Blog

Chinese New Year: How far China have come and how far they still have to go

Chinese-New-YearChina has come a long way in 101 years.

Back in 1911 (during the year of the pig), China’s final dynasty, Qing collapsed after nearly a  150 years of gasping for breath. The encroachment of the Western powers (and later Japan) with their unequal treaties, opium wars and favourite nation clauses had been met by ‘head in the sand, fingers in the eyes’ approach by the de facto ruler Empress Dowager Cixi for over fifty years before her death in 1908.

Although yesterday marked the start of a new lunar year and a new chapter of China’s history, tomorrow marks the 101th anniversary of the edict forcing child Emperor Puyi from the throne in 1912.

This measure led to the brief dictatorship of General Yuan Shikai and the beginning of the Republican era.

It is remarkable to think that after the traumas the country faced over the past century with seemingly endless civil war, the rise of communism and the brutal of life under Chairman Mao that the country is on the verge of being the most strongest economic power on earth in the next 10 years.

But we should not be too quick to sit back and watch. Despite America’s recent ‘Asian Pivot’ and the prospect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership potentially being formed as a more powerful trading bloc than the EU with China at its centre, China’s future could still be rocky.

The Chinese economy, whilst still the strongest in the world, is starting to slow down with the effect of the Eurozone crisis and the continued financial turmoil across the world. So they are unlikely to see the same double digit growth figures they’ve enjoyed over the past few years.

That is not to say the country doesn’t have anything to look forward to. Construction is now under way to build the world’s largest skyscraper, Sky City One in Changsha, Hunan province in south west China.

Similarly, China will be taking further steps into the space race with their lunar probe Chang’e 3 being launched later in the year.

However with the continuing  Bo Xilai scandal’s twists and turns remaining in the news and Xi still not fully cementing his authority over the biggest population on earth 2013 could still be a bumpy ride.

The Chinese authorities are still trying in vain to control the tide of information leaks but new innovations in telecommunications continue to outpace them. The power of microblogging sites has persisted despite manifold attempts to shut them down and it looks like nothing will change as we head into the new year.

So the dissident in China is likely to only build in the next few years. The examples of Ai WeiWei and Chen Guangcheng are international embarrassments to the nation which tries so hard to maintain control. While most foreign powers are too awestruck by China’s economic might to pay much attention to internal human rights abuses, these controversies are getting harder and harder to hide from the internet savvy Chinese population.

So as Xi tries to assert his authority over the next few years he will have several different challenges.

One way he could assert his authority is to go down the Cristina De Kirchner Fernandez route and continue to claim Japanese territory .

The ongoing dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands (know as the Diaoyu islands in Chinese and the Pinnacle Islands in English) has historical roots but has only really come to the fore in the past year. Although the islands are closer geographically to mainland Japan they are on the edge of China’s tectonic plate which is traditionally viewed as the extent of Chinese maritime influence.

The dispute goes back to the days when what is now the Okinawa prefecture of Japan was an independent kingdom. It survived by offering tributes to both China and Japan but adopting Chinese fashion, style and way of life. When Japan and China were forced to trade by the Western powers, instead of sticking their heads in the sand like China, Japan embraced change and the Meji Restoration cement a central government across the country instead of the Shogunate that had ruled for hundreds of years.

This included Okinawa which remained under Japanese rule from 1895 until America annexed it at the end of the Second World War.They gave it back in 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Treaty and the Senkaku Islands were part of the deal.

Ever since China has not given up its territorial claim to them but has done very little to demand them back. They argue that as the islands were administered along with Taiwan after Japan annexed it in 1895, the islands should have been returned to China in 1945 as well. They claim that the then Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai Shek was too busy fighting the civil war against the Communists and too dependent on US support to fight his case properly.

The new conflict was sparked by a comment from the Toyko Governor in April 2012 Shintaro Ishihara saying he would use public money to buy them back from their private Japanese owner. In August several Hong Kong activists sailed to the uninhabited islands but were sent back, 10 days later Japanese activists did the same. In December 2012 a Chinese aeroplane was said to have violated their air space and in January of this year, Beijing said they were conducting a geological survey of the area.

Neither side seems to want to go to war over the islands but the tensions could be the perfect opportunity for Xi to distract from problems at home like De Kirchener is trying unsuccessfully to do in Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

Despite its new found status and power China is slightly licking the wounds of its past. A war with Japan could go a long way to healing the humiliation of losing a war with them, a smaller nation that had previously looked up to them, in 1895 which overtaking them economically hasn’t achieved.

China is the oldest and biggest continuous civilisation in the world. It has a delicate future ahead of it which could cement its rule as the most powerful nation on earth or it could crumb back into chaos. History is still crucial to China, and they will try to right wrongs in the twentieth century alongside power building in the twentieth first.

Advertisements

The youth timebomb: why the angry generation is becoming the militant generation

talibanFor many years people have been trying to explain why rational young men turn to extremism. From French revolution era protests like the Babeuf plot, the exploits of the IRA to modern day Islamist extremists at home and abroad, academics, psychologists and historians have tried to understand why they commit such heinous acts against their fellow men.

Now, not for the first time, sexual availability (and the lack there of) has been cited as the main cause of Afghan men joining the Taliban by journalist Mujib Mashal in an article for Foreign Policy.

Of course, I do know pretend to be an expert on the subject of Afghan culture but I find it hard to believe it can be boiled down to such a simple cause.

Mashal argues young men in the still deeply traditionally Afghanistan are becoming sexually frustrated by the lack of marriage opportunities in a country where bride prices remain high despite low levels of employment. Many men are being forced to seek employment as labourers in Iran to raise the money demanded by women’s families and are thus (supposedly) remaining virgins for longer.

The build up of this frustration is supposedly being exploited by the Taliban who offer the best wages in the area, especially in Helmand, and the promise of 72 virgins waiting for them in paradise.

While I have to concede Mashal probably knows more about the specifics of the region (and being a man) than I do, I have to question if it can really be that simple. To boil down all male frustrations in a situation as complex as Afghanistan seems unnecessarily reductive.

Instead the picture, as always, is more complex.

Some blame must be held at the feet of the NATO occupation itself. Whilst America and their allies have been welcome in the past by the metropolitan elites of Kabul, after 11 and a half long years of occupation their patience is wearing thin.

The invading forces promised democracy, prosperity and peace they are struggling to deliver on that promise. Afghanistan is at the bottom of Transparency International’s list of corruption states alongside North Korea and Somalia. Hamid Karzai is supported by the NATO alliance not because he is a paragon of democratic virtue, but because he is not the Taliban. There are still questioning lingering over the the Afghan government’s legitimacy as well as the undue influence of Karzai’s family which has grown mysteriously wealthy since he took office.

Karzai’s own brother has been linked to the lucrative opium trade rampant in the country which is said to provide the Taliban with most of their funds.

As much as I am loathed to use historical examples as an absolute guide to the future of the country, I have to draw some parallels with America past interventions in the 20th century. The support of the Batista regime in Cuba, despite local opposition made it easier for Fidel Castro to swoop in as the America’s feared.

So a similar fate could await Afghanistan when the troops pull out. With even Karzai himself blaming the corruption woes of the country on its foreign occupiers it is easy to see how dissatisfaction can turn into extremism.

Like the young in the UK, Afghan young people were promised prosperity. However, unlike the young in the UK, they are living in an extreme and dangerous environment. After growing up amidst bloodshed and warfare a whole generation of young men and women thought they would start to see the beginning of a new order which has been instead mired in the old ways of corrupt leaders, blind occupiers and frustrated local communities.

For young (and old) women, domestic violence, rape and honour killings are still commonplace. Women were forced to accept a law passed in 2009 that banned them leaving the house in certain circumstances without the consent of their husbands. While the more urban educated classes may welcome women’s emancipation, the rural attitudes towards women suggest the country still has a long way to go.

For young men, often there only one choice; become a labourer or become a ‘freedom fighter’. With great wealth and power cut off by the dominance of a corrupted elite, the windows that appeared to open in 2001 have snapped shut in their faces. Many are too young to really remember what life was like under the Taliban and many are probably feeling like the unknown foreign devil is convenient scapegoat for all their problems.

Instead of sexual frustration, maybe the real reason for so many young men joining the Taliban is frustration itself. Sex, eternal glory and wealth all play their part in a bigger picture of dissatisfaction and disenchantment with the status quo. Maybe joining the Taliban for many young men in Afghanistan is an act of defiance? Instead of wanting 72 virgins, maybe this just want someone to sit up and take notice?

Marriage has already been redefined, its time the law catches up

just-married-gay-marriageIn today’s equal marriage debate, everyone’s favourite conservative foghorn Nadine Dorries, argued against the equal marriage bill because it does not contain a provision for adultery. She believes if a marriage contract does not contain a fidelity clause it cannot be a real marriage.

Now, putting aside how galling it is to be lectured on marital morality from someone accused of being a homewrecker, Dorries interpretation of what marriage is, is laughably out of date.

Ever since the Divorce Reform Act in 1969, it became possible for couples to go their separate ways without having to demonstrate infidelity (or even fake it in the most absurd circumstances), marriage has slowly evolved into a much more fluid entity.

In truth, despite what some backbenchers and the Coalition For Marriage say, the definition of marriage, like other British ‘institutions’, has never been static.

As Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, explained effectively in the Commons today, marriage has always been a socially developed institution with religious overtones occasionally attached. Nearly every human conurbation in history has had some sort of ceremony destined to recognise not coital or romantic union. Whether its polygamous or monogamous, whether its gay or straight, whether its for life or until the ink on the divorce papers are dry was irrelevant.

Time passes, but from the Ancient world into the Christian medieval world, marriage was never viewed as a sacrament ordained by the church. Indeed, in the eyes of the Catholic Church it still isn’t. Villeins, yeomen and the everymen and women of medieval England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, could be married by their local lord in a civil cermony that had little to do with their local church.

It was only during the Protestant Reformation that marriage became a sacrament in the eyes of the Church as way to distinguish themselves from Catholicism and prevent the build up of monasteries swimming in wealth and cut off from the rest of the world. Up until 1753 you didn’t even need a formal ceremony to be declared married. This is the status quo favored by ‘traditionalists’ but it was effectively ended by the Civil Marriages Act in 1836 which allowed civil services in registry offices.

In 1858, divorce was allowed via legal process rather than the 300 divorces which were granted through act of parliament. This was around the time when ‘marrying for love’ became in vogue for Victorian Britain. Eventually, this led to nascent women’s rights with the Married Women’s Act of 1882 which allowed women to own their own property.

This paved the way for women’s rights and the suffragette movement. When they were granted the right to vote on equal terms to men in 1929, the reform of marriage really started. This culminated in 1991 when rape in marriage was finally recognised a crime.

This brief history of marriage shows there is no ‘default setting’ for the institution. The only constant of marriage is that it is whatever the participants want to be with the according legal rights. Whether is a purely economic transaction, a gesture of platonic companionship or romantic union, a married couple decide the parameters of what is and is not acceptable in their marriage.

The adultery principle is therefore not valid. Every marriage is different. Some are open, some are closed. Some are destined for children, some are not. The purpose of a marriage  is to build a secure, happy home. If that includes two men, two women or multiple men and women so be it. Comedian Sharon Horgan recently had a programme on Channel 4 about modern marriages. Some were weird, some were traditional but all of them seemed, at least on the surface, to be working.

Who says marriage has to be for life? Who says marriage can only be for two people at a time? Who says marriage should be for children? Marriage is a legal and an expression of love; beyond that everything else is semantics.

Therefore there is no grounds for the delusion it is only between a man and a woman.

An odd wind blows through Eastleigh

ChrisHuhneRichardIII
Image Courtesy of Peter Brookes at the Times

Guido Fawkes was gleefully rubbing his hands together yesterday as Chris Huhne surveyed the burning wreckage of his ministerial career, his home life and probably his personal freedom.

While the remains of one would-be king were being exhumed from Leicester social services’ car park, another is watching his career committed to the ground.

A driving licence! A driving licence! My kingdom for a driving licence it would seem.

However, in the 24 hours since Huhne changed his plea the focus has moved from him to his constituency and the uphill battle for political soul of the nation. Or something like that.

Comparing the Eastleigh by-election to the Battle of the Bosworth Field might be slightly over doing it as far as shoehorned political metaphors go but as the battle extinguished the Yorkist claim to the throne in all but name, so could this election prove decisive for the Liberal Democrats.

This is, in real terms, the first time they’ve been properly tested in more than a year. Forget the by-elections where they didn’t take it seriously and lost their deposit. In Rotherham, they only campaigned in one council ward because they were hoping to concentrate their resources to get a council seat further down the line. This, of course, rather backfired but it wasn’t the crushing defeat everyone else imagined.

Over the past year we have seen an unusual number of by-elections but the Lib Dems have not really been challenged until they are faced with a seat they could actually win. Eastleigh, despite being historically Tory, should be a Lib Dem slam dunk. With Huhne and David Chigley before him the seat has rested in the party’s hands for nearly 20 years. They control the council and the attitude of the local people on Channel 4 News last night suggested Eastleigh is about as indentured Lib Dem as any one seat could be.

However, with the Liberal Democrats current, continued, unpopularity and only a majority of 4000, they’ll have their work cut out for them.

Eastleigh could also just be the test piece for each political party that Corby wasn’t as they try to prove themselves as the party which will win the next election.

Liberal Democrats: They need a win. The Liberal Democrats’ supporters are deserting them in droves and they are fighting like cats and dogs with their coalition partners. The atmosphere amongst grassroots has become a case of counting down the days till they can get out of Government. Contrary to popular opinion, the Liberal Democrats are not likely to be finished as a political force at the next election. But they will be severely wounded and face substantial losses to the parliamentary party they need to steal themselves against. If they lose Eastleigh it may be a step too far.

Given the current situation, the grassroots could live with losing a few Lib Dem-Labour marginals. But to lose a seat like this would should dent any faith in the leadership there is left. The gallows humour currently flying around the party could turn into all out revolt. Much like the Conservative Party cannot possibly win the next election while they are still cleaved in half over Europe and gay marriage, the Liberal Democrats cannot afford to go into the next election preaching their faith in Nick Clegg when they openly don’t believe in him themselves.

Conservatives: Eastleigh is winnable for the Tories. Despite losing control 19 years ago, the seat is historically Tory even if it is in a relatively working class area. However it is going to take some real effort. Many commentators are saying the Conservatives need to put up a charismatic, big hitter- someone who could possibly be tipped for a ministerial post somewhere down the line rather than a local grandee that has paid their dues. However, the danger is Eastleigh won’t want another Louise Mensch. Marginals like Corby and Eastleigh thrive with a charismatic MP who actually cares about their local area rather than someone using it as a stepping stone to greater things. Unfortunately for the Tory party at the moment, they are struggling to find bankable candidates. It seems they are stuck between a rock of lacklustre locals and a hard place of upstart A-Listers. They only way to win would to somehow find a middle ground.

Similarly, gay marriage could be an issue. Nigel Farage’s reluctance to commit to standing there demonstrates even UKIP know they’re no real threat in this particular marginal. While Europe is a relative non-issue amongst the electorate (especially since the announcement of the ‘maybe referendum’), the gay marriage row has made the party look even more out of touch. The Tories will be hit hard by the regular voters who perceive the party as out of step with popular opinion and the local Tory activists who may decide to stay at home in protest.

Labour: This by-election provides a dilemma for the cash strapped party. They will not win, but they could dramatically improve their vote share if they really put the effort in. While they languished far behind in third place at the last election, they can’t afford not to campaign in this election because they still have to beat UKIP to remain credible as the favourite for Number 10 in 2015. With a bit of effort and a good candidate this should not be too difficult. Given the unpopularity of the two Government parties, they could even squeeze second place.

If they were to push ahead of the Tories, or even the Liberal Democrats, it would probably be the best publicity for the Labour message they’ve had since Ed Miliband won the leadership. It would prove they are on the up and Miliband in particular is a credible as a future leader. But, will a cash strapped party want to waste resources on what would be a short term gain? In the long run it may be better to invest properly in their policy review so Ed Miliband’s promises of ‘One Nation Labour’ would not seem so paper thin. A comparative victory in Eastleigh will do nothing to ameliorate their continued lack of vision.

Is Corby really the ‘bellwether constituency’ we think?

The count in Corby last Friday: will it mean anything in 2015?

Tucked away near the Canadian border are two small towns, Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, that do not attract much attention for the majority of the American political cycle. However, on the first Tuesday of November every four years, newspaper reporters, bloggers and TV pundits turn the media spotlight on the 44 residents who dutifully turn out to vote at midnight as predictors of the race across the country.

However, two small towns with less than 100 residents in the Northern most part of America are hardly likely to predict the outcome of such a divided nation as America. The Latino vote was regarded as one of the key deciding factors in the race as it now stands at 16.7 per cent of the electorate. In contrast, the Latino population of New Hampshire as a whole is currently only 2.9 per cent of the state’s electorate. Therefore how can a New England state with a more traditional white anglo saxon protestant (WASP) demographic represent the increasingly diversity in the rest of the country?

There is no such thing as a ‘bellwether state’ in American politics. America is so hopelessly riven apart by class, wealth, race, age and gender it is impossible to make any clear predictions about the outcome of any election (unless you’re Nate Silver). That is why the attempts to find the equivalent British constituency seems so absurd.

In yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband confidently announced that last week’s by-election in Corby was the proof that the public were waiting to return Labour to Number 10 in 2015. Ever since the Labour candidate pulled off an 8000 vote swing in the Corby by-election last week, Labour have been crowing as if they’ve already won the election in two and a half years time.

For instance during, the new Labour MP for Corby, Andy Sawford, who won 17,267 votes or 48 per cent of the vote (turnout out was 45 per cent), said during his victory speech:

‘Make no mistake, since this constituency existed, no party has formed a government without winning here”.

Of course, Corby has returned the subsequently winning party to the House at every election for the past thirty years. However, given it is defined as a swing seat this is hardly surprising. The only times the seat has been won narrowly were in 1987, 1992 and 2010. These election years coincide with the years the Conservative party either took or held onto power by the skin of their teeth. All Corby reflects is what any national poll will tell you is the political mood of the nation.

Rather than acting as a sort of political Cassandra predicting doom for the Conservatives in 2015, the Corby by-election has far more to with how the polls are standing now rather than the exit polls two and a half years from now. Instead of being ‘Britain’s Hart’s Location’, it is just another example of a constituency falling in line with the mood of the general public.

Therefore, there is still all to play for in the second half of parliament. The news that the Conservatives have hired a controversial new campaign manager, Lynton Crosby, who ran both of Boris Johnson’s successful mayoral campaigns, shows they are not given up the fight just yet.

The worse thing the Labour party could do now is get complacent. Although the polls are projecting a small majority or at the very least a Lib-Lab pact if the Tories can get the economy to turn around by May 2015 (after all unemployment is slowly starting to fall), Labour will have a serious fight on their hands.

When the Conservatives were (half) voted into office in 2010, it was because the public longed for a new sense of fairness at the top. After the individualistic, debt laden years under New Labour people were longing for perceived ‘fairness’ after the banking sector was seen to have bankrupted the economy without any consequences.

The public were (almost) sold on Conservatives’ ‘We’re not Labour’ sales pitch in 2010 but they are going to need more to believe in Labour than their current offering ‘We’re not the Tories’, especially if the economy improves. Their victory in Corby was simply short term exasperation with the long term plans of government.

Nor will be signal the end of the Liberal Democrat party. Although, they are still being hammered in the polls and managed to lose their deposit in Corby (in 2010 they did not lose there deposit in any of the 650 seats they contested) but at the opposite end of the country in my very own Rossett council ward of Harrogate they managed the biggest council election swing since 2010.

Now here’s the thing about Rossett: its the Toriest ward, in the Toriest town in the Toriest part of Northern England. During the 2001 election, the first one we had since we moved here, the then councillor called on my Marxist mother during the day and assumed she didn’t understand how the election worked because she said she’d never vote Tory.

Suffice to say, up until last week it was pretty Tory. Now it has its very first Liberal Democrat councillor after a 25 per cent swing. And although UKIP did better than they usually did (127 compared to the Lib Dem’s 897 and the Conservative’s 704), the Labour vote fell by a third from approximately 300 to 106.

This is partly because it was a very local issue driven campaign (and the Conservative candidate was, somewhat snobbishly, dismissed because she live on the other side of town) and the Liberal Democrat’s aggressive courting of the Labour vote.

So what do the results of these by-elections mean for the fate of the next general election in 2015? Probably nothing. Whether its Corby or Dixville Notch the political classes are determined to see signs at every turn. All these results have demonstrated is how confused and divided the electorate is.

It is easy to look for a road map that will tell us want’s ahead but it is ultimately pointless.  We cannot keep wasting our time  analysing the political situation in present instead of looking to the future for the fresh ideas and new leaders that will get us out of the political doldrums.

The great governmental omnishambles

George Osborne and Andrew Mitchell with Sir John Parker, chair of Anglo-American plc in happier terms before the reshuffle when Mitchell was development secretary.

At a fringe event during the Conservative party conference recently, former secretary of state for Wales, Cheryl Gillan said that in order for the party to win the general election in 2015 they needed to restore their reputation for competence.

She said the frequent and painful U-turns and political embarrassments such as the ‘pasty tax’ fiasco and the First trains financial fiasco undermined the Conservatives traditional reputation for order and competence compared with the ideological chaos and woolly headedness of the left.

However, if she told her MPs what she told the grass roots party members in the meeting, then it has obviously fallen on deaf ears.

Since plebgate, the furore over former chief whip Andrew Mitchell allegedly shouting and swearing at a Downing Street police officer who did not allow him access to the street on his bicycle, which was bubbling away throughout the conference season their record has read more like an episode of the Thick of It than the actions of members of the G7.

First there was the surprise announcement from the Prime Minister that the government were planning to force energy companies to put all customers on their cheapest tariff available, a move widely regarded as unworkable and anti-competitive.

Then, his already unpopular Chancellor George Osborne, added fuel to the fire by first dismissing the green lobby as the “environmental Taliban” and then instigated what Twitter called the “great train snobbery” by accidentally sitting in a first class train carriage with a standard class ticket and refusing to move.

What should have been a small piece of gossip for lobby journalists to pass around Westminster soon mushroomed into a minor political scandal thanks to an ITV news reporter, Rachel Townsend who happen to be on the same train and the modern, news hungry and slightly giddy force of hundreds of political journalists, bored and on Twitter on a Friday afternoon.

In the aftermath of Osborne’s ticket trauma, Mitchell was forced to fall on his sword by announcing his resignation despite being given the support of the Prime Minister and the 1922 committee of backbench Tories early in the week. They had previously derided calls for his dismissal as an attempt by the policing lobby to embarrass the government in shelving there cuts to the force.

George Osborne is not the first person to accidental get on a train with the wrong ticket and Andrew Mitchell is certainly not the first person to lose their temper with a police officer (although the typical person faces up to a £1000 fine for doing so in normal circumstances) but the in which they did it has provoked the ire of the public in the exact way the party’s press team was trying to avoid.

The long suffering Conservative party press team and their supporters in the right wing press have been at pains to re brand the Conservative party as a new, nicer antidote to the ‘nasty party’ of years past ever since the comparatively progressive David Cameron became party leader in 2005.

However the effect of their welfare cuts and their supposed assault on access to further and higher education through cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance and the tuition fee rise has made the public turn away from their tentative (and effectively half hearted, given the election result) support for the Conservatives in 2010 and 2011 now that they the economy appears to be tanking once again with only millionaires appearing to benefit.

While instances of police abuse and fare dodging are not enough on their own to do much damage to the Conservative party image, the class snobbery that has tainted both episodes in a way the rest of the political establishment will not let them forget for awhile. This is especially bad when Ed Miliband and the left wing have controlled the media cycle for the past six months.

In the modern political era calling someone a ‘pleb’ and telling them to ‘mind their place’ is unforgivable (and would have been in poor taste fifty years ago anyway. Refusing to sit in standard class is slightly less of a PR disaster but in this current economic climate, for the man who is supposedly in charge of managing the UK economy it is especially insensitive.

So it looks like the upper class ‘nasty party’ will continue to dog the government until the next election (as Labour will never let them forget it). However, this tag does necessarily spell election defeat in times of economic hardship as the British public is always looking for a scapegoat to blame.

Right before they entered government, Cameron and the conservatives successfully changed the political narrative from the recession being cause by a global financial crisis that was exacerbated by the dangerously reckless actions of the world’s financial industries to a simple problem of spending too much of the government on public sector pensions.

And for at least a year, it worked. So did the proposed cap on child benefit and job seeker’s allowance. These were direct appeals to their middle englander voter base who have traditionally felt put upon by the UK’s tax system.

However, their cuts have become a narrative of ideological bullying of the most vulnerable members of society, particularly the obviously disabled, whilst the richest get away with tax dodging.

Now that the media cycle is against them, their only recourse is their traditional reputation for competence. The Conservatives, and stereotypically the right in general, have always been seen as the party that is strong and steady and not prone to internal chaos unlike New Labour under Blair and Brown.

Regardless of whether they agree with their policies or not, the Conservatives’ reputation as a strong leader is what the public want to believe in, in times of economic and social instability- therefore their constant U-turning and attempts to please will do nothing but ensure that Labour gets a majority in 2015, regardless of whether the economy improves or not.

After all, comparisons to John Major’s government between 1992-97 have been made frequently over the past few months, by 1997 the economy was in rude health but the Conservatives reputation was in tatters.

Blog is on hiatus during the conferences

As you may have heard its conference season at the moment and being the fledging political journalist that I am, I am currently in Brighton covering the conferences before shortly moving onto Manchester then Birmingham.

As such this blog will likely not be updated while I’m on the road as I have too much work to do, am constantly travelling and have limited internet.

Expect a return the regularly scheduled programming 13th-14th October.