There must have been a time when the Conservative party stood for conserving things, for responsible stewardship and avoiding needless waste. I know for sure that’s what Conservative friends of mine believe in. Business-like decision-making, investing in our future. But like many Tory voters, my friends now feel abandoned by a party stripped bare of talent and presiding over a collapse in this great nation’s apparatus of state, driven by greed and incompetence.
We’ve all seen our roads falling apart this winter. This sorry tale is emblematic of a party focused on personal advancement and short-term profit for their cronies. It is, of course, a small issue next to the collapse of the NHS, the energy crisis and sewage in our rivers, but it provides a useful illustration of a major problem at the heart of the Tory party.
The local council once employed lengthsmen to keep on top of maintenance, clearing leaves and keeping drains, gullies and culverts clear – looking after our shared assets. But the lengthsmen were all sacked over a decade ago leaving everything to block up. The result: overflowing water erodes road surfaces, leaves mulch and grass grows. During cold snaps, freeze-thaw action on the wet mud blows the road’s surface apart.
Our lane was resurfaced only 5 years ago, and would be heading for new work if my neighbour and I didn’t go out with shovels to unblock the drains and clean off the mud seen in this picture. But is that really the sort of country we want to live in? A wild west where it’s everyone for themselves? What about streets where no-one has the time, fitness or inclination for maintenance? And how are we going to boost cycling to reduce emissions, congestion and air pollution when roads are peppered with potentially deadly water-filled potholes?
This is so wasteful in material resources, time and money. Sacking the lengthsmen was a classic short-termist decision, with savings surely outweighed by the huge extra spending on patching, resurfacing, reimbursement to car owners for wheel damage and the cost of accidents.
I used to be CEO of a manufacturing company, and saw some of our competitors playing the same cheap trick, boosting profits for a few years by drastically cutting back on maintenance and investment. This is extractive capitalism, with profits plumped up in a deeply unsustainable way for a few years, before the instigators sidle off to other things, unconcerned by the inevitable long-term collapse. I’m sorry to say this is what the Westminster Tory Party now is: rapacious asset strippers, putting wealthy donors and overseas investors ahead of people and planet. They don’t care what damage they do to the country because they’ll move on to the lucrative speaking circuit and pick up a couple of non-executive directorships for services rendered. If they donate enough, they might even secure a nice peerage.
It’s desperately urgent now for responsible grown ups to take back control of this country. It comes as a surprise to many but the majority of us don’t vote Conservative. Yet with a fragmented opposition, our broken voting system hands total control of the country to this increasingly extreme party on a minority of the votes. Securing change will need opposition voters to put tribalism aside.
That’s why I’m part of a group that has launched the South Devon Primary, designed to gather voters behind the single best candidate to challenge the local Tory MP at the next general election. Together, there are many more of us, and if we put our relatively minor differences aside, we can elect an MP more representative of this constituency.