Like most of you reading this article, my heart sank when I heard of Sir Tim Hunt’s defenestration. Yes, he was very hard done by, as Kathy Gygnell pointed out on these pages, but instead of outrage all I could muster was the feeling of ennui about the whole business. Yes, you can moan about the absurd overreaction; yes, you can condemn the hypocrisy of a society where there is a total lack of reciprocity, where only white males are found guilty in the politically correct court of opinion.
However, it is time we conservatives faced the truth: we have let Sir Tim and countless others like him down, and must bear our share of the responsibility. Cases as every bit as absurd as this one have been happening for 20 years and still we are no nearer any answers on how to even begin fighting the Kulturkampf, let alone win it.
A good deal of our problems stem from long term demographic changes: generations who have grown up in a land of material plenty are always going to be more socially liberal than those who have known genuine privation. However, it also stems from our own poor choice of friends, particularly an adamant refusal to recognise that, beyond the horizons of its own self-preservation, the Conservative Party has never been socially conservative.
Even today, far too many conservatives foolishly treat the party like an unfaithful husband who one day will see the error of his ways. A better analogy, in the words of the late Tory party historian and minister Alan Clark, is to liken the party to ‘a 400-year-old whore’, lying in any ideological bed it finds convenient. Sure, the party talked a good game down the years, largely for the consumption of its activist base at party conferences, but look at its actions and weep.
Defenders of the party point to the Thatcher years as proof that it can show ideological spine, but those times resulted from cardinal errors made in the old socialist left’s strategy: coming from a working class culture which saw life very much as a zero-sum game, radical elements within the trade union movement foolishly gave the Tories an existential choice: destroy us or we destroy you. Had the Left been slightly less hard line, Thatcherism would never have happened.
The modern metropolitan left is far, far more subtle: perfectly content to have the Tories in office, but not in power, at least when it comes to cultural matters. This, of course, is a very old revolutionary trick. In his book The Battle For Spain on the Spanish Civil War, the historian Anthony Beevor describes how it was deliberate Communist Party policy not to fill positions at the top level within the Republican cause, but to dominate positions in the second tier. The result was that the minority communists controlled policy without alarming the majority of non-communist socialists. In our own times and country, this tactic has proven especially effective when used on a Tory party always far more obsessed with its social status (i.e. office) than in ideological principles.
A ‘400-year-old whore’ doesn’t change her pox, and consequently the Left doesn’t fear any kind of committed conservative agenda emerging from the “Conservative” Party. What it does greatly fear, however, is the Tories being intimidated into following such an agenda due to the emergence of a socially conservative rival. We can trace the slow death of social conservatism in Britain back to the ascent of Roy Jenkins and the liberal left within the Labour Party 50 years ago, which in turn allowed the Tories to drop any serious commitment to it. Conversely, the rise of socially conservative Ukip terrifies the Left, which is why so much effort is made to demonise the party.
The ultimate moral of the story is that conservatives must never again align themselves with any one political party, and in particular learn to treat the Tories with the intense suspicion their actions down the decades plainly deserve. Instead, they must build a broad-based movement that can one day start to challenge the Left for cultural dominance. The good news is that you are reading a website that is part of that process.