Wednesday 6 May 2015

A letter to potential Tory voters

Dear potential Tory voter,

I'm writing to you in order to put a few things straight. I know there is a tendency for people on the left to caricature all Tory voters as selfish grasping individuals with no social conscience, and I know that this isn't how you see yourselves. In this letter I'm going to explain why this caricature is inaccurate, but also explain why people on the left tend to believe in it. I'm then going to go on about economics for a bit. This is quite a long letter so I hope that you have the patience to read it.

I don't assume that what I say will change your mind or your voting intentions, but I do hope that it at least gives you something to think about.

Lefty assumptions

The reason people on the left tend to think of Tory voters as being inherently selfish individuals stems from Tory party policy. It is undeniable that Tory party policies over the last five years have massively favoured the rich, whilst loading the burden of austerity onto the backs of the poor and ordinary. 

Thanks to Tory economic policies the wealthiest 1,000 families in the UK have literally doubled their wealth since the economic crisis, whilst ordinary working people have suffered the longest sustained decline in the value of their wages since records began (don't just take my word for it, click the links).

People on the left tend to assume that Tory voters are fully aware of these facts, and furthermore they assume that Tory voters intend to vote Tory because they actively approve of economic policies that transfer wealth from the poor and ordinary into the bank accounts of the super-rich.

Iain Duncan Smith

Another factor that makes lefties assume that all Tory voters are selfish people with no social consciences is the outrageous mismanagement of the social security system that has gone on for the last five years. 

There are many reasons that the Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is a totemic hate figure to people on the left, not least the sanctions regime that has left hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in Britain suffering absolute destitution for weeks, or even months at a time. Harsh and draconian sanctions have been inflicted on people for "crimes" such as being 9 minutes late for a Jobcentre appointment because their job interview over-ran, having a heart attack during a disability assessment and even selling poppies for a few hours a week for Remembrance Sunday

The fact that Iain Duncan Smith's treatment of the disabled and the unemployed has been declared unlawful by the courts on multiple occasions, only for him to completely ignore the court judgments against him and carry on regardless, adds to the anger that left-wing people feel.

Left-wing people often tend to assume that Tory voters vote Tory because they actively approve of Iain Duncan Smith's unlawful reign of terror over the lives of many of Britain's most vulnerable people. I prefer to think that most Tory voters aren't that disgustingly vindictive, it's that they just don't know about the appalling scale of the numerous rolling humanitarian disasters that have stemmed from Iain Duncan Smith's "welfare reforms".

Most Tory voters aren't selfish and vindictive

The reason a lot of left-wing people think of Tory voters as selfish grasping individuals with no social consciences is that Tory voters actively support a political party that imposes draconian sanctions on vulnerable people, treats the disabled and unemployed in an unlawful manner, and blatantly favours the interests of the already extremely wealthy whilst loading the burden of austerity onto the poor and ordinary.

The reality is completely different. Few Tory voters cast their votes on the basis that the Tories unlawfully abuse the most vulnerable people in society whilst overseeing a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and ordinary to the super-rich minority. Most Tory voters aren't that vindictive and self-interested. The main reason a lot of Tory voters choose to vote Tory is that they genuinely believe that it is the socially responsible thing to do.

The Tories and the right-wing press have been incredibly successful at convincing people that Labour bankrupted the country, that the Tory "economic plan" is necessary, and that this Tory plan is working well. Thus people decide to vote Tory because they're afraid that should Labour get back into power, they'll damage the economy.

The problem with this "Labour broke the economy and the Tories are fixing it" narrative is that every part of it is a load of baloney.

Labour didn't cause the global financial sector insolvency crisis

You really don't have to be a Labour Party supporter (I'm not) to understand that the global economic crisis happened because of the reckless virtually unregulated gambling of the banks, especially those on Wall Street and the City of London.

Of course Labour were somewhat to blame for allowing this gambling spree at UK banks to happen in the first place. However at the time, the Tories only complaints were that the Labour Party hadn't gone far enough with their financial sector deregulations! Had the Tories been in power and deregulated the UK financial sector even further than Labour had, the impact of the global financial crisis would have been a whole lot worse!

The Tory "economic plan" isn't necessary

The theory that a major economy can simply cut its way to growth is illiterate from a macroeconomic perspective and disproven time and again throughout history.

The idea that there is no alternative to ideological austerity is even worse, but somehow, through the tactic of endless repetition, the Tories and the right-wing press have managed to convince swathes of the public that ideologically driven, across the board spending cuts are the only option.

The problem with ideological austerity is that it is so arbitrary, relying on the naive assumption that all forms of government spending create a uniform return on investment of 50p in the pound. It should be obvious that some forms of government spending create better returns on investment than others, but the Tories failed to factor this into their equations, preferring instead to simply assume that all government spending is essentially 50% waste.

If you make a simplistic assumption that all forms of government spending are 50% waste then of course it makes sense to bring in across the board cuts. The problem is that reality obviously isn't that simple, and as in everyday life, some forms of spending are far better at producing good returns on investment than others. In fact the IMF (hardly a left-wing organisation by any stretch of the imagination) estimate that in the current economic climate the majority of government spending returns between 90p and £1.70 for every pound spent.

