Saturday, 19 April 2008

Crazy Cameron's Thirtysomethings

David Cameron, accidental future Prime Minister of the UK, is really, really trying to build support for the Conservative Party. But, in typical Tory fashion, he's going about it in completely the wrong way.

His latest wheeze, according to the Telegraph, is to reel in around 3 million "new" votes - 30 somethings whose first ever vote was for Blair in 1997, and who stuck by him in later years but aren't thrilled with Gordon Brown-Trousers (and, let's face it, who is?). So far, so good. And, to a point, his market research is close to the mark.

I can say that with confidence because I'm (just!) within his target age range of 29 - 40, although, unlike the vast majority of the British public, I saw Blair for what he was long before he was ever elected, and the current sad state of affairs in the UK comes as absolutely no surprise to me. It was a matter of when, not if, the Labour party would self destruct, taking Britain with it, and I, for one, am amazed that they've lasted this long. Then again, Blair's sharp exit was a pretty strong clue that the fuse was well alight...

Back to Crazy Cameron. His mob thinks, "the thirtysomethings are a demanding bunch, less forgiving than pensioners or middle-aged voters. As ambitious professionals they work religiously to deadlines and are deeply frustrated by not being able to get a doctor's appointment out of hours. They grew up with technology, expect things to work properly and do not see why there should be broken ticket machines at train stations. They come home late because they have been out drinking after work and want to see police on duty."

Deadlines? Check, though I've reached a point where I tend to set them then expect them to be met, rather than have to meet the buggers myself.

Ambitious? Well, maybe, but not in the conventional sense. Retirement, or at least semi-retirement, is an attractive proposition. I've done enough chasing around with my ass on fire, thank you, and the prospect of a quiet life appeals to me and Mrs S, whilst we're young enough to avoid compulsory termination in a NHS geriatric ward.

Out of hours GPs? HELL, YES. You can never, ever get one to turn out when you want one. You make the call, get bounced to some hopeless bimbo who takes a summary of your ailments, then promises that the doctor will call you back - ostensibly to assess the problem (even though the General Medical Council frowns on telephone consultations) but, in reality, to explain why you're not sick enough to warrant an out of hours visit.

Crazy Cameron is dead right about this one - do doctors think we make out of hours calls for fun? Trust me, I avoid dealing with doctors AT ALL unless I really, really have to, and if I'm calling for one out of hours it's because I (or the person I'm calling for) need to see one. This is not something they can judge over the phone, and nor should they be allowed to do so - a little work in exchange for their exorbitant salary might not go amiss!

Technology? Expect it to work properly? Do me a favour, Dave. I expect technology not to work at all, or to work in such a half-baked manner as to be totally useless for all practical purposes, EXCEPT, and this is important, where working as per spec would be the least useful, and most unexpected thing that it could reasonably be required to do. On these occasions, I expect the benighted stuff to work flawlessly.

Broken ticket machines? See below, though, in my case, it's purely hypothetical - I never, ever travel by train, save on the Tube, because the British railway network is about as close to a magical mystery tour as it's possible to get. You have no idea when a train is going to turn up, whether it's going to go all the way to its advertised destination or, indeed, whether its progress will be sufficiently inhibited by leaves or the wrong kind of snow as to prevent it from leaving base camp at all. It's a shambles, a joke - except that it isn't funny at all for folks who rely on it - and should be treated like one.

Home late? Yes, frequently - see above comment re: ass on fire.

Drinking after work? That might be the case for MPs - in fact, I have it on reasonable authority that a quick snifter is acceptable for an MP at ANY time of day, although the concepts of MPs and work don't sit well together, now I come to think about it. But for the rest of us, especially those with family responsibilities, a quick one on the way home is out of the question - we just don't have the time, and, anyway, a beer at the local isn't what it was now the smoking ban's in full flow. Much better to drive home and relax before the goggle box in the company of Mrs S, a bottle and a smoke.

Police on duty? Absolutely, I want to see them on duty at all times of day! If there were more of them about, the hypothetical broken ticket machines would be less of a problem, because there'd be less opportunity for hard-of-thinking scumbags to trash them.

Clearly, Crazy Cameron isn't entirely wrong on a lot of points, but, as ever, he needs to get to grips with reality on the fine details. But that's not what he's getting most seriously wrong - his major undoing will be his reluctance to preach the traditional Tory tax cut mantra. I work bloody hard for my living, and I really don't appreciate Labour's smash-and-grab approach to taxation, particularly when they spend it like water on things that amount to utter crap.

In these (Labour created) times of financial uncertainty, a hint that Crazy Cameron's future government will not be robbing us blind would go a long way towards setting them apart from Labour's badly discredited position. We already know what Labour would do if they managed to rig the ballot far enough to get in again - more of what they're doing now - and we don't like it! Cameron's cautious hand-wringing in the belief that his target voters understand the need for some taxation is far too LibDim for a Tory leader, and will surely alienate more traditional blue voters.

The same goes for his obsession with "new" and "change" and other similarly trendy keywords, and his plan to populate his front bench with yet more 30-somethings. They might appeal to his deeply desired 3 million voters, but what about the folks who would traditionally be voting for him?

I want to see tax cuts to stimulate consumer confidence, and hence lead to prosperity through economic growth. I want to see a wealth of real-world experience on the Tory benches, in stark contrast to the academic refugees whose presence besieges the Labour party. You can't get that from a purely baby-faced cabinet; the ideas and energy of youth certainly have a role to play, but so does the experience and foresight of maturity, and I don't think that's a benefit Crazy Cameron is in a position to give up. And, most of all, I'd like to see a Tory leader who isn't trying to be a cardboard cutout Blair-alike.

We've gotten rid of the real Tony Blair, his successor has, by dint of much effort, turned out to be even worse than he was, and the British people would like to get back to having a real government - no spin, no lies, no glitz, just good, old fashioned government. Crazy Cameron, should take note - on his own, he had no chance of becoming Prime Minister. In fact, a leadership challenge was not massively unlikely in the Conservative party just a few months ago. But, with a little help from Gordon Brown-Trousers, he might just make it to Number 10 despite his obvious failings.

That doesn't mean the British public like him or his policies, it just means they dislike them less than they hate the other side. If he's sensible, offers common sense, stability and economic well-being, he will be accepted as the best of a bad lot and thrust into power with almost indecent haste. If, on the other hand, he offers wild-eyed, idealist "new and improved" nonsense, he will be indistinguishable from the rest and will never achieve the unexpected success that Gordon Brown-Trousers' abject failure has so surprisingly offered him.

Billy Seggars.

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