Bitter Remainers Dream Of A Single Issue Anti-Brexit Political Party

EU Referendum - Brexit - Despair

Still firmly stuck in the “denial” stage of the grieving process, some bitter Remainers are now pinning their hopes on a new political party with the sole aim of thwarting Brexit

A number of overexcitable Remainers seem to be getting carried away with the idea that a brand new political party, dedicated solely to the purpose of thwarting Brexit, might be the answer to their prayers.

We first saw this idea floated in the Financial Times by Janan Ganesh, who did a masterful job of suppressing everything he knows about the British political system to convince himself that the idea might actually have merit:

A new political grouping has been in fitful gestation since Britain voted to leave the EU. Uncomfortable in their own parties, a few Conservative and Labour politicians have probed the idea in discreet settings. Donors are primed with start-up capital. Tony Blair has improvised a role as a curator of these forces, and at times as their frontman. An electorate that has withheld a decisive win from any party since his own days as prime minister is plainly open to some disruptive entrant to the market. If it shows promise, Liberal Democrat MPs might subsume themselves into it rather than stagger on as a futile dozen.

For all this, the breakthrough never comes — and not because Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system stymies the new. The project never gets that far. The trouble begins earlier. To avoid caricature as pro-European monomaniacs, and to let their restless energies roam, the people involved aspire to stand for something broad: political moderation in an age of extremes. This requires them to have policies, or at least first principles, across the full spectrum of government business. But each time a putative party settles its view on, say, fiscal policy or healthcare, it will alienate some of its original and potential supporters. It also loses definition. Before the project has a single achievement to its name, it is bogged down in matters of internal theology. It becomes a paradox: a fissiparous political party with no MPs.

Ganesh concludes with a well-rehearsed yet tone-deaf paean to the kind of bland, managerialist centrism which sparked this anti-establishment backlash in the first place:

A wider manifesto for moderate government might emerge, but only over time and as a consequence, not a cause, of the movement’s success. To design an entire worldview upfront is to wallow in detail before any political momentum has been established. And to lose friends in the process.

And yet the foolish idea is now gaining traction, with journalist (and ex-Chief of Staff to Brexit Secretary David Davis) James Chapman promoting the idea, as the Guardian excitedly reports:

A former chief of staff to David Davis has said Brexit is a catastrophe that must be stopped and called on centrist MPs to form a new party.

James Chapman, who worked for the Brexit secretary for a year as the Department for Exiting the European Union was set up, suggested the new party should be called the Democrats and claimed some “very interesting people” wanted to be involved.

[..] Chapman, who previously worked for George Osborne, said anti-Brexit MPs such as Anna Soubry, Grant Shapps and Mark Harper had more in common with party opponents such as Rachel Reeves and Vince Cable than “Owen Paterson et al”.

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the delicious irony of a political party explicitly founded to overturn the results of a democratic referendum – and all in order to ensure that Britain remains a part of a supranational political union whose very purpose is to undermine nation state democracy – calling themselves the Democrats. This utterly shameless tactic is taken straight from the Karl Rove playbook, with Remainers projecting their own flaws onto their opponents while claiming the virtues of Brexiteers (commitment to democracy) as their own.

Nevertheless, Janan Ganesh and James Chapman both seemingly believe that the best way to overturn the result of the EU referendum and thwart Brexit is for pro-Europeans to band together and campaign only on that single issue, in the name of moderation and to avoid deadly infighting by introducing other ideological squabbles to the debate. But the problem with this thinking is that by definition, only those disaffected MPs who feel most strongly about stopping Brexit would join such a party, and they tend to be the swivel-eyed euro-federalists or dim but enthusiastic EU cheerleaders.

What the Remainers forget is that while the Leave campaign may only have won the referendum 52% to 48%, many of the 48% also have no real love for the EU. Even in my own North London constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn, one of the most defiantly Remain-voting constituencies in the entire country, I have spoken to numerous people who voted Remain either grudgingly or out of alarm at the apocalyptic stories spun by Britain Stronger in Europe.

Arch-Remainers have tended to assume – wrongly – that the full 48% who voted to Remain in the EU did so because they share the same fanatical devotion to the European Union as themselves, but this is not the case. Many people strongly bought into the Leave campaign’s argument about sovereignty and self-determination, but voted Remain because they prioritised short-term economic security over long-term democratic security. And one cannot entirely blame them for doing so – I fully admit that I am something of an outlier with my unfashionable, somewhat fanatical obsession with constitutional issues.

So how would a British public which was probably much more than 52% hostile to the EU at the time of the referendum react to the formation of a new political party created with the expressed intention of overturning the referendum result? Janan Ganesh clearly thinks that such a party would be greeted like liberators, come to rescue benighted Britain from the evil clutches of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. I’m not so sure.

While as a country we may be increasingly confused about what “British values” really mean, most of us would still point to the importance we attach to “fair play” being a defining national trait. And I think that the British people would take one look at a bunch of establishment arch-Remainers (led by Tony Blair, no less) attempting to undo the referendum result as a grave insult and a brazen power grab.

The New Party campaigners also totally overlook the dynamics of individual constituency races in favour of national polling. Even assuming that a new political party got off the ground (I’m not holding my breath) it would face exactly the same challenges as the SDP back in the 1980s, squeezed between a rock and a hard place as Labour and the Conservatives refused to stand aside.

