A blue leaflet landed on the mat yesterday, urging me to vote Conservative and offering no less than 11 highlighted reasons for doing so.
There’s no chance of this happening, because I know far too much about the state of the nation to be fooled by what was said. Other people may not be as lucky, so let’s run through these claims.
The front cover proclaims: “A stronger economy at home” – not true. The resurgence claimed by the Tories has still, after a year, failed to bring Britain back up to its pre-crisis peak, and pay levels have been skewed to put the lowest earners 14 per cent worse-off than they were under the last Labour government.
“Renewed respect abroad” – another howler. Our military adventures mean we are seen as America’s lapdog, while our economic efforts mean we are seen as China’s.
“Real change in Europe” – ridiculous. David Cameron has marginalised Britain in Europe. We’ll come to an example of this in a moment.
Inside the leaflet is a page headed “What we have done”, which attempts to muddy the issues by linking Tory policies within the UK with their strategy in Europe. The effect is similar to a town councillor running for a seat on the county council, saying if he is elected he will ensure that an allotment is available for everybody (allotment land is a town council responsibility and nothing to do with county councils).
So, under the heading “What you have told us”, the leaflet proclaims: “Cut the deficit”. Under “What we did” it states: “So we’ve cut the deficit by a third”. This is nothing to do with Europe and also misrepresents the facts. When the Coalition government sidled into power it said it would eliminate the deficit by 2015. This is not going to happen and claiming success in cutting it by a third (partially by scrapping investment schemes that should have been kept) is an insult.
Next line: “Create more jobs” – “So we’ve helped businesses create more than 1.6 million new jobs”. If the economy was running properly, this number of new jobs would have created a huge boost for the economy – far more than we’ve seen. The problem is that these jobs are too low-paid to make a difference. It is working-class people who lift the economy because they spend more of their income, pushing money through the system. When they don’t have money to spend because they are struggling to cope on pay grades that mock their efforts, less money goes through the system and the economy stutters.
“Cut tax” – “So we’ve given an average income tax cut of £700 to 25 million people, taking 2.7 million people out of tax altogether”. Remove the £100,000-per-year tax cut for those with extremely high incomes and this average drops dramatically. Add in the extra money people are having to spend because of cuts or caps on in-work and unemployment benefits and people like you are £2,000 worse-off per year.
“Cap welfare” – “So we’ve capped welfare – no out-of-work household can now claim more than the average family earns in a week”. The welfare cap is a sensible idea done in a silly way. If it had been set at an average family’s income – just over £31,000 per year – it would be fair, but almost nobody would have been affected, so the Tories set it at £26,000 per year, purely to knock more people off-benefit and show that it worked – and they thought we wouldn’t notice. Silly Tories!
“Control immigration” – at last we come to something that is relevant to the European election! – “So we’ve taken all the action we can under the current EU agreements to fix our immigration system and limited migrants’ access to benefits”. In fact – as noted in this blog previously – very few of the actions taken by the current UK (not European) government are new. The limited access to benefits was enshrined in UK law already, but they don’t want you to know that.
“Cut the cost of Europe” – “So we’ve cut the EU budget, saving British taxpayers £8.15 billion”. Impossible without the co-operation of other EU member states. They are claiming credit for something that would not have happened if other EU countries had not also wanted it. Naughty Tories!
“No to British taxpayers bailing out the Euro” – “So we’ve taken the UK out of Eurozone bailouts”. This is the only measure in the entire flier that anyone in their right mind can support. The UK was never part of the Euro so there was never any reason for us to support it financially. Any other UK political party would have taken the same action so this is no credit to the Tories.
Finally: “Defend Britain’s interests” – “So we vetoed a new EU Fiscal Treaty because it didn’t guarantee a level playing field for British business”. This relates back to the cover boast about “Real change in Europe”. David Cameron made a laughing-stock of both himself and the United Kingdom with his silly veto, because the other 26 countries involved in the treaty simply carried on regardless, leaving us out in the cold. That isn’t “Real change in Europe”; that’s really being shut out of EU decisions.
This Tory leaflet is an insult to your intelligence. It claims success where the Tories have failed, and calls for you to support people who have intentionally inflicted harm upon you.
And you’ll notice there’s no mention of the elephant in the room: The Conservative Party supports the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will push conditions of employment down to a lowest-common-denominator level that will devastate workers’ health and livelihoods while also locking the privatisation of the National Health Service into an agreement that will make it an international criminal offence to reverse the changes. Here in Wales, many of us rely on cross-border treatment and this will hit us hard.
Anyone supporting the Conservatives on the basis of this flier would have to be ignorant or insane.
One last thing: Minutes after the Tory flier arrived, I went out to my car and found a plastic bag filled with what appeared to be excrement had been left on the windscreen. I can’t blame this on the leafleters (although local Tories certainly know who I am and what my car looks like) but it did make me question the quality of their local campaign.
Is this a new kind of smear tactic?
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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