Cameron’s poll tax?
At Prime Ministers Questions today, Ed Miliband suggested that the NHS reforms, that as I write MP’s are currently debating, could be David Cameron’s Poll Tax moment. It’s certainly not impossible however, Mr Miliband should remember that the Poll Tax lead to a change of Conservative leader, not the immediate election of a Labour government.
What happened during the poll tax debacle was that Margaret Thatcher essentially shattered the successful electoral coalition she had built between middle-class and aspirational working class voters. Policies like the right-to-buy convinced these social strata that rather than seeking collective betterment they were, especially after the failed wave of industrial militancy in the late 1970s and later the smashing of the miners strike, better off investing in the individualistic Conservative free-market dream. It was much easier for renters to avoid paying altogether while if you had taken advantage of the right to buy and now owned a brand spanking new house you suddenly found yourself getting clobbered with a fixed per-person charge which bore no actual relation to the value of your property. So, if you had brought into the Thatcherite dream its understandable that you quickly progressed well beyond being cheesed off and into the courts for a defiant act of non-payment.
Looking at the NHS situation there is certainly some similarities; not only are Cameron and the Conservatives hacking-off the usual suspects but they are alienating their own electoral base. This is why David Davis has now broken cover to challenge the “crony capitalism” of Cameron & Co. In Prospect, Davis says;
when it comes to crony capitalism, government is often not the solution, but part of the problem…If it is not addressed, Britain’s crony capitalism will inflict huge damage to our interests, economy, industry and society.
The gap between achievement and reward will widen. Social mobility will continue to fall. It will also continue to stifle growing businesses, destabilise our banking sector, and poison our politics.
Ostensibly, Mr Davis is talking about Mr Cameron’s closeness to Rupert Murdoch but, given the numerous connections between Cameron’s Conservatives, Andrew Lansley and the private healthcare industry what he is saying could be equally applied to the NHS case. Furthermore, David Davis certainly articulates the concerns of middle-class blue rinse conservatism and personifies them much more than David Cameron and his aristocratic clique ever will. Davis certainly is hoping that Mr Miliband is right and this is Cameron’s Poll Tax because if history repeats itself, he could be Prime Minister of Great Britain before long.
Of course, that would not be such good news for Mr Miliband because that would make him the Neil Kinnock of 2012 and on some level he had better hope it isn’t the governments ‘Poll Tax moment’. Part of the reason for this is that we are still relatively early in the electoral cycle – there is plenty of time for the Conservatives to change their leader and emerge stronger to contest the next election. Indeed, I happen to think a David Davis led Conservative Party would be very dangerous for Labour. A Davis-led Conservative Party could sell austerity much better and frame it within the context of popularist anti-corporatism. However, all is not lost for Ed Miliband, he can take some comfort in the knowledge that history never quite repeats itself in exactly the same way and that maybe this time, the toxicity of Conservative policy can spread and sink deep roots that wont be removed by the swift removal of the infected stem. I rather suspect that the outcome will depend very much on Ed Milibands stewardship of his own Party and if he can carry it forward with the same radical spirit on display which he has shown on his assault on this wretched bill.