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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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A different conservatism

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THE right has made significant gains in the European elections. Sorry, I must correct that: according to our media the ‘far right’ and the ‘hard right’, even sometimes the ‘neo-fascist right’, has made significant gains in the European elections.

It is important for the establishment media to keep the dependent masses afraid of the populist European right. If the media insist on calling them ‘far right’, many middle-of-the-road voters will dismiss them out of hand as Nazi wannabes. This, of course, serves to reinforce the crumbling liberal order, which is the whole point.

Just how ‘far right’ are these insurgent national conservative parties? Marine Le Pen’s National Rally has two main policies which distinguish it from the establishment parties in France and the rest of Europe, including the UK. These are stopping uncontrolled immigration and extinguishing the influence of radical Islamist ideologues and their networks. If, like the establishment, you refuse to recognise that these are major concerns of a significant proportion of Europeans, you are living in a self-deluding bubble. Most Britons would endorse these policies in a heartbeat.

As for the rest of National Rally’s platform, it is utterly conventional with everyday policies which would be endorsed by conservatives everywhere. Tax incentives to boost industry, lower taxes on energy products, greater defence spending, re-vitalising France’s nuclear energy programme, getting tough on crime. It is highly likely that if Marine Le Pen were to gain power she would prove no more ‘far right’ than Georgia Meloni has proved in Italy.

If we look at the policies of Reform UK we find the same thing. Their policies are conventionally conservative. Raising the income tax threshold and lowering VAT, banning the teaching of gender ideology and critical race theory in schools, increasing defence spending, speeding up clean nuclear energy; none of this is ‘far right’ despite media assertions. Reform even plan on the left-wing move of nationalising utility companies.

Of course there are two points of contention the establishment cannot tolerate. Reform, like other populist parties in Europe, wish to stringently control legal immigration and totally halt illegal immigration, and they wish to roll back the obsession with Net Zero and green energy subsidies.

I am no supporter of Reform, yet I am considering giving them my vote. I cannot, however, give them whole-hearted support. It has grassroots appeal without grassroots presence. Reform has no party structure with local branches giving it internal democracy with the flow of information in both directions. It is very much top down with its charismatic leader Nigel Farage acting as though Reform is his personal fiefdom. The previous candidate for Clacton was unceremoniously dumped so that Farage can stand in a winnable seat, and previous leader Richard Tice was informed at a moment’s notice that he and Farage would be swapping roles.

Yet, as Andrew Cadman notes, ‘it currently looks best placed to act as a battering ram to prise open the system’. Reform will never be the national conservative movement we need, but it may pave the way for one. The question which must be worked on before it is needed is: What will this national conservatism look like?

It cannot be the shallow conservatism of the centre-right parties such as the Conservative Party which, lacking roots, has lurched from Thatcherite free markets and family values to David Cameron’s ‘heir to Blair’ social liberal promotion of same-sex marriage ‘because I’m a conservative’. To be a lasting influence on the country, national conservatism must have deep ideological roots if it is to withstand the buffeting it will receive. Those roots can only be Christian roots.

National conservatism must be built on an organic conception of society. The UK cannot be insular and xenophobic residing in splendid isolation, but rather see itself as part of a free Europe understood as a single Christian civilisation made up of many independent co-operating nations with their own distinct languages and customs which are not only recognised but valued and fostered. The UK can, and should, play a part in the cultures and politics of Europe without being bound into a stifling bureaucratic monolith.

The constitution of the EU deliberately makes no mention of the formative influence of Christianity in Europe. This is more than merely a political decision to placate secularists and other religions: the omission gives the EU the freedom to go its own way.  Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán argues: ‘The European Union rejects Christian heritage, it is managing population replacement through migration, and it is waging an LGBTQ offensive against family-friendly European nations.’ Without a Christian basis, political entities are free to do whatever they wish. This has led to what Orbán describes as an ‘unaccountable empire’.

Valuing the protections of a Christian heritage is not just the position of Christians. There are many non-believers, like historian Niall Ferguson, who are aware enough to argue for the importance of Christendom: ‘I’m a big believer that with the inherited wisdom of a two-millennia old religion, we’ve got a pretty good framework to work with.’ Roger Scruton considered that Christianity was in many ways the soul of Western civilisation, and that the uniquely Christian concept of forgiveness was utterly indispensable to its survival. Matthew Parris argues that human rights are neither fundamental nor unalienable without a Christian foundation. Douglas Murray refers to himself as a ‘Christian atheist’ and believes that Christianity is essential because secularists have been utterly incapable of creating an ethic of equality that matches the concept that all human beings are created in the image of God.

All other national conservative policies can stem from this Christian foundation. Our understanding of the family, the protection of the individual from the womb to the end, the formation of a holistic education policy, the way in which we view welfare and taxation, our relationship with the environment; all these and more can emerge from a Christian understanding of reality. We may be at the beginning of a new Europe: it could be our last chance to be a Christian Europe.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jackhttp://www.agrainofsand.co.uk/
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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