The magazine, Computer Weekly, has just become required reading for all Labour Party members and supporters and, indeed, anyone interested in how the Tory Party operates.
On November 12th, Computer Weekly reported that the Tories had tried to remove a 10-year backlog (2000 – 2010) of Tory speeches from the internet. They even tried to remove the promise that, on election, they would introduce ‘a new kind of transparent politics’.
Before the 2010 general election, Cameron and Osborne said they wanted to use the internet to transform politics and they went as far as campaigning on a promise ‘to democratise information held by those in power, so people could hold them to account.’
When quizzed about this the Tories said that the deletion was merely a routine attempt to clean up their website ahead of a re-launch.
Of course, this explanation does not stack up because they:
1. could have chosen to ‘park’ the old data elsewhere and, for the sake of transparency, provided a link from the old site to the new one;
2. have not only removed their archive of promises, pledges and speeches from their own website but they have also, according to Computer Weekly:
– struck the record of their past speeches off internet engines including Google, which you might recall had been highlighted as a role model for the Tories “open source politics”;
– erased the official record of their speeches from the Internet Archive. As Computer Weekly explains, this is ‘the public record of the net – with an effect as alarming as sending Men in Black to strip history books from a public library and burn them in the car park.’
As Jim Royle might say, ‘A new kind of transparent politics? My arse!’
Deceitful, Incompetent and Bare-faced
The public is, of course, not only familiar with Tory hypocrisy but has also come to expect it.
And from the debacle of Osborne’s ‘pasty tax’ to Iain Duncan Smith’s botched roll-out of the new universal credit it has also become resigned to Tory incompetence.
We can add to this toxic mixture the charge that the Tories are bare-faced political ‘cowboys’ who think they can get away with anything. They might be right, of course; only time will tell.
However, as Labour MP, Sheila Gilmore, said, ‘It will take more than David Cameron pressing Delete to make people forget about his broken promises.’
Here, then, is our contribution to the task of keeping those Tory policies on record.
Taken from the bagful of pledges/promises the Tories made that they would like the world to forget, here are FIVE.
‘With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down restructures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS.‘ (David Cameron, 2009)
In 2010 the incoming Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, promptly went on to launch one of the largest and certainly the most damaging of reorganisations in NHS history. Lansley had been planning the reorganisation for eight years.
‘Sure Start will stay, and we’ll improve it. We will keep flexible working, and extend it.’ (David Cameron, 2009)
Labour claims more than 400 Sure Start centres have been shut since the Coalition came to power. This is happening even in David Cameron’s leafy backyard. The Tory-led Oxfordshire county council announced plans in October to close 37 of the county’s 44 Sure Start children’s centres including one in the David Cameron’s Witney seat. Cameron, washing his hands of his responsibility, says that that is the council’s decision. The council says that Cameron and Osborne have been taking money from the council and that it has no alternative.
REFORM THE LOBBYING INDUSTRY
‘It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. I’m talking about lobbying. In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism‘ (David Cameron, 2010)
The Government is introducing a Lobbying Bill. But far from tackling either in-house lobbyists, or regulating contacts between special-interest groups, government advisers and most civil servants, the bill is aimed at restricting charity and trades union activity in the twelve months before a general election.
Meanwhile, the largest Tory party donors are presently attending the Commonwealth Business Forum in Sri Lanka just ahead of the moment when David Cameron is attending the Heads of Commonwealth Countries meeting – also in Sri Lanka. Corporate Watch writes: ‘JCB, which has given the Tories £1.4m since the election, are sending a director Philip Bouverat. Lycamobile, which has donated £426,292, are the ‘Gold Sponsors’ of the event.’ (http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=5126)
THE GREENEST GOVERNMENT
‘There’s increasingly an argument being aired that the public might put up with the green agenda when the going’s good, but not now that the economy is slowing and they’re feeling the pinch. But [that] should make it even more urgent that we act.’ (George Osborne, 2008)
In 2013 the Tories in government are enthusiastically pushing a “dash for shale gas” as an alternative to what they see as expensive green energy. They are also threatening to challenge the green element of household energy bills. David Cameron told the CBI he would, ‘make sure the green charges, levies and taxes are appropriate and in my view they’ve got too high and we’ve got to roll back the cost of them.’
CHILD BENEFIT CUTS
‘I like the child benefit, I wouldn’t change child benefit, I wouldn’t means-test it‘ (David Cameron, 2010)
The Coalition later abolished the benefit for higher earners and froze it for three years.
These are just a sample for starters. Other people are keeping a record of Tory broken promises – you can read more here.
From broken pledges and promises to the presentation of policy based on the corruption of statistics, the Tories cynical manipulation of the public sphere has reached a new low point in modern British politics.
And what is so disturbing is that operators like Cameron, Osborne, Smith, May and Shapps, far from expressing shame for their actions, appear to be relishing them.
Britain Can Do Better Than This
Since this post was written – late Friday – events have moved on.
The Tories have felt it necessary to row back on their efforts at self-censorship – as the Guardian online reported
‘Tory speeches back on internet archive
Party had been criticised over removal of a decade of speeches from website’
As the Guardian also noted
‘The Conservatives did not respond to calls for comment on Friday night.’
We’d like to claim the power of the Leeds NW Labour website in all this.But we had not yet gone to press on this one, so the weight of our undoubted clout had not yet fallen on Tory necks. But the power of the – social – media is especially gratifying here. It would appear that there are some things even Tory money cannot as yet buy off.
The Tory claims, however, still need to be checked out against our statements above.
And the broken promises stand.
But maybe now you will be able to check them out for yourselves.
We’ll be keeping watch to help you do so – with out without the help of the Tory party website.