On the Tories, web wars and shifting goalposts

By Paul Burgin / @paul_burgin

Is it just me or do you get the impression that with regard to criticism on tactics, conduct, and senior Party figures, the Conservatives tend to think it’s one rule for them and another for everyone else.

For example, on any number of blogs, comments, an apparent briefings, etc, from Conservatives, you will see any number of nasty personal attacks on Gordon Brown, some of which would see should frankly see them in the libel courts. Do you see any public disquiet from any Tory on this? Hardly ever.

By the same token, if any Labour activist so much as mentions a whiff of concern about Lord Ashcroft’s tax status, or about George Osborne’s expenses, or the recent sceptisism about Conservative plans for Co-operatives (amongst a plethora of ideas that seem so vague one can call them “policy by gimmick”), then you get various high ranking Tories both inside and outside complaining about “bias” and “unfair attacks”.

A recent example of this (and I say this with some concern as I respect both individuals) are the recent comments on Twitter between Jessica Asato and Iain Dale, where Jessica fairly points out concerns over the Tories’ new grassroots poster ads, which make sweeping and nasty attacks on the more vulnerable in our society and make no distinction between the genuine and the devious on benefits. Iain’s unfortunate response – which I think is beneath him – was to say that only in the minds of sick people would such an unpleasant interpretation be drawn. Thanks, Iain!

I can sort of see, being charitable here, why the Conservatives are behaving like this. They have never been this long in opposition and the lukewarm response from the electorate – only supportive out of sufferance – shows they are scared and jittery. So they go for the jugular and throw everything at Labour that might stick.

That said, it only works in the short term. These are tactics, not strategy. The electorate are not stupid, however much some politicians may think we are for failing to agree with arguments that seem perfectly logical in their own heads, and what therefore happens as a result – and what I fear will happen this coming election – is that disgust will be at an all-time high and the turnout so low that whoever gets into power will find they may only have as low as 20% of the country actively behind them. That would be four fifths of the UK and not a healthy prospect for democracy.

I have said it before and will say it again, to friends and foe alike in all mainstream political parties: criticise and attack, by all means, but just take a look at yourself and think how you come across before making that attack (and God knows how often I need to do that). Otherwise, we will all suffer – and we find our dignity shredded.

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