Most regular readers of TCW can stop now. You have almost certainly read what follows before, perhaps more than once. Instead, this blog is aimed at those poor deluded souls who found themselves genuinely disappointed at Osborne’s screeching U-turn in the Autumn statement. To be fair, you are in good company, with most of the conservatively-minded commentariat expressing thoughts in a similar vein: why, they ask, with the Opposition as weak as it has ever been in living memory, and a full parliamentary term ahead, didn’t Osborne stick to his guns and use this opportunity radically to reform the State in line with conservative principles?
Because the Conservative Party isn’t conservative, that’s why. It is, and pretty much always has been, a parasitical institution whose sole ambition is to stand at the social apex of the society it professes to serve. Like any parasite its interest in its host’s welfare is restricted to keeping it alive, and consequently its ambitions for the country are few.
To those of us who long ago gave up on the Tories, by far the most disappointing thing about this whole affair is that so many others continue to confess to their disappointment in them. That means, of course, that they still hold out hope, against all the evidence, that the party is a different beast than it actually is.
This matters hugely. The primary reason why the broader conservative movement has, let’s face it, been so completely routed by the Metropolitan Left in the culture wars these past 50 years or so is that it continued to place its faith in a party that it fundamentally misunderstands. The Liberal-Left, as distinct from the old socialist Corbynite variety, understood a long time ago that the “Conservative” party is fundamentally a Vicar Of Bray, primarily obsessed with social status rather than power. Ergo, it was perfectly possible to get your agenda implemented by a Tory government, as long as you could build a convincing narrative that in doing so the party would continue in high office – and so it has proved.
Too many conservative commentators refuse to see this truth, and waste huge amounts of effort in the doomed belief that they convince the Tories through the intellectual or moral force of their arguments. Likewise, too many good conservatives stubbornly persist in believing that the party can be transformed from within, whereas in reality they end up being quietly neutered, sidelined and ignored. As distasteful as it is to say it, the Tory Party responds best to threats, bullying and intimidation from without: who believes, for example, that we would be having a referendum on the EU if it wasn’t for the perceived threat from Ukip? The influence of principled Conservative Eurosceptics operating within the party for decades has been minimal in comparison.
It is said that hatred is not the opposite of love, but apathy is. Ironically, only once the majority of conservatively-minded pundits and commentators cease to be disappointed in the Tories, and instead express a shoulder-shrugging disdain, that hope for the broader conservative movement will appear on the horizon.