Who are these people?
Sunday, May 06, 2018
After my teenage flirtation with Maoism, I became Chairman of my Conservative Association at University and I remained a member until Margaret Thatcher was betrayed. I was not a "Tory" but a Thatcherite and was as utterly out of place in its ranks as she was (though she, impressively, was such a force of Nature that she wasn't aware of it). We didn't just think Socialism was a bad idea promoted by kindly fools. We thought it was an evil and destructive doctrine; a threat not just to prosperity (a point we didn't even need to make in those days, with trash and corpses piling up in Britain and the Soviet Union in evident collapse) but to freedom. We didn't apologise for capitalism and free markets. We loved them, while rigorously distinguishing between capitalism and capitalists and between markets and the people trading in them. We knew that what capitalists, business-people and socialists had in common was that they were human and therefore prone to lie, cheat and steal if given the chance. Deregulation and privatisation were designed precisely to deny them that chance by promoting more of the only thing that can keep homo economicus virtuous – competition.
How very unlike most Tories we were in that respect. Their stance was more that of a well-meaning but stupid vicar in a village full of social and economic problems. They condescendingly assumed ordinary folk can't take care of themselves. They were far too inclined to treat voters as children to be directed, protected and bribed with little "treats", rather than as adults free to make (or break) their own lives. In talking down to voters, they conspired with Labour (which openly and honestly sees people as mindless drones to be directed by the Guardian-reading "woke") to turn elections into corrupt and despicable "benefits auctions"; a destructive game Labour is usually bound to win. They were also inclined to "Buy local" economic parochialism. A Thatcherite doesn't give a damn who supplies goods as long as consumers get what they want. A Tory thinks the companies that fund his election campaign and employ his voters should be protected from nasty foreign competition and is therefore far too ready to be swayed by old Gerald down at the golf club into agreeing to raise barriers to market entry over a glass of electric soup. Or by old Den to temporarily nationalise the company his board has brought to ruin. Wet Toryism does more harm to economic competition than Socialism's open enmity to it.
Such Tories are every bit as much to blame for Britain's failure to fulfil its potential and for the decline in its citizens' freedoms as Labour. I am inclined to hate them more for it because of the way they "wave the Red Flag to oppose the Red Flag"; naming their child "Liberty" while selling freedom out at every opportunity. At least Labour is open about wanting to enslave you – "for your own good", of course. Tories incrementally rob you of your liberty while haw-hawing about freedom. Yes, Labour usually first proposes all the worst ideas but Tories fret, pander and make unprincipled compromises where they should fiercely oppose. Worse, they fail to make positive, principled proposals, leaving Labour to set a cretinous agenda. They are, as the Left calls them, "reactionaries" and I loathe them for it.
So, once these Tory "pragmatists" (their euphemism for "unprincipled shits") took back control of their Party from "that bloody woman", there was no place in it for me. Besides, with Tony Blair falsely but plausibly presenting himself as her heir, it seemed back in the 90s that the final battle against that insanely destructive doctrine was won. It took first John Major's assault on the presumption of innocence and Tony Blair's assault on habeas corpus to make me realise that the battle for freedom never ends. With that dark, slow realisation came a scary appreciation – doing business in two Continental European countries mainly with citizens of the others – that the "Social Chapter" of the acquis communautaire meant that, while the spectre of Communism may have been exorcised from Europe, the zombie of Socialism still walked. All this, while working cheerfully on helping my clients to rebuild East European economies it had wrecked.
There was little that I could do from a distance except blog. It never occurred to me to rejoin the Conservative Party. Stung by its betrayal and more aware of its true nature than most of its political opponents I probably hated it even more than the most partisan of my Labour relatives up North. I changed my mind after the EU Referendum result. The Party had been run (and its membership had been declining) for years on the assumption that its EU sceptical grassroots were simply out of touch with popular opinion. Suddenly the metropolitan liberals discovered that it was they who were the "swivel-eyed loons" on this subject. I felt that without the divisions about the EU (now far greater in the Labour Party) and with the inevitable return to the fold of UKIP voters, there was an epochal opportunity for the Conservatives to become once more the "natural party of government" in an essentially conservative nation. I wanted to support the Daniel Hannan classical liberal faction within the Party as it (I hoped) took control.
I have been disappointed so far. The nature of the beast is still just as I remembered it and Theresa May – possessor of a second-rate mind untroubled by principle - is its archetype. I was a Conservative Party counting agent at my local authority elections this week and spent a few hours in the dejected company of candidates and volunteers in a solidly Labour London Borough. My impression was of a Party that sees Labour as the engine and itself as the brakes. Or perhaps more kindly Labour as the arsonists and itself as the Fire Brigade. No Marxist ever subscribed so thoroughly to his doctrine of "historical inevitability" as these people. A consumer regulator might usefully force both parties to change their names to the "Let's Fuck it Up" and the "Let's Fuck it Up More Slowly" Parties. The only encouragement I took from the evening was when I wandered off and mooched around the Labourites. My God, what an unappealing bunch they are, at least in London.
