The Conservatives have always been a party of myth-builders and, of course, most of the British print media have been happy to help them. Those myths have become ingrained – so it is not uncommon to hear them repeated on doorsteps and in conversations with friends.
I recently suggested on Facebook that some people had become brainwashed into believing the Tory lies about Jeremy Corbyn – and received indignant protests from friends claiming they had arrived at their views all by themselves. But when I asked them HOW they were so certain of “facts” they repeated and where their evidence came from, they were completely stumped.
Of course, there are many things the Tories and their friends would like everyone to believe, but here are seven of the myths you will probably come across.
And, more importantly, some myth-busting facts you might like to use in any argument.
- Only the Tories can be trusted with the economy
We’ve all heard this one: “Labour crashed the economy.” This was the myth that was fostered by George Osborne after the 2010 general election in the vacuum that existed while Labour elected a new leader.
Many of us spent the whole of that parliament and the 2015 election campaign waiting for Labour to fight back, but as Alex Nunns points out in The Candidate, his excellent book about Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, party strategists believed that was an argument that was irretrievably lost.
Now it is impossible for Labour to propose a new policy without everyone demanding: “Ah, but how much will it cost? More borrowing?” As though Labour was the party of borrowing.
But hang on… David Cameron’s government borrowed more in the first three years after 2010 than Labour had borrowed in THIRTEEN years in government.
The Tories have borrowed more since 2010 than every Labour government put together.
Labour rebuilt schools and hospitals and got Britain out of the global banking crisis. What’s the Tories’ excuse?
Of course, borrowing isn’t all bad. Despite what Osborne tried to make us think, national economies are not like domestic economies. Nations – and businesses – need to borrow to invest, and interest rates are at a historically low rate. But what have the austerity Tories invested in over the past seven years?
Ah, but the Tories have reduced the deficit, haven’t they? The debt is shrinking, isn’t it?
No! This was Osborne’s sleight of hand, telling everyone he had reduced the deficit. But the deficit isn’t the debt – it’s just the difference between income and expenditure. So a reduced deficit means the national debt is still growing, and – depending on which measure you adopt – the national debt has doubled since the Tories came to power. Like I said, what’s THEIR excuse?
And if anyone asks how Labour can afford its manifesto promises, bear this in mind: just as in 2105, Labour has asked for the manifestos of all the parties to be scrutinised by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.
The Tories have refused. Draw your own conclusions from that.
2. The Tories are strong on defence
Conservatives can be trusted with defending our nation, while Jeremy Corbyn just wants to disband the army, right?
The Tories are so weak on defence that our army is now the smallest it has been since we were fighting Napoleon. That’s because they have been laying off soldiers as part of the “austerity” spending cuts.
Yes, but Theresa May has said she will unilaterally launch a nuclear strike, hasn’t she?
And that is true. But first of all, we couldn’t do that without the say-so of the Americans – and who believes anyway that launching a nuclear strike would make us safer?
May enthusiastically barked “Yes” when asked in the Commons if she would launch a nuclear strike even if it led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. But she hasn’t told us in what circumstances she would do that – and she can’t, because using our nuclear weapons would be a catastrophic disaster for this country.
Even former Tory defence secretary Michael Portillo said: “Our independent nuclear deterrent is not independent and does not constitute a deterrent against anybody that we regard as an enemy. It is a waste of money and it is a diversion of funds that might otherwise be spent on perfectly useful and useable weapons and troops. But some people have not caught up with this reality.”
If you are still a fan of Trident renewal, it is in the Labour manifesto. That could be reviewed by a future Labour government, which might take the view that it is better to spend tens of billions on something useful – including some proper defence – than on a Cold War-era vanity project that will never be used.
And consider this: do you think the people of Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, or any of the other nearly-200 countries round the world that have NOT wasted billions on nuclear weapons lie awake at night worrying about it?
3. The Tories are the party of Brexit
Remember one thing: it was the Tories who called a referendum to make sure that Britain remained in the EU. The Conservative government campaigned to stay in.
Harold Wilson once said you should never call a referendum unless you can be sure of the result. It is a measure of how useless the Tories are that they called one and lost it.
Whether you were for or against Brexit, we are now all beginning to pay the price, with the end of our low-inflation economy. Inflation has risen for three months and is now at 2.7% – as a direct result of Brexit.
And if you believe that Brexit is proof of the Prime Minister’s strength, just remember that she was against it, saying that remaining in the EU was vital to British interests. Yet she is so weak that – instead of working towards what is best for Britain – she has given in to pressure from her party’s right wing and handed negotiations over to the most zealous pro-Brexit fanatics on the Tory benches.