Even Owen Jones sees through the scam:

And what then would be the point of such a party with (at best) only a handful of fanatical europhile MPs in Parliament? Even if Theresa May’s government falls before the next scheduled general election, the chances are that Brexit will either be concluded by this point or more likely that negotiations will be so far advanced (perhaps with a negotiation extended) that it is no longer possible to undo without accepting revised membership on harsh new terms (no budget rebate, mandatory joining of both Schengen and the Euro) that an overwhelming number of Britons would find unacceptable.

The whole idea is a complete non-starter, the futile fantasy of an establishment class which still believes that it can simply circumvent or nullify democratic outcomes rather than doing the hard work of convincing people and winning them over to their side. A year on from the referendum and the tantrum continues with no sign of abatement.

Having said that, by all means let them try. Lord knows that the Conservative Party would be an immeasurably better entity without the likes of Anna Soubry and Grant Shapps.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 55 – Lena Dunham And Toxic Left Wing Call-Out Culture

Lena Dunham - social justice call out culture

The Regressive Left applauds when an overwhelmingly privileged “woke” celebrity shames and reports two off-duty service employees after taking offence at their private conversation

Lena Dunham, creator and star of the execrable television series Girls – and now seemingly a full-time social justice warrior – has form when it comes to policing both the internet and the real world for any instances of conservative thoughtcrime or failure to subscribe to the new progressive orthodoxy on various social justice issues.

To summarise: Lena Dunham was walking through the arrivals hall at JFK airport in New York when she allegedly overheard two off-duty American Airlines flight attendants having a private conversation about their views on the issue of transgenderism. During the course of this conversation, the flight attendants apparently agreed with one another that transgenderism is “gross” and that they would “never accept a trans child”.

(Note: Lena Dunham also has form when it comes to telling outright falsehoods, making her account of this supposed conversation immediately questionable).

And so naturally Lena Dunham did what any self-respecting, censorious young social justice warrior with a huge social media presence is honour-bound to do – she tweeted her shock at having heard opinions expressed which contradicted her own, shamed the unknown flight attendants and demanded that American Airlines re-educate their employees to ensure that such spontaneous acts of independent thought never again occur during the course of a private conversation between off-duty employees.

Specifically, Dunham wrote in a direct message to the airline:

“I heard two female attendants walking talking about how trans kids are a trend they’d never accept a trans child and transness is gross. I think it reflects badly on uniformed employees of your company to have that kind of dialogue going on. What if a trans teen was walking behind them? Awareness starts at home but jobs can set standards of practice. Thanks for your consideration!”

First off, this is as blatant an invasion of privacy as one can imagine. While a reasonable person might expect the possibility of being overheard while having a conversation in a public place, there is no reasonable expectation that a sanctimonious “woke” celebrity would rebroadcast their conversation – which again, took place while off duty if it even happened at all – to millions of followers on social media, contact their employer to trigger an investigation and quite possibly precipitate disciplinary action including the loss of their jobs.

Assuming that Lena Dunham isn’t simply lying again, there are multiple ways that she could have handled the situation better, rather than resorting to social media shaming combined with self-aggrandisement and virtue-signalling. The simplest option would have been for Dunham herself to intervene directly and voice her disagreement with the two flight attendants. This was a public place with very little risk of a physical altercation or any of the other reasons which might discourage direct action, so there was no good reason for Dunham not to take up the issue directly with the people allegedly involved, if she was sufficiently offended.

If Dunham lacked the courage to tackle this alleged intolerance in person (which would be a bit rich given that she co-founded Lenny, a website and newsletter almost exclusively dedicated to stridently advancing social justice issues), she could also have taken the matter up with American Airlines management staff while still at JFK airport rather than airily tweeting her allegations from the comfort of home, hours later. And if she was time-pressed and unable to do so, she could still have raised the matter privately with AA and written a more considered take on the situation once the investigation had run its course rather than tweeting about it in real time.

But of course none of these options would have been remotely satisfactory for Lena Dunham, because (more than) half the point of being a social justice warrior is the thrill of wielding power over others by policing language and behaviour, and enforcing your own worldview and etiquette onto other people. Directly confronting the people with whom she had a conflict or raising the issue privately would not have given Dunham the opportunity to flaunt her right-on credentials or display her conspicuous compassion; far better to raise the issue on social media, ostensibly so that it might serve as a “teachable moment” for other corporations and service workers (but really just to maintain her SJW credentials).

Robert Tracinski of The Federalist gets to the heart of the matter:

Saying “I overheard a conversation” but giving no specifics might prompt American Airlines to send out a general notice to its employees to watch what they say while in the terminal—which is a little unsettling in itself. But giving specific information only has one purpose: to help the airline locate, identify, and punish these specific employees for holding politically incorrect views.

It’s the hashtag #acrossfromthewinebar that sent chills down my spine. Dunham is acting like an informant working for a totalitarian police state—but boastfully, in public, on social media. With a hashtag.

Undoubtedly, someone will point out that this isn’t really totalitarianism because these are all voluntary actions by private citizens and organizations, not the government. Dunham isn’t a paid stooge of the police, but a citizen acting on her own initiative. American Airlines isn’t doing this because the government told them to, but because they’re terrified of bad press. (Which they are still going to get, but from the other side.)