The Trotskyite takeover of Momentum/Labour still offers an opportunity. So many young people have lost interest in practical politics because their votes really don't make a difference. The muzzle is off Labour's rabid hounds and as the recent elections showed, the voters don't like it that much. Where the Momentum push was hardest, the voters responded worst. If the technology existed to clone Owen Jones and Eddie Izzard so as to put one of each on every Labour voter's doorstep, the Conservatives could just stay home and prepare for government. More practically, I can't help but feel that there's an argument for the Conservatives to offer voters the first principled choice since Thatcher was deposed – so that our votes really do matter next time, as they always should.
What say you, gentles all? Should they? Can they? Will they?
"Theresa May – possessor of a second-rate mind untroubled by principle"
Posted by: James Higham | Tuesday, May 08, 2018 at 12:14 PM
Nil desperandum old chap. Margaret was too modest to agree with the Marcus Aurelius comparison and too human not to enjoy it anyway. She erred as we all do; taking on the irrelevant miners, for example, rather than the much more dangerous university lecturers. She was no superhero. There are many who could do the job if only they had courage and principles. Or were as blind to the obstacles as she was. I have known several people who succeeded in their fields because they were (as others saw it) “too stupid” to see that it couldn’t be done. Intelligence is wasted if it only makes people so aware of obstacles that they never venture.
Posted by: Tom | Monday, May 07, 2018 at 09:47 AM
The Conservative party had their Marcus Aurelius time with Thatcher and like Rome it has been downhill ever since for the Conservatives and the UK. After Aurelius Rome got Commodus, the UK got Blair, Brown, Cameron, May and next no doubt Corbyn. The US had their Aurelius as well, Reagan and then what did it get? Well Obama comes to mind(if you believe that he will have been the worst and that no one worse can come along, think again) and the feeling that that once great country is racing rapidly towards its demise. The rest of the West in no better condition as one blundering leader and stupid progressive and socialist policy follows another. The level of decadence, corruption, greedy self interest, arrogance and and paucity of intellect and wit is pretty much the same as well.
Posted by: Epíkouros | Monday, May 07, 2018 at 09:16 AM
The Party’s membership is so small now that it might be possible to use entryism to take it back for actual Conservatives. The problem is that it’s more a fan club for the current leader than a real party. The Conference is a staged rally with no more dissent than might be found in the sociology department of a third rate “university”. There’s no policy input from the grassroots members who, dispirited as they are, are still despised as useful idiots by the career politicians they work for. Yet there is a movement underway throughout the West to defend its values, as evidenced by Professor Peterson for example, whom I am going to hear speak in London soon. A real Conservative or Liberal Party could ride that wave.
Posted by: Tom | Monday, May 07, 2018 at 09:02 AM
An elegant dissection of the Labour / Conservative divide (or lack of one), and the existence of the real "Third Way" - Thatcherism.
Like you, I was a member of the Conservative Party, though completely committed to the vision of Thatcherism. I quit after Lady T was ousted and I could see what Major was making of the principles that had (in my view) made the Thatcher years hopeful ones for this nation. The subsequent scrambles by various Conservative big beasts to lead (all doomed) were unseemly and the prompt for an every man for himself display of ambition; mostly by people who seemed to me to want the leadership because, er, well, er, when it came down to it, they just wanted the leadership.
I had my differences with some elements of Lady T's premiership. The sale of Council houses was absolutely right (despite having been in the Labour Party manifesto in 1959!); what she got very wrong was the massive discounting of prices in exchange for years of paying rent, as though the rent hadn't actually been there to fund maintenance and repairs, and in exchange for security of tenure. And of course, for being able to have a dwelling which would keep the weather on the outside when it wasn't sunny. Rightly or wrongly, I still believe that those discounts fueled the progress of housing in the UK from being a place to live, to a place to invest in within a benign tax structure.
That aside, the clarity of her vision and the strength of her principles is something we desperately need now in the shameful and shaming dealings with the EU. Should I re-join the Conservative Party? No. That Party doesn't exist in a form I recognise any more. It has no answer to the Socialists, who aid and abet every self-proclaimed victim group they can find and make tailored promises about how (if we just had a nice, cuddly Corbyn Government) they'd receive blessing and support and rights and giveaways by right of law. Gordon Brown and British Steel, all over again... but somehow more sinister.
I comment as "formertory" in almost all the few places I comment at all; the loss of the Conservative Party's principles and values is the reason I chose the name.
Posted by: MarkC | Monday, May 07, 2018 at 07:53 AM
Thanks. I’ve corrected the spelling. I’m not sure I want the Tories in business, but a conservative nation needs a genuinely conservative Conservative Party. And not just for fear of the likes of Corbyn.
Posted by: Tom | Monday, May 07, 2018 at 07:11 AM
It's Theresa May, not Teresa. Otherwise spot on. After Brexit it will only be the fear of Corbyn's mob keeping the Tories in business.
Posted by: Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist | Sunday, May 06, 2018 at 09:13 PM