Off Topic

This post is life, not physics. I claim no special expertise in this field.

I have always been anti-Tory. Some of this comes from growing up in Manchester in the 1980’s and seeing the human consequences of Tory economic policy. However, I respect the honestly held opinion of some that the overall effect of some of Thatcher’s policies was good, in the ruthlessly Benthamite “greatest happiness to the greatest number” sense. Economics is complex and I really don’t have much expertise. Certainly Manchester was already a much improved place in 1997, and is even better now, as far as I can see (my family still live there).

didn't this time either

The visceral loathing I have of Conservatism doesn’t really come from their economic policies (though I disagree with most of these). It comes from the mood music of social intolerance which still surrounds them. Various signs in the election campaign and before showed that the crowing, homophobic, xenophobic, borderline racist wing of the party is still around and Cameron did not convincingly repudiate them. Decent Tories I know hold their noses on this stuff and vote Tory for economic reasons. But I think if Cameron wanted to take advantage of the widespread discontent with the Brown government, and offer a real, acceptable alternative to more than the core Tory vote, he had to do more to show that the Tories had changed, that he was different, and that he was in control and not just a smooth gloss on the same old Tories. I guess Blair had to do the same to win over those with a visceral hatred of Old Labour. But where was Cameron’s Clause 4 moment?

The failure of the Tories to move on and provide a real alternative is I think why we are where we are now. Cameron now has a second chance. If he can throw off his Bullingdon youth, show himself as an economic conservative but social progressive and (if he really is!) stamp his authority on his party sufficiently to make a solid coalition with the Lib Dems, both he and Nick Clegg will I think have done what they have a mandate to do. And meanwhile Labour can hopefully recover as a sensible, viable alternative without a decade in the wilderness, ready to fight the next election under a fairer electoral system.

In case that all sounds a bit Panglossian, let me add that I am far from convinced that Cameron is willing or able to do this. But if he is, he will have chipped away significantly at my anti-Tory bias, and will also have moved British politics on substantially.

If you think this is nonsense, please don’t be put off the rest of the blog, which is going to revert soon to cool physics.

Here are some things I highly recommend on this, from several different points of view:

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About Jon Butterworth

UCL Physics prof, works on LHC, writes (books, Guardian Science and elsewhere). Citizen of England, UK, Europe & Nowhere, apparently.
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