Yet somehow this makes it all worse, because it implies we are being trained to internalize the ethos of the police state—and to enact it voluntarily, on our own initiative, without having to be coerced. We’re building a self-enforcing police state.

Equally concerning is the fact that Lena Dunham and her SJW colleagues feel it is in any way appropriate for corporations to take it upon themselves to “train” their employees in matters outside the skills required to successfully perform the job, particularly hot-button social issues. Whereas a decade ago one could reliably find leftists railing against the power of corporations and the supposedly unfair, coercive power balance between employer and employee, now those very same leftists are screeching that big corporations are not doing enough to indoctrinate their employees with the new social justice dogma.

Of course, vesting corporations with such power is in fact highly dangerous and quite likely unconstitutional, particularly when lawsuits start to emerge where employees allege that their employer has pressured them to violate their own conscience when it comes to matters outside the workplace. Already we see this coercive behaviour taking place in some large organisations, most recently the UK’s National Trust charity and the latest scandal to envelope Google.

Conor Friedersdorf also makes this point very eloquently in The Atlantic:

I suppose it was theoretically conceivable that Dunham’s public complaint about insensitivity by low-level staffers would prompt the multinational airline to put the offending employees—or all employees—through training in “awareness” or “love and inclusivity.” But I am doubtful that it would be a good thing, on the whole, if corporations began punishing workers for what they say off-duty, or aggressively regulating or engineering not just how employees treat colleagues and customers, but their every belief. Corporations are institutions driven by profit, not moral rectitude; many often do what is good for shareholders and bad for employees or the public. Trusting them as a reliable mechanism for positive social change is short-sighted.

Not that I presume that even earnest, right-thinking corporate altruism would necessarily bear fruit. Think of your attitudes toward trans people. Would your employer be able to fundamentally change your views, whatever they are, with  compulsory education? I suspect the very people with animus of a sort that does harm would be least likely to be swayed and most likely to double down on their beliefs.

And in response to this incident, or a rising tide of working-class people being reported to corporate employers for expressing beliefs that a lurking celebrity or journalist calls out, I can imagine the imposition of new, onerous, generally applied restrictions on where uniformed flight attendants can socialize with one another in airports, or whether uniformed retail employees are allowed a quick cell-phone conversation inside the mall while on break. Asking myself who that new regime would most harm, the answer is marginalized people; pondering who would find it easiest to navigate, the answer is creative professionals like Lena Dunham and me; we attended colleges that prepared us to navigate the elite’s social norms, and we don’t wear uniforms in public that identify our corporate bosses to eavesdropping strangers.

Ultimately this speaks to the paternalistic role that the progressive Left envisage for government and anyone else in positions of authority. First, these key institutions are to be fully captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, and then they are to be leveraged to enforce the same uniform dogma relating to sexuality, gender theory and everything else.

Rod Dreher has also sounded the alarm about this phenomenon:

I know a man who is a senior manager at a major corporation. He is also a Christian. Every year during Pride Month, for the past few years, the human resources department at the firm has been after employees to declare themselves “allies” of the LGBT cause. This man has never done so, because he would consider it a violation of his conscience. He is scrupulously fair in his dealings with his employees, both gay and straight, and would also consider it a violation of his conscience to discriminate in the workplace against his gay employees. He is afraid that the day will come when his refusal to declare himself on the LGBT issue will be viewed negatively within the corporation, and it will damage or end his career there.

This is not paranoia. McCarthyism did not end with McCarthy.

The very real danger is that within a relatively short space of time, it may become impossible for people to avoid withholding their most deeply held personal and religious beliefs from their employer, precisely because people like Lena Dunham insist that corporations act as a co-equal auxiliary parent, together with the state, to both educate their employees in the ways of progressive dogma and then to secure their active participation in advancing the agenda.

If you think that this is ridiculous conservative scaremongering, just take a quick peek inside the mind of someone who occupies a senior position in the entrepreneurial-tech world:

Fortunately, Joshua McKenty’s vision of a “directory of known misogynists and racists, used to avoid hiring or contracting” would likely fall foul of the US constitution. But you can be sure that McKenty’s fellow ideologues will push in that direction as far as the law will possibly allow, given half the chance. And what of those of us who do not live in the United States under the protection of the US Constitution? What is to stop multinational firms with offices in Britain, where there is no written constitution, from demanding positive affirmation of progressive social policies from their employees?

And so what starts as just another Twitter-based hissy fit from Lena Dunham is in fact only the tip of the iceberg. It certainly doesn’t help when “woke” celebrities abuse their vast social media platforms to shame working and middle class service workers who dare to express outdated or unfashionable opinions, but that is not the real threat.

The real danger comes when corporations and private citizens no longer have to be bullied by the likes of Lena Dunham into acting as enforcers of the social justice movement, because they choose to do so willingly.

 

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Remainers: You Can Stop Pretending To Be Patriotic Now

Jonn Elledge - Democratic World Superstate - Brexit

A rare moment of honesty from an arch-Remainer

New Statesman staff writer Jonn Elledge – whom I recently described as “worse than a garden variety xenophobe” for his heinous statements about elderly Brexit voters, much to his indignant outrage – has been engaging in a minor Twitter spat with Tim Montgomerie this afternoon about the nature of Brexit.

