If a political party is tumbling inexorably into a pit then a popular con-trick to rescue the ideology of the party is for its members to pretend that a new party has formed that offers a nuanced take on the same ideology. In such a scenario, after some shuffling and side-stepping, a change of leadership has occurred, a new name has been appended to the party and there is a marketing campaign to con the electorate into thinking there is a new party with new ideas. Technically, this process is known as ‘polonais un étron d’excréments.’
Emmanuel Macron successfully conned the voters of France who believed that he was different from the party from which he had emerged and that he had a political outlook that differed from being a willing puppet of bankers and financial gangsters. He is, of course, exactly that type of puppet: Within days of his election he had deliberately provoked a battle with trades’ unions and he had uttered some very colonialist language about Africa. The polish wore off quickly.
Meanwhile, in Britain, the Tory Party is eating itself as it gets stamped on by the reality of Brexit, the Liberal Democrats could not find a leader and have returned to Vince Out-Out-Brief Cable and the right-of-centre chunk of Labour is evaporating into a malodorous cloud circling Peter Mandelson’s head. The full range of democratic capitalists in Britain, all the way from a bit right-of-centre way over to a bit more right-of centre, fear their demise.
To counter the impending collapse of their footholds on the gravy train of British politics, many careerists from all of the above three groups are yearning to emulate Macron’s self-polishing act. Armed with virtual Mr. Sheen they are preparing to “launch” rehashes as soon as enough enthused associates can be found. Drab rumours of new flaccid faux-centrist parties permeate the insipid gossip of the political hacks but a more likely scam would be a Titanic-like shifting of deck chairs in a single party.
Tories get polishing
Fearful of election wipeout, Tories are too weak-willed to leave their party and form a new brand. Instead, as David Singleton explained in January in Tory jump start, the Tories prefer to mobilise “an intellectual platform” within the party to act as an “ideas factory” for the leadership, if that is May or a successor.
Singleton claimed that the “campaign group” will try to emulate Labour’s Progress group. Progress was dormant until Corbyn was first elected leader of Labour and then it morphed into an attack-and-smear gang. Now, bereft of its major corporate donor and with its influence in Labour being crushed via internal election victories for socialists, Progress has become a motley crew of right-wing trolls. So, the comparison with Progress cannot be based on its success; rather, like Progress, the proposed Tory subgroup will pretend to be positioned in the ephemeral centre in order to con people into believing that the Tories are more than just financial gangsters’ puppets.
One of the main protagonists of the new subgroup is Tory MP Neil O’Brien. Like many Tory MPs, O’Brien is a plant from one of the right-wing think-tanks – he was the director of Policy Exchange from 2008 to 2013 before he was elected to parliament. Policy Exchange is a playground for right-wing MPs to spout drivel. It is also a vomit machine of confidence tricks that simultaneously disguise Tory intent and assist the party with methods of false presentation. For every Tory policy that attacks the lives and living standards of British people – related to healthcare, education, housing, welfare, etc. – there are a sackful of Policy Exchange articles that falsely claim the need for such a policy, that wilfully misrepresent the intent of the policy and that suggest a variety of cons that the Tories can use to sell the policy to the public. Alongside O’Brien are professional conman Nick Faith, co-founder of WPI-Strategy, “a recognised expert in political communications and media strategy” according to the WPI website and, coincidently, Director of Communications at Policy Exchange, and Will Tanner, a former “adviser” to Theresa May and a contributor to right-wing think-tank Reform.
O’Brien, Faith and Tanner intend to bring think-tank and political comms tactics to the Tory party. They want to polish the marketing of harmful policies without altering their effect. The Tories are no longer able to convince the public that the current government’s actions and plans are beneficial for the majority of people, but their objective remains as service to elite financial gangsters. The changes they need are improvements to the effectiveness of their fraudulent misrepresentations of policy. This con needs to be enhanced not just for specific policies but also for the perceived ethos of the party.
Seven years of relentless lies, disinformation and supercilious behaviour have permanently damaged the Tory front bench’s capacity to be believed by the public. Therefore, a facet of O’Brien, Tanner and Faith’s plan might be the gradual removal of the spent forces such as Johnson, Fox, Hammond and Davis to be replaced with new faces from the back benches and from junior ministerial posts. But, new faces will not change the over-riding Tory ethos. Any new faces will be used to give a false impression of change.
A false rehash, revamp or rebrand is the only option for the Tories. Onward is a loose translation of the name of Macron’s invented ‘new’ party En Marche and is equally as meaningless. So empty is the Tories’ bucket of ideas that they have to borrow a name. They also borrow Macron’s hollow dishonest rhetoric:
“Onward is a powerful ideas factory for centre-right thinkers and leaders. We exist to make Britain fairer, more prosperous and more united, by generating a new wave of modernising ideas and a fresh kind of politics that reaches out to new groups of people.”
It isn’t an “ideas factory.” It is a tool to acquire more media time for conservative speakers aided by a compliant media.
“We believe in a mainstream conservatism – one that recognises the value of markets and supports the good that government can do, is unapologetic about standing up to vested interests, and assiduous in supporting the hardworking, aspirational and those left behind.”
“The value of markets” is an utterly meaningless phrase. They are Tories who believe in feeding the elite and nothing else.
Every word is a marketing soundbite with no substance and entirely divorced from what the Tories do or are planning to do.
“Our team has worked both at a high level in government and for successful think tanks. We know how to produce big ideas that resonate with policymakers, the media and the public. We will engage ordinary people across the country and work with them to make our ideas a reality.”
The emptiness of Onward is writ large by the claim of “big ideas that resonate with policymakers, the media and the public.” They mean, of course, crafty ways of misrepresentation, distraction and blatant lies.
Onward is a mix of Tory MPs, former members of the Tory (con)marketing team and some right-wing think-tank veterans. Alongside the aforesaid O’Brien, Faith and Tanner, the Onward people list includes Ben Bradley MP, Tory vice chair for youth, who had to issue a public apology to Jeremy Corbyn and who is famed for petulant offensive social media comments, and Sian Hansen who has been Managing Director of Policy Exchange and Executive Director of the notorious Legatum Institute.
Other Tory MPs, including Murdoch’s little helper Michael Gove and bag of hot air Ruth Davidson, are helping to “launch” Onward. In Davidson Onward, the latter bemoaned that “we [the Tories] have, all too often, let our opponents write our history for us.” Davidson meant that criticism and exposure of Tory ideology needs to be buried by deceptive marketing and PR trash, and that is where Onward can help.
The mechanics of the Onward rehash mimics the processes of confidence trickery that are the norm at the right-wing think-tanks but such trickery no longer works on enough people. Equally, the strategy and methodology of characters like Lynton Crosby and Nick Timothy are more likely to induce mirth than con people. All of the shenanigans are transparent. Like the laughable Activate campaign, ‘Onward’ is likely to fizzle out before it begins. It is a mere death rattle for an exposed fraudulent ideology.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much polish one uses on a turd because it will still stink.