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‘Yes Gillian, the Tories have done a F**cking Good Job… of Ruining Britain’

Like some effluent King Midas, everything the Conservative Government has touched has turned to crap, writes Otto English

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. Photo: Amanda Rose/Alamy

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There have been 10 – largely forgettable – Education Secretaries since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. And this week, the latest incumbent, Gillian Keegan, made a heroic effort to stand out from the crowd.

Rounding off an ITV News interview with journalist Daniel Hewitt regarding the RAAC crumbling schools crisis – which has seen 150 schools closed or partially shut in England, just as the new academic year is dawning – a frustrated Keegan asked: “Does anyone ever say ‘you know what, you’ve done a f**king good job because everyone else has sat on their arses and done nothing?’”.

Keegan may have been talking about concrete, but her words articulated a wider sentiment in the Conservative leadership and a general sense of frustration that all the marvellous things the Tories have done in their 13 years, four months and 22 days in government have gone unrecognised.

Perhaps she had a point.

After all, it’s easy to criticise isn’t it? And in all that time the Conservative Government, both in and out of coalition, and the five Prime Ministers who have steered the country through the last decade-and-a-half, must have achieved something. So, instead of blaming them for everything and in the spirit of Monty Python, isn’t it time to ask instead: what have the Tories actually done for us?

Take the RAAC crisis.

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Wouldn’t you rather the Government shut schools than have them collapse on your kids’ heads? Isn’t that something to be celebrated? Sure, the problem was first identified in the mid-1990s and, yes, by cancelling Labour’s ambitious ‘building schools for the future’ programme it set back renovations and rebuilds by 15 years. But the Tories were elected on the promise of austerity and that’s what they delivered.

Okay, I grant you that further slashing the Department for Education’s repairs and maintenance budget by £2.2 billion could look bad – especially when chunks of concrete are plunging into the Year 8s’ packed lunches… but isn’t this what people voted for? 

And anyway, the Tories didn’t build the schools, did they? Indeed, their kids don’t even go to them and, if they had it their way, we’d all educate our children privately and the problem would simply go away. 

It’s much the same with the NHS.

Yes, its decline from being one of the top state healthcare providers in the world to an organisation that is now effectively on life-support happens to have coincided with 13-and-a-bit years of Conservative Government. But is it the Tories’ fault it’s collapsing?

Rishi Sunak loves the NHS. We know that’s true because his parents worked in it. Indeed, all the Tory leaders have at some time declared their great passion for the institution – even as they allowed a £30 billion funding black-hole to eat away at it and watched on as waiting lists swelled from 2.5 million in 2010 to 7.4 million today. Their fault? Hardly. 

After all, there’s been a war in Ukraine don’t ya know? And a pandemic. And a ‘small boats crisis’ as thousands of foreigners have crossed the Channel to make use of our vital services.

If you don’t buy that, then there are striking doctors and nurses to blame who, unlike our Rishi, expect to earn a living salary from the NHS instead of simply declaring their love for it. They wouldn’t need to ask for pay rises if they followed Conservative Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson’s 30p cooking tips. Indeed, austerity would disappear altogether if there was simply a bit more of his sort of common sense in this country.

And then, of course, there’s Brexit.

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The ‘Remoaners’ like nothing more than to talk it down instead of admitting the truth that is has been one great big success story.

Without it, we would not have been able to strike trade deals that actually diminish our GDP or join the CPTPP which could, in 20 years, lift the UK’s GDP by as much as 0.08% (fingers crossed).

Without Brexit, fewer people would be holidaying in the UK and building immunity against E. coli by catching it on one of our sewage drenched beaches.

Without Brexit, Europe’s largest lorry park in Ashford, Kent, would never have been built and truckers would have been spending their cash in French service stations rather than wasting their days filling in documents while their time-sensitive cargoes rot in the back of their HGVs.

Without Brexit, you might not have twigged that your uncle was a racist or found the ‘block’ button on Facebook. More to the point, the UK would never have enjoyed the supernova premiership of Liz Truss which burned so briefly, yet brightly, and made a few hedge fund managers even richer as they shorted the pound.

As for the pandemic, well no country in the world handled it as well as us. Sure, Boris Johnson was choosing £850 rolls of ghastly wallpaper and finalising his divorce while the crisis crept to the very door of Number 10… but he was doing his best. And more to the point, remember when he was on that zip-wire dangling over the Thames? 

He’s a funny guy who can quote Latin and Greek. Can you do that? Thought not.

Oh f**k it. I give up. Much like the Conservatives, I had a go… but who am I convincing? 

Let’s be completely honest about this. Never in the field of human government has such immense and irreparable damage been visited so unnecessarily on a nation by so few.

If a hostile power had spent years attempting to infiltrate the upper echelons of the Tory Party and enacted policies deliberately designed to traduce and sabotage the reputation and prosperity of the United Kingdom, they could have done no better. 

If grandiose ruination were an art form then the 13 years, three months and 22 days between David Cameron becoming PM and Gillian Keegan’s self-pitying plea for acclamation would be a shoo-in for the winning entry of the Turner Prize. 

Like some effluent King Midas, everything they have touched has turned to crap. 

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Like the Bullingdon Club that spawned two of their five Prime Ministers, they have run riot across this land, smashing up things and people, before retreating back into their vast entitlement to write their memoirs – while filling the House of Lords with their siblings, cronies and Russian press barons. 

From the vicious ‘culture war’ to the Windrush Scandal. From the PPE outrage to the Rwanda fiasco. They have ruined Britain.

The rich have grown richer. The poor have grown poorer – while their children’s prospects have grown poorer still. The only growth sector has been food banks and illegal lockdown parties. We have all been diminished by this dog-whistling shower of populist knaves.

So Mrs Keegan, to answer your question: no, nobody ever says ‘you’ve done a f**king good job’ when you quite patently have not.   

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