“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
Having to challenge the honesty and truthfulness of Conservative Party communications is becoming a perennial and tiresome task. Their Uttlesford pre-election propaganda earlier this year was particularly outrageous. Now we have “In Touch” …. a newsletter that while avoiding flat-out lies uses the dark arts of misrepresentation. Let’s start with some of the questions they ask.
Q. HOW DID UTTLESFORD CONSERVATIVES BUCK THE NATIONAL TREND?
“We were second best performing Conservative group in the country” at the 2023 local government elections.
Being the second least bad is hardly an achievement. Nationally, the 2023 local elections were grim for the Conservatives – worse, in fact, than 2019 when the party in Uttlesford was nearly wiped out, going from 24 Conservative councillors to just four. From such an abysmal low it would have been remarkable not to have done a bit better. Among their six gains two were LibDem seats. The Conservatives are now the official opposition at Uttlesford District Council but the dishonesty displayed in their election literature is not a good starting point.
Q. WHEN WILL WE EVER GET A LOCAL PLAN?
This is rich coming from the party that during its 14 years in power failed not once, not twice, but three times to produce a workable Local Plan. Countless millions of pounds were wasted and in the absence of a plan thousands of houses have been imposed on the district by speculative developers. A draft Local Plan created by the R4U administration is now in public consultation.
Q. WHO WILL R4U BLAME NEXT FOR THEIR PROBLEMS?
And what exactly are those problems? Are they the chaos created by cutbacks to Local government funding? The continuing impact of the Pandemic? Or are they referencing the so-called “special planning measures” imposed on Uttlesford as a slap-down for having the audacity to defeat the Tories and carry out a manifesto pledge to challenge the expansion of Stansted Airport? Those “measures” allow developers wanting to build in Uttlesford to apply directly to – yes, you guessed it – the Govt for planning consent. Never forget where a lot of money for the Conservative Party comes from. Uttlesford represents rich pickings for property developers.
Q. WILL UTTLESFORD’S EXCESSIVE BORROWING BE ITS DOWNFALL?
A skilfully disingenuous question since it was the Conservatives at Uttlesford who in 2017 first borrowed to make property investments (for the record, a good investment in Chesterford Research Park). Who says the current borrowing is “excessive”? The council’s property investment portfolio is producing annual net income of £4.3m after interest and management costs. This is making a significant contribution to filling the hole left by central government cuts to funding. If interest rates drop income should increase; and if rates escalate there is the option to liquidate one or more holdings and crystallise some of the £28.5m gain in the value of the portfolio.
The leaflet also offers some county and constituency ‘news’ – or propaganda might be a more appropriate description:
POLICING, IT’S ALL WONDERFUL!
The Police, Fire and crime Commissioner for Essex, the Conservatives’ Roger Hirst, wants us to know that Essex is getting £1million to combat anti-social behaviour, plus a fund to bid for street safety improvements. But what about the obvious lack of impartiality in the modern police and the embracing of trendy political causes instead of robust objectivity. What’s more, if we refer a complaint about police performance to Mr Hirst’s office his staff write back to tell us they can’t interfere in operational matters. So what’s the point of a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner other than to spend a lot of time massaging the crime figures down?
Mr Hirst also tells us that Essex Police is now the largest it has been in its 184 year history. This coincides with a statement from the fact checking organisation FullFact.org advising that the proper context should be given to claims about policing including the number of officers relative to the population.
AND A MESSAGE FROM OUR MP
Not content with conflating district council and county responsibilities, we have a pre-general election message from Kemi Badenoch MP. Now we have considerable respect for Mrs Badenoch, she has a reputation for robust honesty as Business and Trade Secretary and Women and Equalities Minister. So why then does she collude in half truths put out by her party locally? The first duty of any politician is to be honest with the electorate. Frankly, if you can’t be honest with a 28,000 majority, when can you be? Perhaps, just perhaps, she is not as comfortable with constituency matters as with other aspects of political life?