THIS should be a golden age for conservatism. Brexit should have ushered in a truly socially conservative revolution. By allowing conservatives to build organically on Britain’s past traditions as a great maritime nation, it offered this country a unique escape route from the atrophy and decline of the western world. It should have been relatively easy to build a cultural narrative that was self-confident, can-do, generous, outward-looking, patriotic and inclusive of all. It did not happen.
Brexit was partially a consequence of ultra-liberalism’s many chickens coming home to roost, bringing with them a series of cascading instabilities seriously undermining social cohesion and economic calamity. Early indications that the liberal experiment was unravelling were the 2008 banking crisis and the 2011 riots, both consequences of years of ultra-liberal economic and social policies respectively. Of course, the metropolitan elites ignored the gathering storm clouds, and the economic stagnation and feral future of the knife crime epidemic they portended. You could go and on: about the rape gangs, Islamic terrorism, family breakdown, identity politics, the failures of diversity, about the fragility of global supply chains and our over-reliance on authoritarian China exposed by Covid-19. Liberalism, far from guaranteeing progress, has created a society both culturally unstable and economically moribund.
Suffice to say the case for rebuilding a more resilient, socially conservative society in terms of both culture and economics was there to be made, should anyone in politics have the courage to make it. Instead, as commentator Brendan O’Neill has observed, we stand in the midst of a Maoist iconoclasm, with young mobs demanding the tearing down statues and the erasure of Britain’s past.
Just a few short years after we voted for major change, how did it get so bad? How did the liberal-Left entrench its cultural dominance, and latterly become so very threatening? There are various theories, such as this fascinating essay by Ed West on ‘elite over-supply’. However, the salient fact is that for decades the Left have been pushing at an open door. They have received absolutely no opposition from the institution charged by its voters in supplying one, the so-called ‘Conservative Party’, which for many years hasn’t shown the slightest interest in cultural issues that surely should be absolutely smack bang central to any conservative party worthy of the name.
This blog has long argued that the reason is because Toryism is, in the main, a parasitic political tradition rather than a conservative one. Low agency and opportunistic, the party seeks only to acquire and then prolong its time in office, a goal that requires the careful husbandry of political capital. It thus much prefers to be derivative, to implement the settled ideas of the zeitgeist rather than its own principles or ideas. This is especially true when it comes to fighting the culture wars: because culture changes so slowly, there are few benefits in fighting for or against cultural change over the relatively short horizons of the electoral cycle, though the long-term consequences of not doing so are enormous. The intelligent Left noticed and realised that this was a mechanism by which society could be slowly but remorselessly transformed: it did not need to be in office to be in power, it just needed first to frame and then embed the necessary cultural narratives that the Tories would quickly judge too politically expensive to resist. The latest manifestation of this highly successful strategy is, of course, the rise of Black Lives Matter: a malignant combination of identity politics, anti-white racism and mob violence that the Tories have, predictably, been too timorous to oppose.
The major problem for the Tories is that ordinary people have noticed. Just as mass immigration made people sit up and take notice of the influence of the EU over our daily lives, the toppling of statues has finally brought to their attention the Kulturkampf that has been raging around us for decades. Boris Johnson, aka ‘the Bottler Blond’ is now surely in serious trouble: the patriotic working class will be especially disgusted by the disorder and destruction of their heritage, and smell Tory betrayal, reinforcing their still bitter memories of the Thatcher years. Lose that Red Wall now, and it is surely lost for ever.
The Tories are therefore highly vulnerable to a new ‘Revolt on the Right’
and the building of a new vehicle to channel the mainstream, patriotic instincts of the majority. Now, if only there was a brave, charismatic individual at hand, someone who could communicate effectively with ordinary people, with a track record of building mass movements and winning unlikely victories against all the odds, while defenestrating Tory leaders in the process.
Who could that be?