Wednesday, 14 March 2012

My First Conservative Meeting

So, I have thus far kept my word. I have joined the Conservative Party, and last night, attended my first local branch meeting. Much of it was formality, and a bit dry, if I'm completely honest. But there were a few things that got my attention.

Writing to the Press
The bloke from the local Association (next level up) was there, saying that the local Labour branch had been writing into the press recently to raise awareness, and that we (i.e. Tories) should be doing it as well. He went on to say that he can provide advice and guidance over what to write about. He also suggested that, because the press know who some of the more prominent members are, it might be an idea to write under false names.

Lovely. A significant part of political activity seems to be disseminating propaganda under false pretences to the press. What a delightful insight into our modern democracy.

Attitude Towards Money
One of the local councillors was there, and was very pleased to report that the Conservatives (who hold a majority on the Council) have managed to secure a '0% increase in Council Tax this year'.

First off, a 0% increase is what we commonly call a freeze. The phrase '0% increase' implies that there is an increase every year, and it is the exception, rather than the normal, that taxes are frozen. I found that particular nugget rather worrying. Why should any politician automatically assume that taxes should rise every year?

What also bothered me was the fact that he was happy that Council Tax was merely being frozen. I would be happy if it were cut. I would be delighted if it were abolished. The fact that it has been frozen is merely acceptable.

Another issue was on the subject of bus shelters - riveting stuff, I am sure. Some people raised concerns that some of the bus shelters were in a poor state due to vandalism, etc. One of the members piped up that the council has received a sizeable sum of money from Whitehall for 'local transport infrastructure', and it would be a good idea to spend it on the bus shelters!

Again, what bothered me was the willingness to act fast and loose with money which isn't theirs. I then asked what I considered to be a rather obvious question. Given that the bus companies manage to make a healthy profit from providing their services to the public, why does the taxpayer need to provide a labour and material subsidy to those companies in the form of constructing and maintaining bus stops? We wouldn't buy and maintain buses for them, so why do it for bus stops?

The answer was that it was a bit like asking train companies to maintain train stations.

Precisely. Like they used to, before the nationalisation in the 1940s.

Not yours. Leave it.

The matter was glossed over.

There's a lot of work to be done.