SOMETIMES, well most of the time, one despairs of the Right-wing commentariat. Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s key adviser, has the effrontery to complain in the Telegraph that the Tories are losing the culture war.
He writes: ‘Conservatives can pretend these cultural battles are not happening. But if they want to win them, they will have to face up to the reality that they must replace the legal frameworks established by their opponents. Unless and until they take on this legacy of Blair and Brown, they are destined to go on losing.’
This from the man who foisted upon us Theresa May, a strong enthusiast for divisive identity politics.
Does he actually believe this stuff? I don’t mean his ideas on this occasion – he could well be right – but that the Tories would be in any way interested in pursuing such matters, or leading through any kind of conviction generally?
Meanwhile back in the real world, Tim Shipman reports in The Times that the Government is practising ‘followship’ rather than leadership on Covid-19, being led by the nose by data-driven polling.
This is denied, of course, but it follows several previous reports that Covid-19 policy is being shaped by timorous attitudes in Red Wall constituencies the Conservatives are desperate to retain. We cannot know, but it certainly has the ring of truth about it. If true, for the sake of Tory fortunes the whole country is being sacrificed.
The plain fact is that the culture we conservatives have to worry about most is Tory culture: The Tories are simply not that much interested in ideas. Despite its impressive roll call of Oxbridge firsts, the party is what Sherelle Jacobs calls ‘professionally mediocre’.
Intellectually, it is a party of alpha brains but beta minds, permanently stuck in the Disraelian attitude of ‘Tory men and Whig measures’, namely that ideas are naturally the preserve of the Left and it is the job of the Tory to implement them in a practical, non-zealous manner.
This is why the Government seems so stuck in a time warp and so depressingly derivative. All this is happening at a time when conservative thought has been fizzing with big epoch-defining ideas both here and internationally: Brexit and the emergence of the Anglosphere; the exciting and increasingly successful pro-family policies of Hungary as an alternative to mass immigration; the powerful push back on Identitarian politics by towering intellects such as Professor Jordan Peterson and Douglas Murray; the need, especially obvious post-Covid, to create a more resilient society in the wake of serial Liberal catastrophes.
To say that all this is both disappointing and immensely frustrating to conservatives is to put it mildly, but it is not at all surprising: I have long argued in TCW that the current system gives the Left huge built-in advantages, and to win, conservativism must fully decouple itself from Toryism.
Given how difficult it is to displace the big two parties, the best mechanism to do so would be to campaign for the implementation of a Swiss-style hybrid system of parliamentary democracy and direct democracy, including right of recall.
In terms of public opinion, people could well be receptive to the idea: Despite the torture of Brexit, referendums have been an increasing feature of our democracy in the past few years after all, and gave people who long felt forgotten by the elites a feeling of real power.
All very well, you say, but why would any big party support such a huge constitutional innovation? After its experience with the EU referendum (the only time, notably that the Left has suffered serious defeat in 30 years), our new Left-wing elites would of course be implacably opposed.
That leaves the Tories – why on Earth would they support it? It would, after all, increase the insecurity of office and lower the social status of politicians, both of enormous importance to Tory MPs.
However, it would also come at a huge advantage: It would fit the true culture of Toryism perfectly. Rather than pretending to be a Right-wing party with genuine conservative beliefs it is plainly uneasy being associated with, the Tories could concentrate on what they do best – acting as elected civil servants, merely occupying office and implementing the ideas of others.
Let Conservatives and Liberals and the rest of the riff-raff slug it out via petitioned referendums while the Parliamentary Tory Party sits aloof and above the vulgarian fray, no longer pretending to care very much either way. Tory men, the people’s measures.