4. The Tories are sound on security
Conservatives have always played on the “party of law and order” myth. But what sort of party that really believes that would cut 20,000 police officers?
That is what the Tories have done since 2010 in the name of austerity.
And that means that we are all less safe, with fewer officers on patrol and police forces unable to protect us and investigate certain crimes. Victims of violent crime face long waits for a 999 response.
Party of law and order? More like the party that lets criminals get away with it.
Labour, on the other hand, plans to recruit another 10,000 police officers.
And what about cyber-security, one of the greatest threats of the 21st century?
Well, we saw what happened in the recent computer attack. Even though the government was fully aware of the risk, it did nothing. The NHS was being run on computer software – Windows XP – that is so old that it hasn’t been supported by Microsoft for THREE YEARS.
And if you think that was bad, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon refused to deny that our nuclear submarines are running the same software.
Strong on security? Are they having a laugh?
5. You can trust the Tories on education
This is a simple one. Go to www.schoolcuts.org.uk and type in the name of your local school and it will tell you exactly how much funding has been cut – per pupil – in your area. For example, the secondary school attended by my neighbours’ children will be getting £497 less for every child.
We all know that the Tories don’t believe in experts (Michael Gove famously referred to anyone who actually knew anything about education as “the blob” when he was education secretary), but you don’t need to be an expert to know that less money is unlikely to equal better schooling.
Funnily enough, it seems there is still plenty of money for Tory pet project free schools – even though many have been judged to be poor value for money and some have even closed – and no doubt for new grammar schools.
It would be impossible to measure the quantity of cold water poured on the grammar school plan since May first mentioned it, but she seems determined to press ahead with it – against all the evidence.
6. The NHS is safe with the Tories
David Cameron kept banging on about this, cynically using his disabled son to demonstrate how much he valued the NHS. But actions are more important than words.
Tory ministers have admitted that the NHS budget per person will be cut in real terms next year.
Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt keep telling us the NHS is getting an extra £10 billion. Even Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who is a GP and chair of the cross-party health committee, said that was “incorrect” – but that hasn’t stopped May and Hunt repeating their mantra.
They fully understand that if you repeat a lie enough times, people will come to believe it. The fact is that the NHS has been asked to find £22 billion in savings by 2020.
Ask any GP, any nurse, any hospital doctor…the answer will be the same. The system is close to breaking point.
And it is not the fault of the system. It is the fault of the funding.
Harry Leslie Smith, 94, saw his sister die of TB in a workhouse in the 1920s because ordinary people couldn’t afford doctors. He says that under the Tories we are seeing “the NHS stripped down like a derelict house is by criminals for copper wiring”.
In 2010, when Cameron’s government took power, spending on the NHS in terms of GDP share was 8.8%. After seven years of the Tories, it is now 6.6%.
EU average health spending is about 10% so we are lagging behind most other developed countries.
If we spent as much on our healthcare as they do, the NHS really would be the envy of the world.
Labour is planning to invest £37 billion in the NHS – and it is fully costed.
7. The Tories are the party of the centre
Tony Blair always tells us that elections can only be won from the centre, but the Conservatives have proved that is not true. Few would say Cameron and May have led anything but a government of the right.
Where IS the centre anyway? If this centre really exists, it is a shifting ground. Blair certainly moved HIS centre well to the right.
The press have brainwashed voters into thinking Corbyn is “hard left” or “far left”.
The headline in London’s Evening Standard (edited by George Osborne) said of Labour’s manifesto launch: “Comrade Corbyn flies the red flag.”
Of course, Labour members have always called each other “comrade” and The Red Flag is the anthem of the Labour Party, but those subtleties will be lost on most people, who will receive the intended message: Corbyn is a dangerous extremist. It’s “reds under the bed” all over again.
Yet when people see Labour’s actually policies, they are popular. Of course, they are – they aim to improve the lives of everyone in this country without increasing taxes for 95% of the population.
The manifesto is certainly no more leftwing than, say, the programme of Harold Wilson’s Labour governments. The proposals would raise no eyebrows in most European countries, where they would be regarded as centrist social democratic.
But they DO rip up the neoliberal consensus that has blighted this country and the lives of our people over the past nearly 40 years – and that should be a cause for celebration.
Of course, there are other myths. Theresa May is busy now trying to promote herself as the champion of British working people. Now that really IS a lie…but will she make it stick?
There is a lot of work to be done over the next three weeks. As Owen Jones says in The Guardian: “Nobody can pretend Labour isn’t in a very difficult position indeed.” But putting everyone right on these seven big Tory myths would make a useful start.