the party’s roots in the trade union movement, fully paid-up members of the political class – now invoking the language of collective struggle in an attempt to preserve their loosening grip on power and influence within the party.

Having forged careers based on centrist triangulation and studiously ignoring the trades union or anyone with old-fashioned socialist views, these pampered princelings now have the nerve to elicit sympathy by painting themselves as victimised underdogs, humble workers being oppressed by the tyrannical Corbynite managerial class.

This is yet further proof that centrist Labour is still nowhere close to understanding the reasons for their defeat and rejection by the wider leftist movement.

The John McTernans of this world would still seek to make a virtue out of the fact that they stand for nothing save the acquisition of power, and that to them, even the most fundamental political or ideological belief is ultimately negotiable in the quest for votes. And they are terrified that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party will usher in a new era, whereby politicians are actually expected to believe in something and seek to persuade and convince the electorate, rather than slavishly flattering voters and tilting with every passing opinion poll.

That’s why we are now seeing this hysteria about supposed “bullying” by Jeremy Corbyn. Never mind that it is the ranks of unhinged activists online who are doing the “bullying”, and not the mild-mannered Corbyn. It serves the interests of John McTernan & co. to conflate the two – to make Jeremy Corbyn personally responsible for the behaviour of every single online troll, and claim that the unpleasant abuse on social media is somehow being coordinated from the Leader’s office.

This blog disagrees with nearly everything that Jeremy Corbyn stand for. But the only thing worse than Corbyn’s socialist policies is the attitude of the self-entitled Labour centrists, who – despite comprehensively failing to articulate a political vision of their own – still arrogantly expect to get their own way.

Only the warped and self-important mind of John McTernan could cast Labour’s centrists-in-exile as the plucky underdogs, and Corbyn’s small band of loyalists as the cruel capitalist oppressors. The rest of us will see this hyperbolic nonsense for what it is.

Jeremy Corbyn bullying

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