Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the Conservatives. Are their changes only skin deep?

Since David Cameron became leader of the Conservatives in late 2005 he has tried to change the face of the his party. There's been the friendly green tree logo, the drive to get more women & ethnic minority candidates selected and statements reclaiming areas such as poverty reduction and getting people back to work as 'Conservative' issues.

The question is - have they really changed? Has Cameron merely worked PR magic to make the Tories electable again? Or has the party genuniely rediscovered it's philanthropic, 'one society together' strand based on financial stability that was submerged under a deluge of Thatcherite monetarist dogma in the early 1980s?

The answer is that the party is changing. A work in progress.  There are more women, ethnic minorities and people who are gay standing for the Conservative party this time round, drawn from a range of working and geographical backgrounds. This policy initially ran into the sand of the blue rinse constituency associations on the ground. It has recently gained a fair wind again because of the number of 'old school' Tories stepping down in safe seats because of the expenses scandal.  However, there are also still scores of Old Etonians and incredibly wealthy people for whom £5.80 is the price of a daily duck sandwich rather than the hourly national minimum wage.

The Centre for Social Justice headed by Iain Duncan Smith has come up with some fantastic ideas for addressing issues of poverty and family and society breakdown. 'Making Britain the most family friendly country in Europe' has made it as one of the Tories six priorities for the election, but it remains unclear about how many of the CSJ's ideas are actually Tory policy.

Other Conservative themes for the campaign include: 'back the NHS' and 'raise standards in schools'. However, there are still some within the Conservative party who are part of the monetarist and libertarian strand of the party whose instincts are to dismantle public health and education and move towards private insurance schemes as modelled in the USA.

Osborne and Cameron talk in their speeches about cutting the country's massive debt to 'get the economy moving' whilst finding new innovative ways to deliver services. However, there are those within the party who want to take the opportunity to ideologically 'roll back the state' at the expense of the most vulnerable, under the badge of an 'age of austerity'. The IEA are at the policy end of what tails off into an extreme fringe.

I've chosen Eine kleine Nachtmusik (link includes excerpt) as my piece of music to represent the tone and mood of the Conservatives. There's a positive feel about the party: they have their own themes and ideas for government and don't spend all their time bashing Labour. Like the bold, crisp start of Mozart's serenade they know what they want to say and are articulating themselves more clearly than either of the other main parties.

Eine kleine Nachtmusik  is a  beautifully written piece of music, but as one critic put it is written from 'a light and happy pen'. It has the feel of an easy to absorb piece that is skin deep and lacks the depth and fullness of a Tchaikovsky or a Beethoven. I remain to be convinced that the likability of  David Cameron and his ideas will translate to a party and policies that will bring real financial stability and rebuild our society. I am happy to be proved wrong, but there is still the vague sense that there might still be 'Eine kleine Nacht', or a little [of the] night about them.

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