Is this the first crack between the two leaders (well, three, if you count Steve Hilton, according to some the real power in the Party Formerly Known As Conservative)? Is Osborne positioning himself for a leadership challenge? Has he lost his marbles? These are the questions people are asking themselves.
Much good may it do them. For myself I should like to know what being a moderniser means. Answer comes there none, whenever I ask this question, apart from the odd waffle about having different candidates. Actually, I am in favour of that and so are many Conservatives on the grounds that the candidates picked by the local associations in the last ten years have been utter losers. Think Bob Neill, who reduced one of the biggest Conservative majorities to a margin of just a few hundred. Think Steve Norris, who lost to Hizonner Ken Livingstone twice.
What is Osborne’s definition of what he is not an über-member of?
I don’t take the kind of über-modernising view that some have had, that you can’t talk about crime or immigration or lower taxes. It is just that you can’t do so to the exclusion of the NHS, the environment and economic stability. I have always argued for a more balanced message, and that is what I hope you would see at this party conference.Errm, who actually says that Conservatives must not talk about the NHS, the environment or economic stability? In any case, are those ideas not somewhat old-fashioned and anti-modern in the way they are presented by the Boy-King and his pet modernisers (the name Goldsmith springs to mind)?
If any of these people were really radical and modernising they would start talking about health care and not the NHS; they would abandon 1970s shibboleths and talk about the environment prospering in private hands and through new technology; they would stop blathering about economic stability and lower taxes being antithetical. Alas, they are not modernising enough. In fact, they are not modernisers at all, whether they wear ties with their expensive shirts or not.
Then Georgie-Porgie became really daring and started talking about … deep breath …. immigration. I wish these people wouldn’t. They really have no clue what they are talking about, whatever they happen to be arguing.
I don’t think we were ready for the impact on public services of a very large number of people coming to this country. Immigration from eastern Europe was 100 times, well maybe 50 times greater than the government predicted it was going to be. So there was a complete failure to anticipate the impact on our public services or indeed the impact on our economy.’ Immigration has been a ‘broad benefit’, he says. ‘But it has put an enormous pressure on some of our low-skilled British citizens who have found themselves in some parts of Britain priced out of the job market. I don’t think we have done enough as a country to give these people the right education or skills. It is no good Gordon Brown saying, “British jobs for British workers”, when he has singly failed to prepare British workers for the ten year he’s been chancellor.Well, of course, the previous Conservative government did not do much to prepare British workers for being able to get jobs but I have heard nothing from the modernisers about any radical ideas of reform in the educational sector. In fact, there seems to be a rather old-fashioned One Nation Tory attitude of making sure the poor stay in their social position and not think about achieving anything.
As it happens, there is another problem with “British jobs for British workers” as a slogan, apart from the practicalities (what if they don’t want to get jobs or are not qualified for them?) and that is the sad fact that it is illegal under EU rules. Yes, I am afraid, we are not allowed to discriminate against other EU citizens on the grounds of their nationality.
I wonder why the non-über-moderniser has not seen fit to mention any of this.