Labour in Epsom and Ewell

As Theresa May clings to power you have to wonder how the Tories managed to talk themselves into the mess they have created, writes Michael Strutt.

Of course they produced a poor election manifesto, cooked up in secrecy, that read, said Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror, “like the T & Cs in an insurance policy”.

Jeremy Corbyn's popularity soared in the last two weeks of the campaign on the strength of Labour's manifesto, a surprise in itself, which galvanised the youth vote via social media. Though the costings in the manifesto can be disputed, the relevance of the social policies offered left the Conservatives outgunned.

May's Cabinet reshuffle, keeping Epsom MP Chris Grayling as Transport Secretary and bringing back the ever loyal and 'reliable' Michael Gove, has probably done little more than move the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The fact is the Tories' relentless drive to break things up (the education system, managing prisons, the probation service); sell them off (the railways, utilities, Royal Mail); pursue more cuts (schools funding, legal aid, local pharmacies); and their habit of picking a fight with one profession after another (social workers, teachers, junior doctors) has depressed the electorate for years and failed the country.

For all their articulate Oxford and Cambridge-educated assurance the top Tories have a destructive group mentality. They have no hesitation in turning the lives of ordinary people upside down with ill-thought-out schemes, causing huge anxiety. It's not much of a trade for any good work they may do as constituency MPs.

The Conservative cabinet is really a heavy metal group. As you might expect from the Legion of the Damned, what they really want is to smash up their guitars on stage in front of their adoring fans while sticking up two fingers to everyone else.

In the election this came out in the Tories' concentrated and co-ordinated attacks slagging off Jeremy Corbyn at every opportunity to try to discredit him. As soundbites they were a useful smokescreen to avoid explaining their own policies but it backfired.

If Mrs May had re-read her old diaries it would have reminded her that in 2002 she told a Conservative conference the Tories were being talked about as Britain's “nasty party”. Now the vicar's daughter, and the Tory MPs who lost their seats, are paying the price because their brand of politics is being seen for what it is.

Tory cabinet – more like the Legion of the Damned

As Theresa May clings to power you have to wonder how the Tories managed to talk themselves into the mess they have created, writes Michael Strutt.

Merton Council's Conservative finance and business spokesman Councillor David Williams must have failed to notice what is happening in Surrey when he wrote 'Can't trust Labour with cash' (Letters, April 6).

Surrey's Conservative run council was willing to spend £1 million on holding a referendum to raise Council Tax by 15% at a time when services in the county are collapsing.

Surrey CC is strapped for cash for two main reasons: it's own financial incompetence and cuts in Conservative central government financial support.

Perhaps Coun. Williams thinks that former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's miscalculation over the referendum for Britain to leave the EU, which could generate a £50 billion exit fee, is good value. Brexit was backed up to the hilt by Epsom's Conservative MP Chris Grayling.

He is in the process of sanctioning spending of £50 billion on fast railways which are widely predicted to be white elephants. Also, how many more billions will Grayling waste building an airport runway over the M25? I shudder to think.

Tories wasting millions - and billions!

Merton Council's Conservative finance and business spokesman Councillor David Williams must have failed to notice what is happening in Surrey when he wrote 'Can't trust Labour with cash' (Letters, April...

It is the flawed profit-driven franchising system the Tories continue to favour and defend that has brought about the continuing - and very serious - disruption to our rail travel.

Strikes at Southern, which have spread to other franchises, highlight the confusion and mess the franchising system continues to bring. For many Southern commuters this has forced them on to buses instead of a train, any train, in sheer desperation to get to work.

The parallels between the fix that the railways and the NHS are in are striking: too much government interference behind the scenes and too much splitting things up in the name of "efficiency" and "competition".

First a little political history. The Conservative party has never liked the railways. Indeed, as archive film in a TV documentary showed, there were top conservatives in the last century who wanted to see the entire rail system shut down.

Just over 50 years ago, Dr Beeching's axe fell on some 3,000 miles of railway across the country, stranding residents in their villages and towns. In the 1980s Marylebone station was going to be turned into a bus station, until it was saved.

Finally, in the 1990s, the new Conservative government privatised the railways instead. That way government could avoid responsibility for them as far as possible while turning the railways into profit centres for the government and private companies alike. The thoughtless haste with which it was done has resulted in the mess we have today.

The failure of the hapless Epsom MP Chris Grayling, as Secretary of State for Transport, to make any impression on a possible solution for the RMT union's dispute over driver-operated doors says it all. He has been left powerless and just wringing his hands, except to turn even further Right with a veiled threat of legal bans on what are now legal strikes.

A news report in The Times on January 12 pointed out that “almost two thirds of our train network is now being run from the continent” by state-owned railways from Europe. So state-owned railways are running much of the UK system - with the profits siphoned abroad - because the British government just can't be bothered.

The Tories are still unwilling to bring an end to its risky franchising system. National Express - once our biggest rail franchise operator - has announced that it has hit the buffers.

It is selling off its final licence to...Trenitalia! And how much experience has this Italian company got in running UK railways? None!

Good luck on your commute...

Michael Strutt

Tories never did like the railways

It is the flawed profit-driven franchising system the Tories continue to favour and defend that has brought about the continuing - and very serious - disruption to our rail travel....

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