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Brexit Denial Watch, Part 1 – Sarah Olney, The Liberal Democrats’ Special Secret Weapon

Slightly different to the Brexit Catastrophisation Watch series, these Brexit Denial Watch posts will focus on public figures of power and influence who marshal Olympian levels of denial to pretend to themselves and others that the British people did not really vote for Brexit, and that the referendum result can and should be overturned

Let’s all take a moment to savour the defeat of former Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, in the by-election which he foolishly triggered after following through on his word to flounce out of the Conservative Party if the government finally took its boot of the neck of the aviation industry and authorised the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport.

Zac is a wishy-washy watercolour impression of a man, a Conservative In Name Only, Crown Prince of the NIMBYs, a snarling anti-aviation zealot and an utterly useless London mayoral candidate. British politics will miss his early departure like I missed my inflamed appendix after the Royal Free Hospital scooped it out. (How’s that one, Matthew Parris?)

But naturally, the Liberal Democrats’ surprising win in Richmond Park is being spun by a gleeful party as rather more than it is. One can understand the jubilation of a party reduced from being junior coalition partner to a pathetic rump of eight MPs at being able to add another warm body to their number, but they go too far when they claim that 20,000 people in leafy Richmond is such a representative sample of Britain that a by-election result (which often go against the government of the day) can be safely interpreted as the British public “changing their minds” about Brexit.

And this is exactly what the LibDems, in their arrogance, are now claiming. The Spectator reports:

Goldsmith hoped to focus on airport expansion and his decision to fulfil his promise to constituents to stand down if it was given the green light. But the Lib Dems had other ideas and made it about the EU. The Richmond borough voted heavily to remain — at 69/31 — and the Lib Dem campaign — which was also anti-Heathrow — focused on this. They highlighted Goldsmith’s support for Brexit and reached out to Remain voters — with Olney even promising to vote down Article 50 in the Commons, if elected.

In her acceptance speech, Olney said voters had ‘sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government’ while Tim Farron made the bold claim that if this were a general election the ‘Conservatives would lose dozens of seats to the Liberal Democrats – and their majority with it’. Now this is jumping the gun a bit, and as Fraser notes, a lot of the result can be put down to the Lib Dem’s effective ground game where Goldsmith just didn’t seem to have one. But it can’t be denied that the Lib Dem strategy is working. In the Witney by-election, the party increased its votes share from 7pc to 30pc. They have clearly defined themselves as the party of Remain and in constituencies that voted to stay in the EU this message is resonating.

The newly-elected MP herself was even more explicit on Sky News:

Olney told Sky News that ‘it does look now as if we can have a vote in Parliament that might override the referendum – and I will, obviously, be voting to Remain because that is always what I have believed’.

This is hilarious. Furious, tantrum-throwing Remainers have been complaining since the small hours of 24 June that the 52% of people who put their cross in the box voting to leave the European Union were in fact doing anything other than seriously voting for Brexit. It was just a cry of dissatisfaction, we were told. It’s all about immigration, or globalisation, or multiculturalism, and if only politicians say enough platitudinous things to placate public feeling on those issues then there will be no need to go ahead and trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, setting in motion the wheels of our departure.

And yet despite 17 million British voters casting their ballots to leave the European Union when the referendum question was both crystal clear and painstakingly discussed in advance (and the consequences clearly printed on the pro-Remain government propaganda sent to every household during the campaign), now we are supposed to believe that this vote was actually not a mandate or instruction to take Britain out of the European Union, while a single solitary by-election in leafy, pro-EU west London in which voters were explicitly choosing who to represent them in Parliament until the next general election, not casting a single-issue decision about Brexit is enough to cancel the whole thing.

Do these people hear just how arrogant they sound, and just how plain their attempts to game the system to their own advantage appear now that the curtain has been pulled back and the desperation of the moment has forced them to dispense with their usual subterfuge?

Besides, who knows whether the voters of Richmond Park really do want Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney as their new MP? As Brendan O’Neill put it on Facebook:

Anti-Brexit Lib Dem wins by-election in Richmond. But how can we be sure the people of Richmond really knew what they were voting for? Maybe they’re “low information”. Maybe they were made poisonously anti-Brexit by Guardian and Economist propaganda. Maybe they’re so hooked on Newsnight and Radio 4 that they can no longer think for themselves. Perhaps they were brainwashed by the demagogues Tony Blair and Richard Branson. Can we really trust such people to make big, important decisions like who should sit in parliament? We need a second vote. Give them another chance to get it right. The country must be saved from their ignorance.

