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Tories on the rocks
THE TORY Party is facing oblivion. A recent survey of marginal constituencies makes gloomy reading for Michael Howard, predicting that the Tories face their worst electoral showing since 1906.
A former Tory education minister, Robert Jackson MP, has defected to New Labour, adding to Howard's woes and revealing a deep malaise in a party that lacks a clearly defined identity or role in British politics.
Colleagues accuse Jackson of dumping on them just as Howard was set to announce his tax and cuts plans. But the Tories were in a mess long before Jackson's departure. They've been flat-lining in the polls for most of 2004 and are currently in a worse position than under Ian Duncan Smith and William Hague, both of whom were seen as disastrous leaders.
This is not because New Labour are popular with voters. Opposition to the war in Iraq is greater than ever, with just one in three people believing the war was justified. There is also widespread anger at the government's attacks on public services.
But people hate the Tories even more. Not only have the Tories not been forgiven for the past crimes of Thatcherism, Howard's pledge to cut public spending by £35 billion, with the loss of 250,000 civil service jobs, convinces workers that things will be worse under a Tory government. Workers are rightly sceptical that any cuts will be used to improve frontline services.
Actually, whichever party wins, given the black hole in the government's finances, they will be forced to massively cut public spending and/or raise taxes.
Chancellor Gordon Brown has already announced public sector cuts of £20 billion, with over 100,000 job losses, and the Liberals are committed to cutting £25 billion.
Howard talks about the forgotten majority let down by New Labour and has said some of the 'savings' on public spending will be used to cut taxes.
Howard is not referring to the millions of low-paid workers alienated by Blair's capitalist polices but so-called 'Middle England', those middle class and professional workers who transferred their support to New Labour in 1997. It is this section Howard has targeted for tax cuts.
Since New Labour stole their polices the Tories have been squeezed out of the centre ground, with the capitalists now preferring New Labour's re-branded Thatcherism. There is a real question mark over the survival of the Tory Party. Defections to Labour or the Liberal Democrats could become more commonplace, while others could move further to the right.
Workers need their own mass party to counter the agenda of the bosses in the coming months.
In The Socialist 22 January 2005: