With the election of a new Labour leader less than a month away, many of the party faithful are contemplating the prospect of a victorious Jeremy Corbyn leading them into the political wilderness, sparking memories of Michael Foot in his donkey jacket, Neil Kinnock falling in the sea and years of agonising defeat.
Then again, what did they expect to happen? If your political movement defines itself against the ‘evil’ of conservatism, don’t be surprised if your supporters flee leftwards in search of the moral high ground. And when the Conservative government is as wet as this one, they don’t have to flee far before the likes of Corbyn start looking like leadership material.
Make no mistake, this isn’t the Left’s UKIP moment. The Labourites flocking to Corbyn aren’t just kicking against fudge and compromise within the party; they’re simply aligning themselves with a social culture that is already some way Left of the mainstream. Corbyn isn’t exploring uncharted territory, he’s merely advocating ideas that are well-established in the media, academia and the public sector, and which already exert a powerful hold over society.
Those ideas were around in the Eighties and early Nineties, when the Tories were in power and beating Labour for fun. People lived the benefits of free-market reform, but did so under an unrelenting barrage of political correctness, leftist propaganda and progressive myth-making. Conservatives of the time failed to confront this culture and the result was not just thirteen years of New Labour, but a set of ingrained values that continue to dictate the bounds of acceptable opinion.
Consider the job conservatives have arguing the case for free markets, despite decades of evidence in their favour. You can present hard historical proof that people are better off under capitalism and you’ll still be a baby-eating bastard. Meanwhile, some left-wing economist shows how an elephant can hang from a cliff with its tail tied to a daisy and the liberal establishment wets its pants with delight and hails him as a genius.
Consider, too, immigration. Thirty years ago, there was a cross-party consensus on the need for robust controls to protect the interests of the British people. But advocate anything less than an open-door policy nowadays and respectable opinion has you pegged as a racist – not because public opinion has shifted, but because the cultural elite and its social media foot soldiers have put all contrary opinions off-limits.
Not all erroneous thoughts are illegal, of course, but that would have been of little consolation to Professor Sir Tim Hunt, whose harmless remarks about falling in love with girls in the lab provoked such vile abuse that he stood down from his university position. Maybe he jumped before he was pushed, but either way, who could blame him for not wanting to endure the wrath of the mob a moment longer?
This is the fate that increasingly befalls anyone who doesn’t kowtow to the narrative that says the world is run by wealthy white guys, who exploit and oppress everyone else for sport. There are so many comforting assumptions in this worldview, so much scope for self-righteous posturing and so many opportunities for personal gain, that it has become a popular article of faith. And even where it isn’t enshrined into law, the price of heresy is so great that many people figure it’s not worth the trouble.
Despite all this, a lot of Tories imagine they are in the middle of a conservative revolution, and that a Corbyn victory would buy them time to see it through. But there’s nothing revolutionary about what they’re up to, unless it’s viewed from a left-wing perspective. Which it is, of course, because the Tories are as much victims of the dominant culture as anyone else. So they spend and nanny like New Labour in its pomp, plot to keep us in the EU, pander to feministas, race hustlers, eco-fabulists and PC enforcers, then kid themselves that they’re overseeing something authentically conservative.
Things might be worse with a Corbyn-led Labour in opposition. The culture could slide leftwards and the Conservatives could slide with it. It happened before, after all. At the time Margaret Thatcher became Tory leader, the Conservatives shared many of the Left’s policies and assumptions, and it was only her boldness and bloodymindedness that brought the party and the country back from the brink.
So how about this government follows her example and does something radical in defiance of a culture that will hate them either way? Slash taxes, shrivel bureaucracy, scrap green subsidies, privatise the NHS, abolish the minimum wage, cut the BBC loose, repeal the hate crime laws, and stop sucking up to savages at home and abroad.
That’s how conservatives should take on the cultural consensus: by sticking up two fingers to it and hobbling the institutions that give it legitimacy. Who cares if it has the Left up in arms? In fact, the more the big state fanboys and identity politics crowd are offended, the better.
Labour governments routinely make fundamental changes to society, dress them up as moral and practical necessities, treat what didn’t exist the day before yesterday as immutable facts of life, then dare conservatives to say otherwise. And for too long, the Tories have played along. It’s time to push back.