Once we understand that returns on investment are almost always a lot higher than the Tories lazily assumed they would be, it becomes completely obvious that the best way to improve the economy is to carry out a strategic spending review, then cut spending in areas with poor returns on investment, but actually increase spending in areas that produce strong returns on investment.

If we frame the austerity debate as a choice between between arbitrary across the board spending cuts vs evidence based strategic spending prioritisation, then the ideological austerity option begins to look like a very poor choice indeed, because if you lazily assume that all spending is waste, then you'll end up chucking out the baby with the bathwater and tanking the economy.

The Tory "economic plan" isn't working

There is a mountain of hard evidence that the Tory "economic plan" has been a disaster, but the right-wing press simply choose not to report it. I'll give a few examples:

  • George Osborne and the Tories endlessly repeated their "we're all in this together" catchphrase, yet the richest 1,000 families have doubled their wealth whilst the full burden of Tory austerity has been loaded onto poor and ordinary people.
Why haven't you heard about all of these failings?

A famous linguist and political writer once said that "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum".

The UK media is an almost perfect demonstration of this limited spectrum of acceptable opinion. You're never going to be told about George Osborne's failings by the majority of the press because it is owned and operated by right-wing billionaire press barons like Rupert Murdoch (The S*n, Times, Sky TV), Jonathan Harmsworth (Daily Mail, Metro), the Barclay brothers (Telegraph, Spectator) and Richard Desmond (Express, Star).

Anyone who expects a balanced view from the BBC is also hopelessly naive. The BBC know that their purse strings are controlled by the government of the day, that's why their political coverage is always slanted towards the government view. Whether the government is a Labour one or a Tory one, the BBC will curry favour with pro-government bias in their coverage.

The reason that you probably haven't heard very much about how badly George Osborne's ideological austerity agenda is failing, or about the shocking magnitude of Iain Duncan Smith's cock ups at the DWP, is that the vast majority of the mainstream media has absolutely no interest in telling you about it.

Austerity is a con

Ever since the beginning of ideological austerity, people like me have been claiming that austerity is a blatant con designed to transfer ever more wealth to the super-rich minority whilst pretending that the objective is getting the national debt under control.

After five years the results are in: George Osborne has missed all of his economic predictions by miles; he's borrowed hundreds of billions more than he said he would; and the national debt is still growing rapidly. Meanwhile the tiny super-rich minority have literally doubled their wealth.

These facts completely vindicate what I was saying back in 2010, but I take no pleasure from it, because witnessing someone make such a mess of the UK economy gives me no pleasure, and neither does the evidence of the ever widening poverty gap that George Osborne's wealth transfer con has caused.

Common sense?

Thanks to endless repetition by the Tories and their supporters in the right-wing press, the austerity narrative has become so ingrained in political discourse in the UK that "we've got to cut our way to growth" appears to be common sense to millions of people. However just because millions of people accept it as being common sense doesn't make it true.

Not so very long ago it was considered common sense that gay people were degenerates who should be forcibly castrated by the state (a fate that befell the war hero Alan Turing and thousands of others); before that it was common sense that women should not be allowed to vote (overturned thanks to the Suffragettes); before that it was common sense that only wealthy landowners should be allowed to vote in elections (overturned thanks to the Chartists); before that it was common sense that human beings should be able to own other human beings as property (overturned by the slavery abolitionists); and so on throughout human history.

One day the tide will turn and the majority of people will recognise austerity for the ideologically driven nonsense that it is. In fact the tide is turning now. Even the former Tory party spokesman for Treasury affairs Robert Skidelsky says as much. The question is whether you want to be one of the first people to accept that ideological austerity is a con (or at best a catastrophically failed experiment), or one of the last.

The problem

The Tories and the right-wing press have managed to fool an awful lot of people into believing that supporting their ideological austerity experiment is the socially responsible thing to do. The actual evidence paints a very different picture. George Osborne has missed all of his own economic predictions by miles; ideological austerity has badly hindered the post-crisis economic recovery; and one of the most significant outcomes from austerity has been a huge widening of the gap between the super-wealthy minority and the rest of us.

The problem is that so many people are so wedded to the familiar austerity narrative that they simply can't accept that it's demonstrably failed to achieve what George Osborne was claiming that it would back in 2010. 

In order to accept that it has failed people would have to accept that they've been duped into believing in something that doesn't actually work (or even make any sense at the most basic macroeconomic level).

Mark Twain (one of my all time favourite smartarses) once said "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled". This is the problem. It's much easier for the Tories and the right-wing press to fool people into believing their deceitful austerity narratives than it is for others to point out to these people that they've been duped, and that austerity is a con.


If you've managed to read this far it's fair to assume that you didn't flounce off in a cloud of confirmation bias at some point during this admittedly long letter, and for that you deserve some credit. Many people just tend to run away when they come across things that challenge their worldviews.

Thanks for taking the time to read what I had to say. Feel free to leave your replies in the comments section below.

Best regards

Tom (Another Angry Voice)

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Who really caused the economic crisis?
Austerity is a con
The "Making Work Pay" fallacy
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Recommended reading - heterodox economics
George Osborne's "all in this together" fallacy
What is ... Wage Repression?
What is ... Fiscal Multiplication?
Why I want you to question everything - even me!
The "New Labour are left-wing" myth

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