When I initially read this announcement that the Tories were undergoing a rebrand as “The Worker’s Party”, I couldn’t help but think it was just another case of Tory hypocrisy, so I decided to look into it closer and really come to grips with their proposals. Grant Shapps, Tory chairman, and John Major, former Prime Minister, were standing side by side as they revealed the idea of the Conservative Worker’s Party. However, this isn’t the only rebranding of the Conservative party that has occurred under Cameron’s leadership. Post 2005, the Tories went from Cameron’s Conservatives to Compassionate Conservatives and now they want to brand themselves as the party of the workers. This constant rebranding of the Conservative party indicates tension within the branches of the Tory party and this latest transformation could just be more of the same.
Let’s have a look at the history of the “Workers’ Parties”, and we can start to see just how major an impact this rebranding could have on traditional Conservative voters. Parties of the workers have often been associated with Marxist, Communist and Socialist regimes – the complete opposite of what the Conservatives are based upon. We are seeing in the 21st Century, the Socialist Workers Party. Conservatives through history would be turning in their graves if they heard David Cameron announcing his own party as the party of the workers. In recent times, we have seen the phrase “Workers’ Party” be linked with the IRA, the same organisation that planned a terrorist attack on Margaret Thatcher.
Looking at the history of the parties of the workers, it isn’t clear why Cameron is allowing this rebranding to take place, especially after hiring Lynton Crosby as a campaign chief. Primed on negative propaganda, Crosby will have a hard time defending the Conservative Workers’ Party but what it will do, is allow the same campaign mantra from 2010 of “we’re all in it together”.
This one quotation from 2010 will be remembered by the British public as one of the biggest lies of the coalition government. After looking at how the Tories can even consider branding themselves a party of the workers, we can begin to assess how likely this rebranding will become a reality, and the truth is bleak.
Since 2010, the Tories and Lib Dems have undergone an austerity project that even those on the right have criticised as creating an extra economic hurdle, but this hasn’t stopped them. It isn’t just this, however, that defines why the Tories simply cannot be classified as the party of the workers. Under the coalition government, we have seen VAT rise to 20% and a tax cut for the highest band of earners from 50p to 45p. This obviously cannot come from the party of the workers as the VAT rise punishes those that work, but get paid little, and the tax cut only helps those at the top of the career ladder. The tax cut for millionaires, as it was called by opponents, shows that the Tory party are still the party of the privileged and this cannot be argued against as Cameron and Osborne haven’t ruled out a second tax cut for the highest earners.
So where does this leave the mantra of “the party of the workers”? The Tories have laid the foundations to escape these criticisms as they attack those on benefits, the worst off in society. The Tories can classify themselves as the party of the workers, when they ravage those on benefits, aided by the right-wing press with which the United Kingdom is graced.
The coalition government promised to tackle the welfare problem in Great Britain, but all it has done is hurt those who are weakest in society. The right attack those on benefits, especially those on unemployment benefit, but the truth is, only 3% of the welfare budget in 2012 actually went on Job Seekers’ Allowance. Five per cent of the welfare budget went on income support, showing a higher proportion of benefits actually get paid to those in work, and yet the Tories rip into the welfare system as if it is something for the lazy and voluntarily unemployed.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, post-2010 wanted to reform the welfare state that we currently have, but the truth is he has simply wasted more money than his predecessors. It is feared that his Universal Credit scheme will waste around £140 million, and after a Bedroom Tax loophole has been found, the Department for Work and Pensions will have to pay out more in administration fees. In a time of austerity, the “workers’ party” seem to enjoy wasting money by introducing schemes that have shaky foundations.
The Tory rebranding is a tough one to describe because, on the one hand, they clearly aren’t the party of the workers in the form of VAT increases and cutting of income support, but on the other hand, they did cut the top rate of income tax. I suppose, then, the way the Tories could go around this rebranding would be to classify themselves as the “Highest Earners Workers’ Party”, but the problem with this is that it’s not a rebrand. The Conservatives have always been the party of privilege and it will not change without a complete remake of the Conservative Party itself. This rebranding is just an attempt to persuade voters that they really have changed – but the harsh reality is they’ve changed for the worse, as they hack away at the actual workforce of the country.