The left-ward drift of Britain’s Conservative Party is set to continue, if the harbingers of the country’s so-called ‘right wing’ are heeded by the Prime Minister. Today’s call by the Spectator’s editor Fraser Nelson describes how David Cameron should lurch left in order to combat the populist, left-wing appeal of Labour’s leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn, should he be crowned victor tomorrow.
Nelson, who has presided over the Spectator magazine’s day-to-day operation since 2009, aided by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, wrote in the Telegraph today:
“Labour is not just running off to the Left, but running away from its core voters. The Tories must now run towards them.”
Surprised? Don’t be. Like most Tories it is now party-before-country at the Spectator and its sister paper, the Telegraph. It’s the whole ‘absorb as many votes as possible, regardless what you have to say or previously stood for’ attitude. The very same one that created and perpetuates the notion of a political establishment. Not “move the middle to you” as Thatcher encouraged. But move to the middle. Which of course nowadays, is increasingly the political left.
I often hear in reaction to this, from the most deeply entrenched Tory activists who still, believe it or not, approach me at Westminster pubs: “But Raheem… ugh… you just… don’t… get it!” They smirk, sip from their poncy craft lager, and proceed to “teach” me that “If we get more voters, we can then do what we want in government without worrying about coalition, or a majority in Parliament!”
“Wow. How novel. I’ve never heard that before.” I think I’m smiling and nodding in my reply. But I’m probably screaming or pulling my hair out. Or theirs.
You see if it were true, which it isn’t, that once the Tory Party obtained a majority it tacked right, I might have some sympathy for this view. Not a lot, mind you, but some.
But the reality is that even with this Tory majority, the liberals are still in charge of the party and the news outlets that it so heavily briefs.
No number of 20-somethings swilling plonk, pounding their dining tables, shouting, “Sound!” at old Thatcher speeches they scarcely understand will change that. So real right wingers need to stop campaigning for the Tory Party altogether. Remove your support. Cancel your membership. Go on holiday in October instead of up to Manchester or Birmingham for another Groundhog Day conference.
Only then will the Blairites and Cameroons learn that they cannot keep selling out conservatism without consequence.
It pained me greatly, watching from afar as young conservatives I know boarded “Battle Buses” and parrotted the Conservative Party line instead of saying, “No. I won’t campaign for that.” Thousands of the party’s grassroots activists – people far wiser than the young Tory base, had already withdrawn their support. That’s precisely why the Conservative Party had to rely on bussing activists around the country, rather than the branch network of members that it had traditionally relied upon.
And there’s also something deeply disingenous and scornful towards the electorate about claiming that you’ll campaign for something, lurch to the left, or into the ground as the Conservative Party truly is – and then saying that you’ll actually do the complete opposite once a majority, or a coalition is not a problem anymore. It smacks of, well, politics. Not conviction, not belief, not putting the country and what you know to be best for it before the interests of your political party.
Fraser Nelson knows better than the centrist, wishy-washy views he claims the Tories should now court. As an editor, he also knows how easy it is to change hearts and minds if you really have the will.
And ask Ben Harris-Quinney wrote for Breitbart London yesterday, Nelson has fallen into the trap of thinking that the difference between conservative philosophy and socialism is 5 per cent of income tax.
Nelson tries to justify it: “David Cameron does not need to adopt genuinely damaging Labour policies. He just need to highlight how his own ones are working – conservative means, but progressive ends.”
Well this doesn’t tally, unless all he’s talking about is a successful advertising campaign. In which case Nelson might want to reconsider having written such a redundant article at all.
It was “Mr Conservative” Barry Goldwater who said, in the opening paragraphs of the Conscience of a Conservative:
I have been much concerned that so many people today with Conservative instincts feel compelled to apologize for them. Or if not to apologize directly, to qualify their commitment in a way that amounts to breast-beating.
“Republican candi-dates,” Vice President Nixon has said, “should be economic conservatives, but conservatives with a heart.” President Eisenhower announced during his first term, “I am a conservative when it comes to economic problems but liberal when it comes to human problems.”
Still other Republican leaders have insisted on calling themselves “progressive” Conservatives*.
These formulations are tantamount to an admission that Conservatism is a narrow, mechanistic economic theory that may work very well as a bookkeeper’s guide, but cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive political philosophy.
And his footnote about progressive conservatives is even better:
* This is a strange label indeed: it implies that “ordinary” Conservatism is opposed to progress. Have we forgotten that America made its greatest progress when Conservative principles were honored and preserved.
And sure enough, before you could even make it up, Nelson’s essay concludes: “[Theresa May] highlighted how people are being kept in servitude in today’s Britain, with the police failing to recognise victims and lacking the powers or incentives to prosecute slave masters. Her remedy was the Modern Slavery Act, a triumph of modern progressive conservatism.”
Now I’m not saying that campaigning against “modern slavery” – as the establishment has chosen to Orwellianly describe the utterly predictable human trafficking outcome of multiculturalism – is a poor thing to do. All I’m saying is, that this has nothing to do with “progressivism” as a philosophy, and everything to do with conservatism. There’s no need, and in fact it harms our movement, as Mr Goldwater noted, to adopt the language of the left to sell the idea that human beings are sovereign and should not be slaves.
For as long as we on the right are willing to hand over the territory of “progress” to the left, and seek to talk about these issues on their terms, then we will always struggle to win elections, public support, and stick to our principles. After all, if the numbers are to be believed, then the Tories lost at least twice as many voters to UKIP at the General Election as Labour did. And imagine what the House of Commons would look like today had the Tories stayed right after Thatcher, pre-empted the rise of UKIP, and stuck to its guns on Europe, same-sex marriage, and more.
I would have thought that winning the election by four million votes or more rather than by fewer than two million, and 25 seats rather than 12, is slightly more appealing.