This would be utterly unremarkable, but for one inadvertently revealing tweet in the exchange in which Jonn Elledge revealed in a moment of strange candour the real reason that establishment Remainers love the European Union and cannot conceive of a life outside of its cloying embrace.

Pressed by Montgomerie, who asked “Is there a name for continually thinking the European project, and its gradual erosion of nation state democracies, will turn out ok?”, Elledge replied, simply and honestly (for once) “Never did understand what was meant to be so brilliant about nation states, if I’m honest. I’m quite up for a democratic world superstate”.

This is an appallingly ignorant and historically illiterate statement, the kind of sentiment that could only be uttered by somebody who enjoys all the benefits of living in the age of the modern democratic nation state without pausing for a moment to consider the true source of all his comfort (hint: not the EU). Would Elledge at least concede that the nation state is a slight improvement on the city state? The multiethnic empire? The dynastic kingdom? Marauding tribes? He is at pains not to say, and yet is quite ready to roll the dice, jack in the nation state and try something new without really giving it a moment’s thought.

And there it is, ladies and gentlemen. Finally, a moment of honesty from the arch-Remainer side of the argument. Of course, those of us who followed the EU referendum debate closely and saw through the paucity and desperately narrow scope of the Remain side’s argument (focused almost entirely on negative scaremongering about trade with occasional rhetorical flourishes about “cutting ourselves off from the world”) knew that something deeper was motivating the EU’s loudest cheerleaders.

But of course Jonn Elledge and his co-conspirators could not admit their dirty desire in public during the referendum. They could not simply admit the truth – that they have no respect or appreciation for the nation state and its role in guaranteeing our core freedoms and liberties, and that they would sooner consign nations to the grave so long as they and their ilk could preserve their current perks and become true citizens of the world.

To admit their scorn for the nation state and eagerness of its demise would have been suicide during the EU referendum. Thus their only hope was to pretend to be patriotic and to have a love for this country and its many positive qualities (some of them are still continuing the pretence to this day to maintain their credibility in the hope of winning a potential second referendum) while secretly loving the EU precisely because it actively undermines nation states by design.

But of course the one world government (or “democratic world superstate”) longed for by Jonn Elledge (and no doubt many other Remainers in the secrecy of their own hearts) is totally impractical in any case, working against human nature rather than with it, as all Utopian left-wing pipe dreams tend to do.

Consider the case of the United States of America, fifty states combined into one great nation, bound together under the motto E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). When it comes time for presidential elections, Americans do not stubbornly vote only for candidates from their own state, but instead choose from the candidate whose policies they prefer from any of the fifty states. A Californian might vote for a candidate from Illinois without so much as a second thought, knowing that the candidate will represent all of America if elected. Americans can do so in confidence because their sense of being American is stronger than their sense of being an Iowan, New Yorker, Nevadan or even Californian or Texan, the two states with the strongest sense of separate nationhood.

Now imagine an election for Leader of the World. Do you think that people from countries as diverse as Britain, Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, Greece, Kenya and Japan would vote high-mindedly for the candidate who offered the best suite of policies, regardless of his or her nationality? Would it even be likely that a candidate would offer a fair suite of policies rather than a manifesto geared toward benefiting his or her home nation? Of course not. Cultural differences are far more significant across national borders (despite the furious efforts of pro-EU “citizens of the world” to pretend otherwise), and out of protectionist instinct people would inevitably want to vote for a candidate from their own country, or at least a sympathetic country.

And who can say that they would be wrong to do so? Is Jonn Elledge seriously contending that he would be happy for the world to be led by a member of the Chinese Communist party? Or by a Putinesque Russian oligarch? Or a theocratic Saudi cleric? Of course he wouldn’t. Elledge, in his disdain for the nation state and desperate need to virtue-signal his abhorrence of patriotism, paints a fraudulent world of rainbows and unicorns where all cultures are equally praiseworthy and deep-seated cultural and religious differences are non-existent. Again, working doggedly against human nature rather than working practically with it.

There can be no world government because there is, as yet, no world demos. One day, probably quite far in the future, this may change. And that may be a good thing when it eventually happens. But we are not there yet, and to pretend that a “democratic world superstate” is either viable or desirable is foolishly naive as well as being oxymoronic – you can either have democracy or a world superstate, but not both.

I wrote about the ongoing importance of the nation state at some length back in 2015:

The liberties and freedoms we hold dear today can very easily slip away if we do not jealously guard them. By contrast, power is generally won back by the people from elites and powerful interests at a very heavy price – just consider Britain’s own history, or the American fight for independence from our Crown.

If we want to have a say in designing the new institutions that will govern our politics, trade, intra-bloc affairs (for we soon may not call it “foreign relations”) and other issues, we need to put the brakes on the demise of the nation state while we take stock and think about the future that we want, so that we do not end up in the future that our leaders and elites are building now in secret, without our consent.

Even if you find patriotism silly and the importance that conservatives attach to symbols and rituals to be absurd, it is still in your interests to slow down the juggernaut of European integration so that you too can help design the world our descendants will inhabit. You may laugh at the latest sensationalist Daily Mail headline, or think Nigel Farage a fool when he stands in his local pub, resplendent in tweed, drinking a pint of English ale. And that’s fine, you can laugh.

But think about what the world will be like in one hundred years, with its new technologies and services and ideas. Think about what innovations there will be in healthcare and banking and computing (and data collection) and travel. And then think about how much oversight and control we have over any of these things even today, in 2015. It it enough?

