The Tory battle begins, so we’re told. Whatever it is – another leadership damp squib by all accounts – it’s certainly not for its soul. It is not a battle for Toryism, high or liberal, let alone for one-nation conservatism.
This week's cover: Bang! The Tory battle begins pic.twitter.com/2j8MZeLgQs
— The Spectator (@spectator) September 12, 2018
Those in the party who still understand what those terms stand for have long since run scared. The best we got last week was a bit of posturing on tax cuts from Boris, ‘shock and awe’ tax cut dreams plus deregulation from Sajid and a free market plea from ‘remainer’ and child-care interventionist Sam Gyimah. None paints a picture of the smaller state that would be needed to enable their aspirations. None tells us how this will add up, how their new economic liberalism will sit with the socially liberal society we are, one that’s outsourced its moral responsibility to the State. Perhaps they don’t care. They appear to have forgotten altogether that low taxation depends on a small state or that for the last 15 years they’ve been rushing helter skelter down a social engineering and state intervention track – fruitless and damaging though it’s been.
Their contempt for social conservatism has been palpable. They watched as the family came under attack from the Left. First they bowed to feminist demands, later they took the lead. Under David Cameron and Theresa May, they’ve executed a triple whammy: escalating the transfer of financial benefits through the tax system from the responsible – married couples – to the irresponsible, rights-entitled singles and lone parents; removing marriage’s very meaning with the gay marriage act; and waging war on motherhood. With an interventionist daycare and workplace ‘gender parity’ programme, they have done their best to destroy relations between the sexes as well as the interdependency that sustains responsible parenting. Finally, as a logical consequence of the rights-driven Equalities Act, they’ve engaged in the most potentially revolutionary act to date – promising gender self identification legislation, a lunacy that could have been taken straight from a neo-Trotskyite’s struggle for State power handbook.
David Davies MP (Monmouthshire) alone has stood out against this dangerous agenda. Tory MPs taking a public stand against the government’s new identity politics and hate crime agenda generally can be counted on one hand – Christopher Chope and Philip Davies are two.
Britain’s flirtation with Marxism is indeed a crisis of the Conservatives’ making. They have, as Allister Heath observes, spent 15 years surrendering to the Left in political, economic and cultural terms.
Except it’s hardly been a surrender, more a deliberate calculation. After a trio of failed leaders (Hague, Duncan Smith, Howard) Tory High Command decided the problem was conservatism itself; that being perceived to be ‘modern’ was key to party survival. Rejecting social conservatism in favour of social liberalism was hardly a hardship for the new metro-sexual Tory elite.
This generation of Tories was already versed in the ideology in inequality. Like the Left, they viewed the collateral damage of social liberalism through a prism of inequality (rather than as a result of the renunciation of responsibility) and which they saw as the State’s job to rectify. Any debate about morality, about what is good for us, about what it means when we give away our duties and obligations to the government and State, or when they take them over – in terms of consequences and costs – was anathema.
From actively rejecting Burkean ‘conservation’ principles in favour of equality doctrines it has been but a short step for ‘modern’ Tories to take on the post-modern, morally relative perspective of the Left too, and to buy into the destructive and warped culture of repudiation described here, and demonstrated so venally elsewhere by the likes of Banjo TV and Afua Hirsch.
This sees the West’s history solely in negative and exploitative terms, arguing falsely that its claims of freedom and prosperity are nothing more than empty promises that do not meet the needs of humanity; that truth is relative and up to each individual to determine for himself (as dictated by the identity group he’s in); that nationalism is bigoted and builds walls, makes enemies, while capitalism creates a ‘have and have not’ society, and destroys Mother Earth.
In all this the Conservative Party has collaborated. From positively encouraging David Lammy’s ‘victim’ and resentment-driven identity politics, despite devastating critiques of this phoney race war, to bankrolling the hard-Left in their takeover of our universities through a feckless student-loan and debt-forgiveness policy, an example of the worst sort of fake ‘free market’ intervention.
Nor is ‘surrender’ the word to describe Mrs May’s own calculated oikophobia. Since accusing her own party of being nasty, she has used her time in office to audit and endorse each and every victim claim, from women to the mentally ill, promising State aid for all. Nothing could be more antithetical to the exercise of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, or to the socially conservative values they represent.
When was the last Conservative MP to talk about our common moral purpose in conservative terms? When did you hear a Conservative politician attack the proposition that people need to be identified by group and the social fragmentation this leads to; how this does not equate to the individualism of a free society, rather with a new totalitarianism?
How can Ministers demand the Party ‘celebrate openness’, welcome the ‘best and brightest to the UK’, and ‘speak out more in support of the free market and capitalism’ at the same time as demanding that British companies ‘undergo a “genuine culture change” to get rid of alpha males and promote women’ in the name of those very identity politics.
Can’t they see the contradiction? How can pushing aside alpha males by law be compatible with free market principles or conducive to free enterprise?
What surrender? Conservatives have been pro-active, actively seeking to outflank Labour. It’s Labour feminists who are putting up warning signals about transgenderism. Maria Miller, Justine Greening and Mrs May are pushing it forward.
The Conservatives could have set out a stall for genuine freedom and responsibility calling out Tony Blair’s colonisation of the so called centre-ground for what it was – a con trick which meant a lot more state intervention and control. Instead the Tory modernisers mistook Marxism for modernity and leapt on the social engineering bandwagon themselves. Some think they still have further to go. As for that one necessary bulwark against cultural totalitarianism – the family, they’ve taken Labour’s long march through the institutions right up to its front door, laying waste to the private sphere en route. You really couldn’t make it up.
So how can the modern Conservative Party possibly sketch out a version of inclusive individualistic Britishness, campaign for free markets, individual liberty and responsibility and a property-owning democracy? Not until they face the fact they’ve been doing their best to destroy it.