EVER since the Brexit referendum, many Brexiteers have been dumbfounded by the way that the true spirit of Brexit – understood in its widest sense to be about democratic and cultural renewal – was quickly dampened and subsumed into a much more narrow, technocratic project under its Tory inheritors. It became something just to ‘get done’, morphing into a fundamentally liberal project about trade deals with some vaguely defined but still unrealised economic liberalisation tacked on.
The emasculation of Brexit spoke to the moral bankruptcy of Toryism, the almost complete absence of conservative thought within the party. It was a once-in-a-century opportunity. How to reinvigorate the British story? How to give the country a new sense of itself? How to create a national narrative that married the best of our trading, buccaneering past with a bold vision for a self-confident future? This should have been conservatism’s hour. Instead, the reverse happened: what should have been a story of cultural rebirth was buried under the avalanche of an imported culture war.
Now that the abysmal Johnson has thankfully gone, the Tories are being granted a second chance they don’t deserve. However, looking at the dismal leadership race, few if any of the remaining candidates seem to want to complete Brexit even in a technocratic sense.
For the most part, the candidates represent the bland leading the bland. Starting with the men, first up is golden boy Rishi ‘Green Card’ Sunak, a guy so Metropolitan smooth he looks as if he has just stepped out of a Bryan Ferry video. His record as Chancellor suggests that even his economically liberal credentials are questionable, but his Californian aspirations and Goldman Sachs career hardly inspire confidence in any love for this country or deep-rooted conservatism. Tom Tugendhat, whose one claim to fame was to throw the great conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton under the bus – and now thankfully eliminated – never could have thought a reliable guardian of the conservative flame.
Then we have the first of the ladies, Liz Truss, a former Lib Dem who voted Remain. Although clearly highly intelligent she has the remarkable ability to sound exceptionally thick; to say her performances are wooden is quite frankly an insult to trees. Admittedly, she had an impressive record while at International Trade of signing trade deals, but there is nothing in her record to suggest anything more than she is more than another ambitious technocrat on the make.
Following her we have Penny Mordaunt. She represents the very worst instincts of Tory MPs, which explains why she has performed so strongly with them. The default setting of the Parliamentary Tory Party has always been career first, party second and country last, to go with the flow of left-wing ideas, cynically positioning the Tory Party just to the right of the Left in the knowledge that the base has nowhere else to go. Many shire Tories, worried at the Lib Dem threat to their blue-wall seats, are clearly highly tempted to side with this highly ambitious woke warrior who clearly utterly rejects any kind of cultural conservativism at all.
If so, they will live to regret such short horizons. Ms Mordaunt is a siren in appearance and a siren in her political nature. Her song may sound sweet to the good ship Tory now, but she will lure them – and the country – on to the rocks in no time flat. Remember how deeply demoralised the Tory Party membership became after Cameron (without a manifesto commitment) announced his policy of gay marriage? The ultra-woke, WEF Mordaunt would be Cameron on steroids, triggering a rapid exodus. More importantly, she would prove to be a cultural catastrophe for the country and profoundly alienating to women voters (who are more likely to vote and to be floating voters than men) with her transgender nonsense.
So far, so depressing, but now we come to the one exception to the rule, Kemi Badenoch, that rarest of creatures – a true conservative in the Conservative Party, the very antithesis of Penny Mordaunt. Badenoch really seems to get it. Despite some eager misreporting by the Guardian (that she was backing net zero in Tory leadership climate U-turn) she has in fact doubled down on her warning that Net Zero is a threat to the economy and that she would rather delay Net Zero than allow the nation to be bankrupted. Unlike all the other candidates she’s understood that because ultimately all politics and economics is downstream of culture, that the culture wars have to be won, and won now. In a better world it wouldn’t matter that she is a black woman, but unfortunately the woke Left has made such things matter: her undoubted intellectual ability, honesty and communication skills combined with her ethnic background and sex are priceless assets in winning the culture war if the deeply damaged West has any hope of survival. A Badenoch Premiership would be a beacon of light not just to this country but the entire Anglo-Saxon world in desperate need of cultural confidence and leadership.
The instinct of Tory MPs will be not to risk it, to take the easy option, to go with the flow of history and embrace wokery in return for office. If so, they will be signing the death warrant for both their party and their country: conservative-minded voters, already far more angry with the Tory Party – and far more clued into the importance of cultural issues – than Tory MPs seem to understand, simply won’t forgive yet another betrayal.
After screwing up the ‘unfrozen moment’ of Brexit, Tory MPs have been given a second and final chance. So go on, all you MPs, show us for once the better angels of your nature. Take a chance and propel Badenoch into the final two, and by so doing give both your party and your country a fighting, and final, chance of redemption.