Friday, May 16, 2008

House Points: Cameron's Conservatives are so like New Labour

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Lookalikes United

What would a Conservative government look like? Depressingly, the evidence suggests it would look remarkably like the one we have now.

Boris Johnson’s first act as Mayor was to ban people from drinking alcohol on trains and buses. It is fine to turn up drunk at a station or bus stop – he would have to scrap the whole night bus network if he was going to challenge that – but you can’t have a can of beer open after work. Worthy of New Labour at its finest.

Then Boris floated the idea of Saturday "respect" schools. These would employ a "magnificently untrendy bootcamp style of discipline" and make children march and learn their manners. Just the sort of nonsense Alastair Campbell used to throw the Daily Mail to keep it sweet.

New Labour cliches were also spouted from the Tory benches during Monday’s debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Iain Duncan Smith wanted to keep the provision of an earlier Act that clinics must take into account "the need for a father" when considering applicants for IVF treatment.

"I am aware of no gay couple who have been refused treatment," said Duncan Smith. Yet he wanted to keep that wording (the new bill talks of "the need for supportive parenting") as – wait for it – "a signal".

The official Conservative line came from Andrew Lansley. He wanted the bill to refer to "the need for supportive parenting and a father or a male role model". There has been no more cherished figure in the New Labour years than the role model, but how could such a law possibly be enforced?

What exactly is "a male role model"? Are all males role models? Or do you have to be heterosexual? Play rugby? Smoke a pipe? Doctors have enough on their hands without being forced to ponder questions like that.

Tolstoy wrote that "Happy families are all alike". But old beardie was wrong: happy families take all sorts of different forms. The idea that government can prescribe what they should look like is nonsense from the wilder shores of Guardian commentary.

If the Conservative Party is taking that view on, it will soon be impossible to tell it and Labour apart.

No comments: