The Conservative Party Conference: Why Grayling, Osbourne and Widdecome are my lowlights

I have a confession to make, at the last election I voted for the Conservatives. I know I’m not alone, apparently quite a few of us did, but I am starting to feel like I committed some sort of offence. Let me clear up that until recently I was ok with my decision. To me many of the policies and decisions the coalition have made were justifiable considering the economic climate we are in, they might not have been popular but I could see the logic. I also haven’t really been personally affected by austerity, I know it’s selfish but when you go to fill out your ballot do you honestly think of the rest of the country or do you think who gives me the best deal? If you think the former you are a better person than I am. The issue I now have is with the three people I mentioned in my heading or more specifically what policies/reforms/opinions they have been suggesting.

I’ll start with Grayling as his are probably the proposals that I think are the most pointless. In case you missed his speech the self styled “tough justice secretary” (yes, he is one of those people that gives themselves a nickname and insists that everyone uses it) he has proposed to toughen up the laws in relation to householders who attack burglars in their home. It’s meant to give greater protection and clarify the law on what you can do to someone who breaks into your house. My opinion, and anyone who is even remotely legally trained, is that his reforms are crap on both of these points.

Firstly on the “greater protection”, he apparently wants to allow people to use “disproportionate force” so long as they act honestly. There are two things wrong with this 1) it is only a change of label from the current test and 2) it’s even more difficult to understand. At present the judge directs the jury in these cases that if they consider the defendant to have used “reasonable force” then they should not convict. What is reasonable, the judge will say, depends on a number of factors including what the defendant felt at the time they attacked the burglar. So this reform will not change the substantive law at all because this already happens. On the second point, juries already struggle enough with the concept of “reasonableness”. I would argue that changing to “disproportionate” and “grossly disproportionate” muddies the water even more. Don’t even get me started on the semantic error that proportionality has degrees.

Right, now onto Osbourne and his proposals that see companies giving employees shares in exchange for giving up their employment rights. This includes basic rights like unfair dismissal. Employees will essentially get between £2,000 and £50,000 worth of shares, so long as they agreed to be screwed over later on. The whole point of employment regulation is to protect employees from being forced into an unfavourable position by their bigger, richer and more powerful employers. So we are now going to become a culture when someone can be dismissed at the drop of a hat for no reason whatsoever or even worse for a discriminatory reason. Don’t forget unfair dismissal covers dismissal on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. Most employees think short term, they will think “oh ill take my £2,000 bonus” and won’t consider the fact that if they are dismissed unfairly or are refused proper maternity terms or any of the other rights Osborne wants them to give up.

Now I’ve saved the best till last, former MP Ann Widdecome. I’m gonna leave the ‘Strictly’ thing, despite the suggestion of my proof reader, I want to focus on politics and specifically the conference. The aspect that really repulses me from the conference is her participation in a Tory fringe meeting opposing gay marriage. As she said, “this is not an anti gay rally” if that wasn’t then I would hate to see a proper rally. I am a heterosexual man and homosexual marriage does not bother me in the slightest, everyone should have access to the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation. That doesn’t seem to be the attitude of the speakers at this fringe meeting. Lord Carey the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also one of the speakers, for some bizarre reason compared criticism of his attitude towards gay marriage to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany! That probably demonstrates how out of touch both he and Widdecome are with the majority of the population on this issue. Apparently legalising gay marriage will lead to a break down of the institution. I’m sorry but I really don’t see how. Surely the whole concept is about two people who love each other saying they are going to spend the rest of their lives together. Whether between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Like I said at the start of this article I’ve been ok with the Tory and Lib Dem coalition till now. The combination of these three people has shown to me how out of touch, incompetent or just plain idiotic they are. I actually don’t think David Cameron is too bad as a Prime Minister all things considered, better than my impression of Ed Milliband. But he really needs to take control of his ministers and party before the next election if he wants to stay in power let alone win an out right majority.

By Jack Troup

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