Imagine, then, the world of 2115. What institutions will then exist to safeguard our children’s  interests, and which bodies and authorities will they petition for redress of grievances? Who will control foreign relations between whatever nation states or multinational trading blocs remain, and who will decide whether to wage war using whatever unimaginable weapons we have conceived a century from now?

Do you entrust the EU with these powers? The World Trade Organisation? The United Nations?

The answer to this final question is apparently a resounding “yes!”, at least as far as Elledge is concerned. Any international or supranational institution is brimming over with legitimacy and ability to solve “a lot of stuff the nation state can’t do” in the mind of hardcore ideological Remainers, while the despised nation state offers nothing but insularity, bigotry and nationalism.

The naivety on display here is quite simply off the charts. Obviously it is one of the defining characteristics of those on the Left to leap towards radical change without stopping to think through the consequences, but to show a willingness to do so with something as fundamental as abandoning the nation state as the basic building block of human society is reckless indeed. Especially since neither Jonn Elledge or anybody else has proposed a viable alternative.

It is one thing to rage against the status quo and advocate for radical change. But to sneer at the nation state, close one’s mind to the stability and prosperity it has delivered and advocate for One World Government without even beginning to think through the consequences and practicalities should destroy once and for all whatever credibility Jonn Elledge and his ideological brethren have left.

And still we should be grateful. For too long, ideological establishment Remainers have walked a tightrope, angrily proclaiming that they are as patriotic as the next man (and taking great offence when the impossibility of this statement was pointed out to them) while doing everything in their power to ensure that the nation state is weakened, together with the fraying bonds which hold our society together. Now, finally, the mask is slipping. Whether through a moment of frustration or deliberate design, the real motivations are now being unmasked.

Now we see the hardcore ideological Remainers for what they are.

 

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Peter Hitchens Demands A Real Conservative Alternative To Jeremy Corbyn

Margaret Thatcher hologram

The current cast of characters jockeying to replace Theresa May are almost as underwhelming as the prime minister herself. British conservatives of all shades need to have a full and open debate about how best to move the Conservative Party and the country forward, and then find a future leader with the charisma to take on Jeremy Corbyn in the battle for hearts and minds

Exactly two years ago, I wrote a rather despairing piece asking “Where is the Conservative Party’s Jeremy Corbyn?” Now Peter Hitchens is rightly asking the same question, having long ago despaired at the direction of the Conservative Party and its accommodation with Blairite, centrist managerialism.

Back in August 2015 I wrote:

I want a standard bearer for the Right who actually makes me feel excited, not resigned, when I enter the polling booth. I don’t necessarily expect that person to be elected by a landslide on the first attempt, and to immediately implement their entire agenda in full. But neither do I expect – as presently happens – all of the soul-sapping compromising and watering-down of core principle to take place before the candidate even gets their name on the ballot paper.

Jeremy Corbyn has not done all of his compromising upfront – he is proud of his beliefs, and does not seek to apologise for them. And he doesn’t talk and answer questions as though he is responding to the twitches of a focus group’s instant polling dial. That’s why he is surging in the polls. That’s why previously dejected Labour activists who support Corbyn are suddenly walking a little taller again. That, I think, is why Owen Jones is walking round with such an infuriatingly wide smile on his face at the moment.

It cannot remain this way if we are to be successful in advancing the cause of smaller government and greater individual freedom and autonomy. We cannot allow the Left to monopolise inspiration and ambition, however far-fetched, while we conservatives occupy and embody the dull, managerial, technocratic and remote politics of austerity.

And conservatives will never win a real mandate for change so long as we are content to be the party of last resort, the failsafe option voters pick when all of the other choices are too wacky or offensive to contemplate.

I concluded by asking:

If David Cameron’s Conservative Party was voted out of office today, what will future historians and political commentators say about this government fifty years from now? What will be the Cameron / Osborne legacy? What edifices of stone, statute and policy will remain standing as testament to their time in office? Try to picture it clearly.

Are you happy with what you see?

Substitute Theresa May’s name for David Cameron’s, and pose the same question to yourself. Is the answer any clearer or more satisfactory than it was two years ago?

Clearly not. And now Peter Hitchens has arrived at the same conclusion, writing in the Mail on Sunday:

If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap.

Mr Corbyn reminds mature people of the days when the big parties really differed. He impresses the young because he doesn’t patronise them, and obviously believes what he says. This desire for real politics isn’t just confined to the Left. Ken Livingstone is right to call Mr Corbyn Labour’s Nigel Farage. Ukip appeals to a similar impulse.

Millions are weary of being smarmed and lied to by people who actually are not that competent or impressive, and who have been picked because they look good on TV rather than because they have ideas or character.

Indeed, ideas or character are a disadvantage. Anything resembling a clear opinion is seized upon by the media’s inquisitors, and turned in to a ‘gaffe’ or an outrage.

Actually, I dislike many of Mr Corbyn’s opinions – his belief in egalitarianism and high taxation, his enthusiasm for comprehensive schools, his readiness to talk to terrorists and his support for the EU. Oddly enough, these are all policies he shares with the Tory Party.

But I like the honest way he states them, compared with the Tories’ slippery pretence of being what they’re not.

I have indeed attended one of Jeremy Corbyn’s massive rallies, in which the Labour leader (then fighting to cling on to leadership of the party in the face of a challenge from the hapless Owen Smith) managed to pack out the vast Kilburn State theatre in North London with excited and motivated activists of every age. It was quite a remarkable sight to behold, with energy levels more like those you would see in a hard-fought US presidential primary than a dour Labour Party leadership contest.

Contrast this with the pathetically phony photo opportunities orchestrated by Theresa May’s hapless 2017 general election campaign, with a small huddle of telegenic young activists, clearly bussed in from London, holding up professionally printed placards in front of the Tory campaign bus while the prime minister grated her way through that godawful “strong and stable” stump speech. There was no authentic grassroots enthusiasm for May or her policies, to the extent that CCHQ was terrified to allow the prime minister to get into any kind of unscripted interaction with the public, let alone a televised debate.

Theresa May - conservatives - campaign rally crowd

 

There may well be an appropriate time for dull managerialism and “steady as she goes” leadership, but Britain in 2017 is not it. Obviously Brexit must be handled with skill and sensitivity (not that the government has shown either of these attributes), but in every other respect Britain requires radical solutions to deep-seated problems rather than Theresa May’s brand of denial and incompetence. Whether it’s low productivity, education, the housing crisis, a failing nationalised healthcare system, dangerously pared-down national defence or a society fractured by toxic identity politics, this is a time for bold and unapologetically conservative solutions. But instead we have a weak prime minister at the head of an incoherent government, terrified of proclaiming conservative principles and desperate to move closer to the Labour Party on nearly every issue.

Hitchens goes on to describe what he sees as the ideal future Conservative leader:

My hope, most unlikely to be realised, is that a patriotic, conservative and Christian equivalent of Mr Corbyn will emerge to take him on, and will demonstrate, by his or her strength of conviction, that there is an even greater demand for that cause than there is for old-fashioned leftism. In any case, I think any thoughtful British person should be at least a little pleased to see the PR men and the special advisers and the backstairs-crawlers of British politics so wonderfully wrong-footed by a bearded old bicyclist.

Patriotic and conservative would be a good start, but I don’t think that this is specific enough. Theresa May, for example, ticks all three of Peter Hitchens’ boxes (one can make a valid argument that May represents a serious thread of conservative thought) yet is completely and utterly unequal to the role of prime minister, ideologically and temperamentally.

And as far as being Christian is concerned, Theresa May is a practicing Christian and famously the daughter of a vicar, and yet she has shown no real impulse to halt the suppression of legitimate religious expression where it comes into conflict with the free speech-averse forces of social justice and identity politics, for example. What, then, is the point of cheerleading for a Christian prime minister when they fail to defend religious freedom when in office? I would much rather have a prime minister who is secular-liberal when it comes to religion, eager to separate church (and faith) from state as far as possible while simultaneously protecting the right of British citizens to worship freely.

When it comes to choosing the ideal future Conservative prime minister, I maintain that the Tories could do far worse than select somebody who fits the profile I set out shortly before the disastrous general election back in June:

Ex armed forces (of either gender), mid to senior rank, with an illustrious overseas deployment history. Someone who exudes unapologetic patriotism yet never lapses into cheap jingoism, and whose commitment to defence, national security and veterans affairs is beyond question.

Followed up by a successful later career, possibly in the third sector or the arts but better still in the private sector, having founded a stonking great big corporation that also gives back to the community by employing ex-offenders or partnering with charities to do meaningful work in society.

A solid and consistent record (at least dating to the start of the EU referendum campaign) on Brexit, able to tell a compelling story about how Brexit – properly done – can be good for our democracy and at least neutral on the economic front.

A person who believes that until somebody comes up with a viable alternative to (or augmentation of) the democratic nation state, this institution remains the best method yet devised of ordering human affairs, and that consequently we should not needlessly undermine and vandalise it by vesting power in antidemocratic supranational organisations or pretending that we can sidle our way into a post-patriotic world by stealth rather than with the consent of the people.

Somebody who will not bargain away our civil liberties chasing the chimera of absolute security from terrorists and madmen – particularly while refusing to face down radical Islamism as an ideology to be confronted and defeated – but who will also stand up to expansionist, nonsensical definitions of human rights and an identity politics / political correctness agenda that values hurt feelings more than freedom of expression.

Somebody with the articulateness, gravitas, sincerity and quickness of thought capable of doing the near impossible in 2017: single-handedly turning the tide away from the vapid, broken politics of me, me, me. Somebody willing to ask – as John F. Kennedy once did – not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Somebody who dares to call us to a higher purpose than merely living in a country with “good public services”, deifying “Our NHS” and having the goddamn trains run on time.

Somebody who chooses for us to go to the moon (or rather its current day equivalent in terms of spectacular human achievement) “and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills” (John F Kennedy).

Doubtless my idea of the ideal conservative prime minister and Peter Hitchens’ conception will differ somewhat – Hitchens is more socially conservative than I, while I see myself as more of a conservatarian with pragmatic, tempered libertarian instincts.

