Your next Tory MP is a really lousy blogger

September 23, 2008 at 1:20 pm | Posted in British Politics, Conservative Party | Leave a comment

In general, there are four key characteristics which distinguish a professional conservative commentator from some third-rate Tory blogger. They should posses an independent mind, have a sufficient grasp of political history, be able to state their party’s principles without simply spewing their party’s spin, and write to a higher standard than the average commenter on ConservativeHome. Yet despite failing to exhibit any of these qualities, The Guardian still allows Tory parliamentary candidate Charlotte Leslie to write for its Politics Blog, and apparently without supervision.

As is the case with most of her posts, Charlotte sings the same yawnsome song about how New Labour is only slightly less left-wing than Lenin and that only ‘hard-headed’ centre-right leadership can save the country from the statist malaise they’ve imposed on us. This is too predictable to get riled up about. She believes the power of state should be limited and so do I; we just disagree profoundly on what those limits are. No, it’s only when she starts asserting things as ‘facts’ to prove her case that things get messy. Here’s her assessment of where Labour went wrong:

Many of those genuinely good centre-ground ideas (such as academies, for example, resurrecting the idea of Conservatives’ city technology colleges) were being implemented off the back of old-left mechanisms. They are more bureaucratic and expensive than they need be. Funded by ever-increasing taxes, administered by a burgeoning civil service. (emphasis mine)

The civil service is ‘burgeoning’, eh? So if I was to look at a chart showing civil service employment, I’d be able to see a sustained and rapid growth over the past few years, right? In that case… how would she explain this?

For those who, like Charlotte, may be averse to graphs, what this link reveals is that Civil Service employment has fallen every year since 2003, and is now only 20,000 bodies greater than the number of Civil Servants (PDF, page 3) Labour inherited from the Tories. Considering the population’s grown by a good two million in that time, that’s not particularly bad going. So rather than ‘burgeoning’, the Civil Service is, in fact, dwindling.

Leslie also dredges up the age-old issue of our armed forces and claims that Labour has overseen a steady decline in numbers from 238,550 in 1978 to 73,290 today. Now, she’s not wrong to point out the decline, but I do find it curious that there’s no mention of one rather significant development which made that reduction possible, nor any recognition that the number of service personnel also declined under both Margaret Thatcher & John Major’s governments. (PDF, page 23).

As I said earlier, the question about the size and purpose of the state is one of the most important & relevant debates in politics, but you’re not going to advance that debate if all you’re doing is blithely repeating trite Cameronisms you’ve been emailed from Tory HQ, linking to some failed 90’s pop band and trotting out some statements which are, at best, erroneous or misleading. Seriously, if the standard of the Tory party’s parliamentary candidates is no better than the average blogger, what hope should we have about how well they’d run the country?

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