Long time readers of this blog may recall a little over a year ago, I was invited to participate in a debate at the University of St Andrews by the Union Debating Society. Well, apparently, they liked my arguments, as back in February they asked me back for more. As last year, this was the annual Parliamentary debate, although the question posed had been changed this year from the usual, rather general ‘This House Has No Confidence In Her Majesty’s Government’ to the more topical (especially in an election year) question of ’This House Believes David Cameron Is Not The Answer’. Unlike last year, I was offered my choice of side in the debate, and (inevitably) chose the pro-motion (anti-Cameron) argument, a more comfortable position than before for me at least.
Sadly, this year the debate was lacking the A-list appearance of an MP like Menzies Campbell, or, for that matter, the snifter of port before the debate (which greatly aided my nerves last year), and my fellow debaters were made up of students and recent former students. There was a bit less pomp and circumstance this year as well, although the robes, ceremonial sword and procession onto the hall were still there, things seemed a little more informal this year, and there was a distinct lack of post-debate parading and singing in the streets to the restaurant. And the less said about the lack of late-night skinny-dipping in the North Sea, the better. Nevertheless, I gamely ventured on, and spoke first (erk!). This being another of my rather-later-than-planned blog posts, this speech was writen in February, long before the election had been (officially) called, and long before the machinations of TV debates, hung parliaments, bigotgates and resurgent Lib Dems. Here’s the text:
This House Believes that David Cameron is not the answer. This must be obvious, for, as fans of Douglas Adams will verify, the Answer is 42. But David Cameron is a long way from being the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. If anything, David Cameron is a question. Who is David Cameron? What does David Cameron stand for? What does David Cameron believe in? These questions have been asked time and time again without an adequate response. David Cameron may be open and transparent, but all this serves to illuminate his total lack of substance. He may make vague commitments and warm promises, but these have failed to be backed up by firm policies or solid figures. David Cameron is little more than an illusion, a false façade erected to distract our attention. But distract us from what?
Who is behind David Cameron? Who is the power behind the throne, or, if you will, the limo behind the bicycle? Is it the corrupt and incompetent bankers and financiers that have brought this country to it’s knees and bankroll the Conservative party? Or is it the ancestral Lords and Ladies and landowners, the flogging and hunting traditionalists that have been the blue life-blood of the Party for Generations? The recent expenses scandal has revealed the true face of the Conservative Party.
In the spirit of full disclosure I should point out at this juncture that I am here today at the invitation of the Society who are kindly covering my expenses. Which is lucky, as my moat has been getting rather dirty of late, and my ducks could do with a new home. Joking aside (they hope – I haven’t submitted my receipts yet), dirty moats and duck houses reveal a world entirely alien to the average British citizen, a world unequipped and incapable of dealing with the very real problems facing this country in the 21st century. The Conservative Party of old has not gone away. They’re still the Nasty Party, and the spirit of Thatcherism still oozes through the halls of Conservative Central Office. Those of you here today may be too young to remember the last Conservative administration, but I grew up during those years, and they are years I don’t want to return to. If for no other reason that high-lights didn’t suit me.
The Conservatives were decimated in Scotland, Wales and the North of England and the Midlands; regions that did not prosper during the Tory years, and are unlikely to prosper under a potential future Conservative government. And yes, it is increasingly likely to be a Conservative government that will be running the country after the upcoming General Election. But it won’t be because they have won the argument, merely that the Labour Party has lost it.
Yes, the Labour party may not deserve to win the next election, what with illegal wars, the expenses scandal and the collapse of the economy, they haven’t done themselves any favours, but I will maintain that David Cameron and his cronies don’t offer a serious alternative. In fact, I would argue that David Cameron is anything but an alternative. Look at him for a moment – the insincere smile, the public-school background, the twinkling blue eyes. The lack of any real policies. We’ve seen this before – in Tony Blair.
The only difference between David Cameron and Tony Blair is that Blair ditched many policies that his party held dear, whereas Cameron merely has no policies. A famous anagram of “Tony Blair MP” is “I’m Tory Plan B”. I put it to you that David Cameron is little more than “Tony Plan B”. To quote one of the many defaced and graffitied posters featuring David Cameron I’ve seen in my home city of Birmingham: “We Can’t Go On; I’ll Cut the NHS”. If the question posed today was “Who Is The Next Tony Blair?”, then the answer is clearly David Cameron. But it’s not the question, and David Cameron is surely not the answer.
As you can see from my hastily scribbled note in the margin of the Order Paper, our side won the debate – votes For: 74, Against, 33 with 13 Abstentions. As last year, I flew up to Scotland, although this time I landed at Edinburgh rather than Dundee, so this gave me a day to have a good look round Auld Reekie the day after, doing the whole tourist thing from wandering up the Royal Mile, trying on chunky sweaters and eating haggis with tatties and neaps. All in all, a fun time was had, my thanks to the organisers and I look forward to any future invitations from the Union Debating Society.