But these differences of opinion only make it all the more important that we have a full and open debate about the future of conservatism, and what kind of leader would be best placed to move the conservative movement and the country forward. And far better that this conversation first take place in the abstract, as a discussion of principles and ideology, so it does not immediately descend into personality-based infighting and jockeying for position among Theresa May’s likely successors.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is also vitally important that conservatives (I deliberately speak of small-C conservatives rather than the often toxic and inept Conservative Party) find a way to re-engage with a youth vote that the Tories have been shamefully quick to write off and cede to the parties of the Left. This abandonment of the youth vote is absolutely untenable going forward, and is yet another reason why the next Tory leader needs to have sufficient charisma and authenticity to cut through anti-conservative prejudices among young people that have often been baked into their consciences since they first became politically aware.

Until the Conservatives figure out who and what they actually want to be, both Peter Hitchens and I are likely to remain underwhelmed and disappointed. An urgent reckoning needs to take place in order to answer this question: Has seven years of Cameron/Osborne/May-style accommodation with centrist Blairism delivered any real tangible improvement to the trajectory of Britain, or are we largely treading water? And if the latter, is the solution to move even further to the left, as Theresa May and her political spirit animal Nick Timothy seem to want, or is it wiser and better to bring real conservative values to bear on 21st century problems?

As far as I am concerned, the choice is self-evidently clear. The Tories can stubbornly cling to their current philosophy and hope at best to remain in office but not in power for a few more years as they desperately scamper after the Labour Party in their march to the hard left, or they can renew themselves, stop apologising for their conservatism and start enacting it instead.

But in the meantime, let’s start the debate.

 

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Vince Cable Joins The Anti-Brexit War On The Elderly

Vince Cable - Brexit

Remainers love to claim that the EU referendum “divided Britain”. But many prominent Remainers are perfectly happy to stoke divisions of their own in order to thwart Brexit

While any measured, rational human being ought to be immediately capable of seeing through YouGov’s recent flawed opinion poll – which was constructed to give the misleading impression of elderly Brexit voters being selfish extremists – new LibDem leader Vince Cable is happy to stoke intergenerational conflict in order to feed his desperate pro-EU confirmation bias.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday (surprising enough in itself, considering most bien-pensant elites view that paper as little more than a fascist propaganda newsletter), Cable moans and wails about how the older generations have supposedly “shafted the young”.

Cable writes:

The Remain argument about economic damage is now largely accepted. Mounting evidence of a slowing economy and rising inflation give substance to earlier warnings. The issue has become one of how to minimise or postpone the damage. And instead of countering the arguments, more and more Brexiteers are embracing economic pain as a price worth paying for ‘taking back control’: almost as a badge of honour.

This attitude has reached worrying proportions. Press stories refer to ‘martyrs for Brexit’ based on a YouGov survey suggesting 61 per cent of the public would accept ‘significant damage to the economy’ from Brexit and 39 per cent ‘don’t mind losing their job’. These figures seem wildly implausible.

I don’t encounter people running around saying ‘please make me poorer’ or ‘please sack me’. These figures are also difficult to reconcile with polling which shows 66 per cent of voters wanting to remain inside the single market.

Of course, as I explained at length in my response to an equally idiotic piece in the New Statesman, there is in fact no contradiction here. It has nothing to do with being a “martyr”, or acting irrationally against one’s economic self interest. Rather, elderly voters simply understand that there are other motivations and considerations besides short term economic gain.

Having grown up in the post-war years and through the Cold War, older voters tend to appreciate the value of democracy and self-determination more than young voters who have never faced existential threat and for whom the EU has been an ever-present reality and an unquestioned positive force. And Vince Cable probably knows this full well, but it suits his purposes to portray those with differing political opinions as somehow unhinged or even malevolent.

Ironically, immediately after impugning the motives and morals of older Brexit voters, Vince Cable then goes on to make a plea for tolerance and mutual respect:

But the last thing the UK needs is further polarisation. There is already more than enough bad-mouthing of opponents and questioning of the patriotism of those who criticise the Government.

The gall of these establishment EU-defenders is absolutely off the charts. Where once a senior politician might have felt a degree of shame that would have prevented him from contradicting himself so completely in an Op-Ed, Cable does so proudly, fully expecting not to be picked up on it. This is how little establishment centrist politicians think of voters and their capacity to understand political or rhetorical arguments. But it is also a sign of the desperation in the Remain camp, as the dream of thwarting Brexit altogether recedes further and further into the distance.

And it gets worse:

To describe such masochism as ‘martyrdom’ is dangerous. We haven’t yet heard about ‘Brexit jihadis’ but there is an undercurrent of violence in the language which is troubling. We have already had the most fervent of Brexiteers, such as Nigel Farage, warning of civil unrest if the ‘will of the people’ is frustrated.

Brexiteers may well be frustrated since the practical difficulties of Brexit, as well as the costs, could result in Brexit never happening.

This is a clever little construction of Cable’s, writing that we haven’t yet heard about “Brexit jihadis” while simultaneously inserting what he clearly hopes will become the Left’s new insult of choice into the public discourse. Let’s be clear – the leader of the Liberal Democrats, that party which considers itself so rational and pragmatic, has just compared Brexiteers who dared to weigh considerations other than economic gain when voting in the EU referendum to jihadis. To murderous Islamist terrorists who maim and kill.

At what point do we stand up to the establishment’s collective hissy fit over Brexit? At what point do decent people refuse to be thus insulted by what Tim Montgomerie called the very “greybeards” who only recently urged further EU integration and the Euro on us even as these failing policies devastated the younger generation, particularly in southern Europe?

That’s not to say that Vince Cable is wrong in many of his warnings about Brexit. In many ways he is right to warn about the implausibility of hammering out a bespoke deal with the EU by 2019, and to urge a slower, managed transition which maintains current access to the EEA. But all of these sensible warnings are completely overshadowed by the overwrought, flowery language suggesting that Britain’s grey-haired voters are supposedly full of hatred and malice towards the children that they raised.

Are the older generations completely innocent? Of course not. Valid arguments can be made that they have been too sheltered from “austerity” and the consequences of the Great Recession thanks to universal benefits and the “triple lock” on pensions. And certainly, as a demographic with a high propensity to vote, the retiree lobby has been very successful in seeing their interests turned into government policy.

But Vince Cable’s over-the-top attack on older voters immediately turns them back into sympathetic characters, and only makes it harder to question the privileges that they have accrued through successive government policy. Comparing decent people who have worked their whole lives and done so much to build the country in which we live today to radical Islamist terrorists is so heinous, so wildly excessive, that sensible discussion becomes impossible.

This kind of behaviour might be just about acceptable from someone like me – a relatively unknown political blogger perhaps looking to make a splash by saying something outrageous or provocative (see Abi Wilkinson’s clickbait call for a 100% inheritance tax in the Guardian). But Vince Cable is not an obscure political commentator. He is leader of the Liberal Democrats, a political party which still purports to be taken seriously.

In reality, most people vote both for reasons of self interest and for the perceived good of society. The truth about the elderly Brexit vote probably lies between Brendan O’Neill’s lionisation of these voters and Vince Cable’s haughty dismissal.

O’Neill has been effusive in his praise:

I find it deeply inspiring, moving even, that my fellow Brexiteers are willing to have it rough in the name of democracy, in the name of bringing law-making back to where every progressive of the modern, Enlightened era believed it should be: in the nation, under a people’s oversight.

I straight up got a lump in my throat when I read the bit of the YouGov research that says many Leave voters would even be okay with losing their own jobs, or seeing a family member lose a job, in the name of Brexit. Thirty-nine per cent said such personal hardship would be a price worth paying, against 38 per cent who said it wouldn’t be. Now that’s devotion. That’s idealism. And if it seems alien to us, that only goes to show what a flat, grey political era we live in.

Indeed, the rather elitist alarm that has greeted the revelation that people are willing to suffer for their democratic ideals sums up what a baleful influence technocracy has had on our political imagination. In the technocratic era, when politics has been drained of big ideas and reduced to a box-ticking exercise that is all about managing society, its inhabitants and their aspirations, political passion can seem threatening. Strong feelings, democratic devotion, self-sacrifice – these have become foreign bodies in a time when politics is about making things chug along as uncontroversially as possible. To the technocrat, to the EU suit who drafts laws far from the madding demos, the utterance ‘I am willing to go through hardship for what I believe in’ seems perverse. It’s disruptive. It is because we inhabit such a beige world of spun, small politics that the willingness of us Brexiteers to suffer for our beliefs can look like ‘extremism’.

I get where O’Neill is coming from, even though I think he goes a little too far, reading something that both he and I desperately want to see (a return to conviction politics and commitment to ideology rather than fudged centrist compromise) into a vote whose motivations were more nuanced than either extreme.

In truth, elderly Brexit voters are neither selfless heroes nor foaming-at-the-mouth jihadists. But as far as the media is concerned, the narrative about older voters being selfish is too convenient to ignore. Unfortunately it reveals a gulf of misunderstanding, as Vince Cable makes clear:

The old have comprehensively shafted the young. And the old have had the last word about Brexit, imposing a world view coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation much more comfortable with modern Europe.

If I had a pound for every time some sanctimonious Remainer airily asserted that Brexit was motivated by “nostalgia for an imperial past” then I would never need to work again. In reality, the Lord Ashcroft poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum clearly showed that the principle motivating factor for Leave voters was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. Perhaps this lacks nuance and an understanding of modern day interdependence in the regulatory environment, but it is also a clear and unambiguous call for the same kind of autonomy enjoyed by countries far smaller than ours in terms of GDP such as Australia, Canada or Korea. This is by no means unreasonable, and cannot be fairly caricatured as some kind of imperial nostalgia.

So why pretend that it is? Either Vince Cable is so full of self-hatred for his own country and its history that he believes that our dissolution as an independent nation state into an increasingly federal EU is somehow appropriate “payback” for our transgressions in the days of empire, or he knows full well that the Brexit vote was not motivated by imperial nostalgia but simply finds this to be a convenient trope with which to whip up his own supporters.

For now I will do Vince Cable the courtesy of assuming the latter rather than the former – that he is in fact not a self-hating Brit, but rather just a cynical old politician like so many others. But the longer this tantrum against anyone and everyone who voted for Brexit goes on, the harder it becomes to assume good faith on the part of the furious Remainers.

At some point the Vince Cables of this world have to either engage with the real substance of Brexiteer arguments, attitudes and motivations, or else just admit that they don’t care – that they simply feel blind, unthinking hatred towards those who disagree with them and have no interest in rational discussion.

It might actually prove quite cathartic; rather than having to make increasingly ludicrous arguments that people voted for Brexit somehow want to bring back the Empire, Vince Cable and his ilk could simply have their Two Minutes Hate every day and be satisfied.

 

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