Modern conservatism is facing an existential crisis, says David Hardy. To find its way once more Conservatives everywhere must challenge the orthodoxy of the liberal left rather than succumbing to it.
The unveiling of the Conservative’s data on race this week could prove to be a seminal moment for the modern party, but perhaps not quite in the way envisaged. Because right now it’s a party desperately in search of an identity, a rudderless ship that has left port and finds itself drifting on an expansive sea bereft of charts. Modern conservatism is facing an existential crisis. And it doesn’t even know it.
Britain is a racially divided nation, they told us, a nation riddled with injustice, one where minorities (who take such pains to come here) are daily oppressed by the ‘system.’ It could all have come directly from the left’s playbook. Only it hadn’t. This was the modern face of ‘Conservatism.’
Oh, how the Guardian was loving it. How the BBC was rubbing its hands together. The Conservative party had finally moved lock, stock and barrel over to Liberal left land where perpetual grievance is considered not only normal but desirable, and where the propagation of division is considered to be an integral step to achieving a Marxist utopia.
The left-wing media never thought they would see the day. You could almost hear its glee. For here was a Conservative party abandoning its core principles of aspiration, meritocracy and endeavour in exchange for (fleetingly) less hostile coverage from the mainstream media. Never has so much been tossed away so cheaply.
For all the brouhaha, the data itself was flawed in so many ways. For example, by repeating mantras such as British society disadvantages Muslim women, and then asking why Britain is such a nasty, horrible place to live for this demographic, the chattering classes (purposely) avoided the awkward issues surrounding male-female relationships in the Muslim community.
High unemployment in Muslim women has nothing to do with a strict, patriarchal culture that has particularly stratified roles for men and women, but rather everything to do with societal oppression. It’s our fault. Little wonder the left-wing media was salivating.
That the party actually commissioned this research in the first place is a pretty damning indictment of the direction it is heading under the likes of Theresa May and Amber Rudd. Naturally, the mainstream media is delighted by what is effectively a capitulation by political leaders who exhibit an unsettling lack of clear convictions together with a worrying propensity to dance to the tune of the left-wing media.
For, make no mistake, this latest move is little more than a PR stunt, a way of appeasing a mainstream media that deals these days almost entirely in emotion, a media that daily propagates a mantra which pitches the oppressed against the oppressor in the hope of causing maximum discord.
If they have anything at all resembling backbones, it is incumbent upon true Conservatives everywhere to challenge such hyperbole with logic and calmness. What Tories should not be doing is helping to fan the flames. Talk about playing into the hands of the enemy! Whatever happened to reason or rationality – core conservative assets and much needed antidotes to left-wing hysteria?
It’s almost as if the entire ethos of Conservatism is holding its hands up in abject surrender and saying, ‘You’re right, we’re wrong.’ That the Tory party is bending to the relentless social justice narrative so beloved of the left-wing press is indicative of a party in turmoil.
Instead of resisting these social justice narratives – many of which are based upon a whole host of spurious assumptions – in its eagerness to appease the mainstream media, the modern Tory party simply caves in. It gives up. It throws in the towel. It’s almost as if Conservatives do not believe their own philosophy any more. It’s almost as if they have ditched Conservatism in favour of a form of media-friendly socialism concocted to keep them on the right side of the media.
And it just keeps getting worse. In Amber Rudd, the Tories have a Home Secretary who is actually promoting the ‘hate’ speech narrative of the hard left, the very same far-left ideology Orwell took such pains to warn about in 1984. Has Ms Rudd ever read 1984? If not, she should do so as a matter of urgency.
Rudd intends to crack down – and crack down very hard – upon online ‘hate’ speech; music to the ears of the left. Given that ‘hate’ speech and its big brother political correctness are the creations of left-wing ideologues intent on narrowing the scope of public debate with the ultimate aim of criminalising criticism of left-wing dogma, Ms Rudd’s uncritical embrace of a phenomenon engineered to silence the political right is as bizarre as it is frightening.
