As we all know, London is very much a Labour city. Since I moved here in April 2014, most of the new friends I have made here would certainly be placed on the left of the political spectrum. Most are Labour or Green party supporters, and many really are quite keen on Jeremy Corbyn. My Facebook feed, littered with shares from Jeremy Corbyn, Justin Trudeau or Caitlin Moran provide some quite interesting insights. I read everything they share, as even though it's often painful and miserable to get through, it gives me a good understanding of where the left are looking for their conceptual inspiration. It has taught me one thing; we are the nasty party.
Or at least, that's how we are viewed. I suspect that doesn't come as a big surprise to a lot of people in the party, who view those who judge as 'nasty' as lacking a grip on reality. The party has tried hard to shake off its image as the nasty party, with 'hug a hoodie', big society and the 0.7% dedicated to international development as all being vehicles through which we can show our compassionate Conservatism. But we have failed to make a significant change on our image. Why?
The Conservative party's biggest strength has always been that we are supposed to be a pragmatic, realist party of tough love. We know that increasing welfare handouts only results in ruining lives, we were taught by Thatcher that our national economy should be run as though you were running a household finances and that national debt is not a good thing. To do all of these things effectively requires tough love, but it also requires very close and careful management of national institutions. But we aren't carrying out tough love anymore. Now, we are carrying out acts that are arrogant, short-minded and unnecessarily painful to people in the UK, who are starting to see our party for what it is. Nasty.
There are many examples to choose from. Probably the best is the ongoing NHS crisis and junior doctors' strike. Our complete inability to negotiate a decent deal for doctors which has resulted in strike action is not only an embarrassment to our party, but it is frankly a damning verdict on the ideological actions of certain ministers. The refusal of our Secretary of State to speak with junior doctors over this issue and listen to their concerns is staggering, and the public perception of him is so negative that he is a toxic element to the Conservative brand. If you're wondering how this is impacting our re-electability, YouGov polling has dropped us from a high of +10 on the 4th Feb to one point behind Labour on 17 March. One point behind Jeremy Corbyn. This week David Cameron is two points behind Corbyn for the first time.
The NHS issue isn't alone in painting us as the nasty party. Infighting in the party over Brexit is simply an utter embarrassment, especially as us Londoners have a tough election battle to fight with the Mayoral election. In all likelihood we are going to lose a key political position and yet the only thing certain members and MPs care about is damaging the government's position on the EU. I recently saw a hard core Brexit campaigner in the Conservatives share a statement by Jeremy Corbyn on Facebook, as Corbyn was talking about the need to leave the EU. They were so keen on Brexit, they endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's political opinion on it.
Even our 0.7% of GDP funding for international development is doing us damage, as the figure (while very ambitious and certainly something good to do) appears to have been plucked out of the air. There also appears to be no control on it whatsoever, with a huge over spend this year and repeated examples of the money going to people and places it shouldn't. This money won't solve our image problem of being the nasty party of it is mishandled and feeds further corruption. We are supposed to be the party of stringent governance; let's focus on that.
We all know of course that this infighting is happening because of senior minister and MPs placing themselves to be Cameron's successor as leader of the party. These actions are destructive, selfish and are pulling the party apart. Paul Goodman's recent post on our fluctuating opinions on who should succeed Cameron show that this lack of stability is placing us under threat of making a good, pragmatic decision.
We are the nasty party, not because we don't want to do right by the people of the UK, but because we have moved away from our traditional areas of strength. We've also become arrogant with the lack of a decent opposition. We should be so far ahead in the polls because of Labour's implosion, that we should be enjoying a period of being the most popular party ever. But Corbyn's selection has made us arrogant, dogmatic and ideological in our imposition of cuts and contracts. Britain needs tough love and, perhaps most of all, it needs David Cameron to come down hard on those ministers and MPs who don't get with the tough love programme.