Tories learned a few tricks from Sinn Féin

Posted By: July 18, 2015

Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, July 18, 2015 
Did you ever think you would see the Conservative Party copying Sinn Féin? Well, that is what David Cameron is doing – and, in fairness, he is doing it very well.

He is not imitating Sinn Féin’s policies, but by seeking to place the Tories in permanent political power, he is doing to the Labour Party what Sinn Féin so successfully did to the SDLP.

Some say (especially in the SDLP) that Sinn Féin stole the SDLP’s political clothes. If so, the Conservatives are stealing Labour’s clothes, the house, the car and most of the children. Labour is heading for political homelessness.

So how exactly are the Tories achieving their aim? What impact will their intended electoral monopoly have on Ireland, north and south, and how will it affect the political impasse at Stormont?

It all began with Margaret Thatcher. She moved Britain from post-war welfare consensus to the Americanisation of society and economy. But her gains in the first Conservative offensive were not as far reaching as she had hoped.

Although Tony Blair’s New Labour was conservative, it still presented electoral opposition to the Tories. So, in their second offensive, the Conservatives are now aiming to reduce Labour to the status of the SDLP. If Thatcher’s greatest achievement was the creation of New Labour, David Cameron’s greatest triumph will be to destroy it.

He began with the recent budget, when the Conservatives announced that they are now the party of the British workers (honestly). That leaves Labour representing the workless and those on welfare.

The Tory claim was supported by introducing a ‘national living wage’ of £9 an hour. Labour’s election pledge had promised a ‘minimum wage’ of £8 an hour.

The Conservatives’ budget also implemented Labour’s election promises to end the non-domiciliary status of multi-millionaires for tax purposes and to hit banks with a super-tax. Of course, all this was balanced in the fine print, which limited the national living wage to those over 25, reduced corporation tax and cut welfare and tax concessions for the poor.

But the poor are now Labour’s problem. The Tories will no longer need their votes.

This week they captured Labour’s plans to require employers to reveal the pay gap between male and female employees. They also announced plans to scale back the BBC, thereby helping Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV.

(No, you may not comment that their broadcasting policy might be copied from the GAA, which has given the rights of Fermanagh’s next football match to Sky. The PSNI could arrest you for that sort of remark.)

Labour’s response is eerily reminiscent of the SDLP. It is mired in a divisive leadership argument and unsure whether to support or oppose the latest Tory welfare policies.

Like Sinn Féin, the Conservatives are much better at image-projection than Labour. They are also better organised, richer and they keep their message simple. Like the SDLP, Labour is internally split, often rudderless and unclear in its political identity.

With its Scottish electoral base now gone, Labour is unlikely to form a future government without Scottish nationalist support – hardly a popular strategy in England.

If Cameron succeeds in relegating Labour to the status of the SDLP, it is hard to see an end to Conservative rule. English politics will be changed utterly.

This is bad news for SF and the SDLP in their attempts to frustrate the political process at Stormont by delaying welfare (but not other) cuts. If the two parties hope to block the real Stormont budget until Westminster changes its policy, they may have a long wait.

Stormont’s possible collapse is no longer a threat to London. The Conservative government does not particularly want direct rule, but destroying Labour is more important than preserving Stormont. In the grand scheme of new English politics, the north is irrelevant.

That leaves SF in a difficult position in the south. If they hang on to northern power, Fianna Fáil and the Anti-Austerity Alliance will again enjoy exposing their record in Stormont, as they did so comprehensively in the Dáil this week. If Stormont collapses, Enda Kenny can call Belfast the Athens of the north – a far cry from the original description at the time of the United Irishmen.

For us, Cameron’s crusade means that having won the war, Britain has now won the peace. But that is how it has been for eight centuries. 

The only difference is that this time they appear to have buoyed their winning hand by borrowing a successful political technique from Ireland – and in doing so, they will probably influence the political composition of the next Irish government.



Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, July 18, 2015 
Did you ever think you would see the Conservative Party copying Sinn Féin? Well, that is what David Cameron is doing – and, in fairness, he is doing it very well.

He is not imitating Sinn Féin’s policies, but by seeking to place the Tories in permanent political power, he is doing to the Labour Party what Sinn Féin so successfully did to the SDLP.

Some say (especially in the SDLP) that Sinn Féin stole the SDLP’s political clothes. If so, the Conservatives are stealing Labour’s clothes, the house, the car and most of the children. Labour is heading for political homelessness.

So how exactly are the Tories achieving their aim? What impact will their intended electoral monopoly have on Ireland, north and south, and how will it affect the political impasse at Stormont?

It all began with Margaret Thatcher. She moved Britain from post-war welfare consensus to the Americanisation of society and economy. But her gains in the first Conservative offensive were not as far reaching as she had hoped.

Although Tony Blair’s New Labour was conservative, it still presented electoral opposition to the Tories. So, in their second offensive, the Conservatives are now aiming to reduce Labour to the status of the SDLP. If Thatcher’s greatest achievement was the creation of New Labour, David Cameron’s greatest triumph will be to destroy it.

He began with the recent budget, when the Conservatives announced that they are now the party of the British workers (honestly). That leaves Labour representing the workless and those on welfare.

The Tory claim was supported by introducing a ‘national living wage’ of £9 an hour. Labour’s election pledge had promised a ‘minimum wage’ of £8 an hour.

The Conservatives’ budget also implemented Labour’s election promises to end the non-domiciliary status of multi-millionaires for tax purposes and to hit banks with a super-tax. Of course, all this was balanced in the fine print, which limited the national living wage to those over 25, reduced corporation tax and cut welfare and tax concessions for the poor.

But the poor are now Labour’s problem. The Tories will no longer need their votes.

This week they captured Labour’s plans to require employers to reveal the pay gap between male and female employees. They also announced plans to scale back the BBC, thereby helping Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV.

(No, you may not comment that their broadcasting policy might be copied from the GAA, which has given the rights of Fermanagh’s next football match to Sky. The PSNI could arrest you for that sort of remark.)

Labour’s response is eerily reminiscent of the SDLP. It is mired in a divisive leadership argument and unsure whether to support or oppose the latest Tory welfare policies.

Like Sinn Féin, the Conservatives are much better at image-projection than Labour. They are also better organised, richer and they keep their message simple. Like the SDLP, Labour is internally split, often rudderless and unclear in its political identity.

With its Scottish electoral base now gone, Labour is unlikely to form a future government without Scottish nationalist support – hardly a popular strategy in England.

If Cameron succeeds in relegating Labour to the status of the SDLP, it is hard to see an end to Conservative rule. English politics will be changed utterly.

This is bad news for SF and the SDLP in their attempts to frustrate the political process at Stormont by delaying welfare (but not other) cuts. If the two parties hope to block the real Stormont budget until Westminster changes its policy, they may have a long wait.

Stormont’s possible collapse is no longer a threat to London. The Conservative government does not particularly want direct rule, but destroying Labour is more important than preserving Stormont. In the grand scheme of new English politics, the north is irrelevant.

That leaves SF in a difficult position in the south. If they hang on to northern power, Fianna Fáil and the Anti-Austerity Alliance will again enjoy exposing their record in Stormont, as they did so comprehensively in the Dáil this week. If Stormont collapses, Enda Kenny can call Belfast the Athens of the north – a far cry from the original description at the time of the United Irishmen.

For us, Cameron’s crusade means that having won the war, Britain has now won the peace. But that is how it has been for eight centuries. 

The only difference is that this time they appear to have buoyed their winning hand by borrowing a successful political technique from Ireland – and in doing so, they will probably influence the political composition of the next Irish government.