Surely the first priority of a true Conservative Home Secretary would be to immediately repeal ‘hate’ crime laws aimed at censuring criticism of left-wing dogma? Surely, a true Conservative would be extremely concerned at the ever increasing influence of hard-left-wing groups such as HopeNotHate and the deafening demands of self-styled ‘antifascist’ groups screaming for ever more censorship both on and offline?
But no. Far from championing free speech, diversity of opinion and the free market of ideas, Rudd, May and co. import the sort of anti-freedom legislation that will allow left-wing ideology to flourish unchallenged. And all at the behest of a media innately suspicious of Conservatism if not downright hostile to it!
Why go to such extraordinary lengths to appease political opponents? Is it really possible to envisage a scenario whereby an elected left-wing government implemented right of centre policies – curbing immigration or decreasing the reach and size of the state? Of course not.
Yet sooner or later (usually sooner), and despite a history of trouncing the Labour party at General Elections, the Tories – those most apologetic of creatures, forever engaged in justifying and then conceding their positions – will bow to pressure from various left-wing pressure groups and think-tanks hoping if they do so their enemies won’t be so hard upon them. What a depressing state of affairs for Conservatives everywhere.
Indeed, by allowing itself to be dragged ever further leftwards, the modern Conservative party is in severe danger of losing its core identity indefinitely. Conservatism is in crisis. Make no mistake. Shy Conservatives are bad enough, but more and more left-leaning liberals masquerading as Tories could be the straw that breaks the back of this party once and for all.
Where, and more pertinently, how do modern ‘Conservatives’ such as Rudd, May or Anna Soubry manage to infiltrate the party? What on earth is happening at the grass roots?
Take the EU debate. If there is one thing a true Conservative stands for it is a strong nation state. Yet the majority of current Tory MPs are strongly in favour of the UK being subsumed in what amounts to the biggest socialist experiment since the Soviet Union – the United States of Europe. Thatcher would be turning in her grave. Churchill too.
Say what you like about Jeremy Corbyn but in re-aligning a Labour party to its original socialist principals, Mr Corbyn has re-invigorated a party that under Blair had morphed into a soulless collection of centrist liberals. Now the party has the fire back in its belly. Can the Tories do the same? Do they even want to?
Although there is ostensibly a Conservative government currently in residence at no. 10, it is one in name only. Mrs May’s administration is, at best, notionally Conservative. From a purely pragmatic point of view it is essentially a liberal party that leans to the left, a party teeming with career politicians who know the value of staying on the right side of the media.
Indeed, until the present day Tory party gets to grips with who and what it is, the party will continue to drift into the open seas, aimless, directionless, a political Titanic whose passengers must surely jump ship to avoid going down with the wreckage.
There is, however, a solution.
First and foremost, Tories need to eschew the race-baiting politics of Labour and instead set out a vision of the UK which articulates a message where the disadvantaged are included irrespective of colour or creed. The modern Conservative party needs, above all else, to be distinctive – it needs to be the absolute antithesis to Labour and its grim vision of a welfare state Britain perpetually divided along racial and ethnic grounds.
Conservatives need to say, ‘We’re better than the divisive tactics of Labour.’ Not only do they need to say it, they also need to believe it, truly believe it. Instead of embracing the politics of grievance and division the Tories need to reject such policies loudly and clearly. The message must be one of unity. Tories need to talk once more about aspiration. They need to talk about a Britain where the industrious will be rewarded, regardless of colour, race or religion.
Following the Labour party down the victimisation path, treading ever so carefully, trying to please all the people all of the time, while it may gain the approbation of the Guardian and friends, can only lead to a pale, insipid, diluted brand of Conservatism – one that is tentative rather than bold, stagnant rather than dynamic. It is just the direction May, Rudd et al are currently heading. Aping Labour will merely consign the Conservatives to the political wilderness.
In short, as unsavoury as it might seem to this generation of modern ‘Conservatives,’ Tories ultimately need to become, well, Tories once again – and unapologetic ones at that.