A reliable source of cheap laughs here is the sometimes daft electronic media output of the Labour Party machine. I joke about it as only a fully paid up member can. Today, just for a change, I wandered over the the Conservative Party Website to kick the horse while it’s down. It’s so easy I almost felt guilty about it. Mikey‘s face staring at me from next to the throbbing button inviting me to “PLAY” their latest party political broadcast helped put me back in the mood though. (Dontcha just love the “not waving but drowning” photo of him they have chosen to display immediately below the “Michael Howard” title from the link above?)

I’ll get to the message soon, but first A FEW RANTY CAPITALS about the medium. It’s clear that the Tories, like one of the recent hecklers here, have completely missed the point of the Web, as envisioned by its belatedly and embarrassingly over-honoured British inventor Tim Berners-Lee. ANY DOCUMENT SHOULD BE READABLE BY ANYONE WITH ANY WEB BROWSER ON ANY OPERATING SYSTEM ON ANY DEVICE. The World Wide Web Consortium specifies free and open standards. Everyone who puts a page on the Web should follow them. That way everyone who reads stuff on the Web can access it from their mobile phones, via their Braille interfaces, on their personal computer monitor screens, in their telephone kiosks, and on their fridge displays. So what do the Tories do? They put their supposedly punchy and simple policy promises in PDF documents which are orders of magnitude bigger in size than the raw text they contain and require an extra program to be seen. Let me just repeat that again because I was on the Web before you all and, no matter how many times I say it, I never tire of repeating it: ANY DOCUMENT SHOULD BE READABLE BY ANYONE WITH ANY WEB BROWSER ON ANY OPERATING SYSTEM ON ANY DEVICE. THAT IS THE POINT OF THE WEB.


(And yes, I know my own Webpages aren’t one hundred percent standards-compliant, but they are near enough—and a hell of a lot nearer than the Tories’.)

The Conservatives promise “LESS TALK. MORE ACTION”. (Given that the creator of this slogan considers “less talk” to be a sentence, then a semi-colon in the middle of the tagline and a full-stop at the end seems better punctuation to me, but let’s skip that quibble and get to the beef—in a wholly un-Tory kind of way.)

What do the Tories’ bloated PDFs contain? Well, to save you downloading them, here are some of those “action” points in your Web browser (and bugger me if I didn’t have to type them out by hand because they aren’t in standards-compliant HTML). On tax:

The Conservatives will stop Labour’s third term tax rises and give people value for more money by slimming down fat government

That is, they will act by not doing something Labour haven’t done yet. Now I’m as skeptical as the next man about Gordon’s laughing-gas optimistic Pre-Budget Statement forecasts for a bump up in tax income, but hoping people won’t notice the hypothetical nature of the threat of tax rises is pretty feeble stuff. Even more feeble is to resort to the old “we will cut Whitehall bureaucrats” claim. Everyone uses this one when they have absolutely no idea what to do to reduce public spending and daren’t threaten Good Things like nurses. Civil servants are, of course, Bad. Still, despite their public consensus on the Badness of Chartered Diversity Facilitators, politicians in power always find it almost impossible to get rid of any of them.

There’s more inaction to come as we move onto point two (another link, another Adobe Acrobat document), “Action on schools”:

“The Conservatives believe that teachers, not politicians, should run our schools. We will cut teachers’ paperwork, restore discipline in schools and give parents the opportunity to choose the best for their child.”

Now, I’d have thought a solid vote winner would be to have a go at the corduroy-wearing, Guardian-reading, child-centred, educationalist-worshipping 60s throwbacks supposedly indoctrinating our “child” with homosexuality. Suddenly they’re the salvation of our education system. Weren’t parents supposed to be the customers? Isn’t the customer always right?

How are the Tories going to hand the power back to the teachers that all that paperwork was meant to take away from them?

“Within the first day of a Conservative Government, we will set out plans to give head teachers the power to expel disruptive pupils.”

Presumably capitalized because such a concept is Completely Gobsmacking, a “Conservative Government” will “set out plans to“. How’s this for an opening to my next grant application?:

“As soon as I am given a billion pounds by the Medical Research Council I will set out plans to give doctors the power to cure cancer.”

“Action” like that’ll have Colin Blakemore popping down to see me in person to open his cheque book. The bullet points continue to strike: “Within the first week, we will begin to abolish the restrictions…”, “Within the first month, we will include in the Queen’s Speech…”. When are you actually going to do something? Then they have a nerve to slap another “LESS TALK. MORE ACTION” at the bottom of the PDF—with the Conservative Party logo chopped off at the corner. One of the few advantages of a PDF over a Webpage is that it gives you complete control over layout and they somehow use the medium to screw up their own image. Unbelievable.

Under “Action on hospitals”, they’ll be letting “NHS professionals” run them. The customers, the patients, will be given “opportunities to choose”. We’ve heard that one before. The Tories will do this by (taking each bullet point in turn) “abolishing targets…”, “making it possible for people to have access to information about…”, and “publishing legislation to give people the opportunity to…”.

“LESS TALK. MORE ACTION”. The irony is delicious. It’s as though their copywriters are competing to get further and further away from an actual verb that someone with power might be held accountable for by horrified citizens over the weeks after they discover they actually voted the clueless shower in. By the time we get to crime, the Tories are promising that they will “announce plans to prevent police officers having to fill in a form every time they stop someone”. Let’s go through that: they promise that they are going to tell us about how they intend to stop agents of the state from having to tell us about how they stopped other citizens from doing something.

Here’s my new slogan for the Tories. I’ll be announcing it’s availability for download as a nicely formatted PDF from this site very soon after they ask me for my help in their next election campaign, but here’s a plain text preview:

“The Conservatives: We’ve got some policies. Honest. And we’ll tell you about them and how they’ll stop putative Bad Things from being done once you’ve elected us. Very shortly after you’ve elected us in fact.

We mean it.

“Cut”—that’s a verb, isn’t it?

Please tell any blind people you know what we promised as well because they might find this file a bit difficult to read without a proper plug-in for their browser. Thanks.

I know. We’re shit. We’re really, really sorry.”