Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time to support the other thugs

Gordon Brown has named the day for his date with density. In the now time-honoured manner of government stories it was extensively leaked in advance, which allowed it to be reported as news for three days running; but now, apparently, he's told the queen, which is the final step. Time was when Her Maj would have been the first to know, but tempora mutantur and all that. I wonder if she minds, hearing it from the BBC?

And I find myself in the awkward, even embarrassing, position of rooting for the Tories.

It's nothing to do with the wars, or taxation, or the economy. On those topics I see no reason to believe that Mr Cameron's gentlemanly thuggery would be any better than Mr Brown's randomised blundering. (Speaking of which, I can't believe that Mr Brown is running on his record. Or that the British public is, apparently, inclined to see him as a "safe pair of hands". "Yes, Sweeney Todd may have slipped a couple of times, but you can't deny his razors are sharp.")

No, there are two good philosophical reasons for ditching even the very well founded ideological conviction that the Tories are a bunch of crooks who are just waiting for the opportunity to shovel the tax money to their friends instead of Labour's...

The first is the National Identity Register - or as it's also misleadingly known, the national ID card. A massive, detailed, authoritatively maintained database of who is and, by exclusion, who isn't a British citizen. It's hard to define "fascism" with any degree of rigour, but one of its most consistent features is a hard, definitive clarity about who is Them and who is Us. I don't think I want to be a citizen of such a country.

The Tories have been encouragingly hostile, in a discouragingly non-specific way, to major government IT projects in general. Personally I think this is a big mistake. It means that the contractors will tend to side against them (on sound precautionary principles), but because they haven't made specific commitments to scrap specific projects, the rest of us won't credit them. We will simply assume that the Tory plan is, as usual, to divert money from Labour-supporting shareholders to their own. If Mr Cameron really wants to mobilise the popular vote on this issue, I suggest promising a complete moratorium on all government IT spending for at least five years. No new computers, no new software, no maintenance payments, all training to be provided exclusively in-house for that time. If you're going to create cushy, subsidised jobs, at least make them in the civil service where security and continuity are king - not in the private sector, where profit and growth are the motivators.

Best of all, it will keep the government from growing too efficient. In theory this should appeal to the Tories. An inefficient public sector, after all, is one you can't rely on. It's the best possible insurance against the unconstrained growth of the state, and against the all-pervasive intrusion of the state into private business. If only they could think straight, and rid themselves of the ridiculous fetish for "value for money"...

But one thing the Tories have specifically promised to scrap is the NIR. This is, of course, a 180-degree reversal from the days of Michael Howard, who thought it was the best idea ever. That's what a couple of terms in opposition will do for you.

Which brings me to the second reason: the natural cycle. When any party has been in power for over ten years, you can absolutely guarantee that it has long since run out of anything that might be called "good" ideas, and is now mostly jerking its knees when tapped by the tabloid press. Voting for an incumbent government, at this stage, basically means voting for Rupert Murdoch.

Voting for the other lot, on the other hand, gives them a chance to implement some of the policies they've come up with in opposition. Some of which may actually be good ideas. They'll be tapped out in, at most, two terms, and then the pendulum can swing back. But it's not good for anyone that it takes too long to swing.

If the National Identity Register comes to pass, the best I can hope for is that the Scottish Nationalists sweep to power and declare independence from the UK. I haven't read the specification for the NIR, but I have learned a thing or two about databases these past three years - and I'm guessing that an independent Scotland would render it obsolete at a stroke.


Ragnhild said...

Hear, hear! As someone living in one of the marginal constituencies that the tories must win, I have hopes of being personally canvassed and told my vote counts (for a change). I agree with you, if not wholly with the party in waiting, but see it as my duty to hold my nose and vote for them as the only alternative to a "fate worse than death". Still, there should be a few giggles in the coming weeks.

By the way, keep your excellent spare room in readyness - it is not imminent, but if health and finances hold out I should like to occupy it again sometime in the future! There's a threat!


Timotiis said...

His date with density?

vet said...

R: I suspect a "fate worse than death" is overstating things a tad. In my experience you can live with pretty much anything, but you only get one shot at death.

T: is there a problem?

Sunrise Global Solutions said...
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Anonymous said...

Read it more carefully. Date with density?? If that was intentional, it's too obscure to work.

vet said...

Obscure? Bah.

His date is with the country. The UK electorate. Okay, too obscure. Thanks for the feedback, but I'm not changing it 'cuz it's not a mistake.

Anonymous said...

I think you're still missing the point that grates with Tim and myself. We assume you meant to say "destiny". Never saw you as Mrs Malaprop.

vet said...

Heh. You have a pretty low opinion of my proofreading skills, considering how I've made my living for most of the past 20 years.

I'm not missing that. But I would never deliberately write such a stilted cliché as "date with destiny".