Monday, February 20, 2012

The psychological state of the Conservative government

The Conservative party, led by David Cameron, have been in government in the UK (with their Lib Dem coalition partners) for nearly two years now.
Politically, if you ignore Cameron's involvement in the war with Libya, the Conservative government's time has been dominated by a series of controversies, so much so that they have defined their time in office: the austerity cuts; student fees; health and education reform; the Liam Fox resignation; the UKBA controversy (fresh in the news today); and the future status of Scotland.

That's a pretty long list for a party that's less than two years into government. And let's not forget, that's a government led by a party than didn't win an overall majority; the two main "left-of-centre" parties have more MPs in parliament put together than the UK's sole "centre-right" party. Only by the grace of the Lib Dems do the Conservatives earn the right to govern.

By comparison, when the Labour government came to power in 1997 with a majority of more than 170, its main priority was to avoid controversy at almost every turn, so that its first two years in power were virtually empty of bad headlines. The only exception was over the introduction of tuition fees. The major changes it did bring about in the first two years - on things like the minimum wage, and devolution to Scotland and Wales (and later, following the success of the peace process, Northern Ireland) - it did with broad public support.

It is obvious to say that circumstances in the UK have changed since then. Yes, the financial crisis, partly brought about through the Labour government's reluctance to regulate the financial industry, has changed things. But that does not explain, even less justify, the mentality of the Conservatives.

Depending on the issue, the Conservatives' attitude to government has varied.
On the austerity cuts, government has shown a myopic narrow-mindedness (what they call "determination to see things through"), even in the face of evidence of the folly of their approach and the clear plight being caused as a result.
On the health reforms and education reforms, the relevant Conservative ministers have shown a disregard for others (failing to ignore the concerns of professionals, let alone the principles of democracy, given that they have no mandate for "reform").
On student fees, the same behavioural pattern was shown - intransigence and lack of empathy in the face of criticism and the needs of young people.
The Liam Fox resignation displayed the arrogance and casual disregard to proper behaviour, favouritism and cronyism that many Conservatives are habitually guilty of. In other words, behaving as though they were above reproach.
Meanwhile, the way that the Prime Minister and his ministers have been dealing with the constitutional wishes of the Scots (independence or otherwise), is with a similar bloody-minded unwillingness intransigence and narrow-mindedness. Given the fact that the Conservatives' natural political support in Scotland is negligible, this attitude is even more unfathomable. The Conservatives have no moral voice in Scotland; they rule the nation as though it is a virtual colony. Thus they indirectly generate support for the policy that they say they totally oppose.
Lastly, and most recently, is the UKBA controversy. This was a border fiasco that a report has shown was at least indirectly the result of governmental confusion and ministerial incompetence; yet the minister responsible, Theresa May vents only scorn at the border officials who were trying to do their best under confusing governmental advice, while failing to take any responsibility on her part.

So, taken as a whole picture, the Conservatives' approach to government can be summed up as having the following characteristics: lack of empathy to others' misfortune, intransigence, narrow-mindedness, arrogance, failure to accept responsibility, and incompetence.

There was a documentary some years ago about the psychological behaviour of corporations, coming to the conclusion that if corporations were psychologically analysed as people, they would be considered psychopaths.
One wonders, looking at the behavioural traits mentioned above, what conclusions would be reached if the Conservative government as a whole were measured in the same way.

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