Since the election, alarming new evidence has come to light – in the form of a car crash interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer on LBC radio, in which Sarah Olney jabbered like a madwoman, couldn’t answer a single question about Brexit and eventually panicked and had to be rescued by her spokesman after less than four minutes on air – which suggests that the people of Richmond Park may have unwittingly elected a complete and utter cretin to be their representative in Parliament for the next three and a half years.

Since the people of Richmond Park thought they were electing a competent  human being with a basic grasp of the issues rather than a flailing dilettante who cracks under the immense psychological pressure of a casual interview on morning radio, clearly they did not have all the facts. Clearly they were misled. Clearly they need another opportunity to consider their response in the light of this new information.

Isn’t that what we keep hearing about that idiotic “£350 million for the NHS” Vote Leave NHS bus?

 

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What Became Of The Great British Progressive Majority? It Never Existed

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Turns out that pooling their strength and holding hands beneath a big progressive rainbow will not help Britain’s left-wing parties get back into power after all. What a shame.

Remember the Great British Progressive Majority, that overwhelmingly large (yet always infuriatingly hidden) bloc of centre-leftish voters who together wielded the power to lock the Evil Tories out of 10 Downing Street and government forever, if only they could be organised and persuaded to vote tactically?

You know, that vast conclave of redistributionist, environmentalist, identity politics-wielding, Big Government-supporting luvvies who supposedly outweigh the 11.3 million British voters who re-elected the Conservative government last May?

Well, no worries if you don’t recall the fabled progressive majority. Because it turns out that it doesn’t exist after all, and never has.

Guido reports:

This morning the centrist, cross-party Social Market Foundation held a well attended seminar headlined by Chuka Umunna, Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg. It felt like a wake for the Labour Party. SMF claims – on the back of research from Opinium – that there’s no progressive left-leaning majority in the country – the majority of voters hold “traditionally right-wing views” that will guarantee a “healthy majority” in the future for the right-wing parties.

The wonks categorised voters’ attitudes into eight political tribes/parties that share very distinctive political views. Despite the majority of voters self-describing as “centrist”, most voters actually identified with centre-right and right-wing political attitudes.

But…but…but Nicola Sturgeon promised us! One can hear the wailing from trendy lefty dinner tables from Brighton to Aberdeen. And so she did. So did they all – Sturgeon, Nick Clegg of the forgotten “Lib Dem” tribe, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, the Green Party’s underwhelming Natalie Bennett. In the tawdry hunt for votes, all of these party leaders told the electorate that between them, they carried the votes to “lock David Cameron out of Number 10 Downing Street“.

The only one to object, as all of this unfolded, was the hapless Ed Miliband, whose votes these other parties were ruthlessly cannibalising. Miliband, still entertaining sweetly pathetic hopes of becoming prime minister, had no great desire to share power in a leftist coalition, to have moralising Scottish and Welsh nationalists perched on either shoulder, scolding him for his insufficient fidelity to socialist principles.

But Miliband need not have worried about sharing power. Between them, the main parties of the Left – Labour, the LibDems, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party – managed to accumulate just 13,102,483 votes in the 2015 general election. Meanwhile, the main parties of the Right – Conservative and UKIP – racked up 15,215,675 votes. This gave the parties of the Right an edge of well over 2 million votes, despite the fact that David Cameron’s lacklustre Coke Zero Conservatives hardly put a spring in people’s steps as they went to the polling station. Britain’s fabled progressive majority didn’t show up on polling day. And they didn’t show up because they don’t exist other than in the minds of starry-eyed leftists.

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If you have the time, the whole report – entitled “Dead centre? A review of the political landscape after the referendum” – is worth a read. Yes, it contains the obligatory sprinkling of shellshocked establishment wailing about Brexit, and is published by a think tank which claims to represent something (the so-called “radical centre”) which by definition can not exist. But the report nonetheless highlights the key reason why the parties of the Left cannot unite in opposition to the Evil Tor-ees, as many of their activists clearly want to happen.

Money quote:

On the whole, our analysis makes more cheerful reading for those on the right, than on the centre or the left. The two largest tribes, making up around 50% of the population, hold a range of traditionally right wing views, offering a solid foundation on which to aim for the 40-42% of the vote which normally guarantees a healthy majority under our electoral system. These groups share a desire to see immigration reduced to below 100k a year and were both solidly pro-Leave in the EU referendum.

In fact, of the eight different voter tribes identified by the report, “none of the other groups approaches the size or homogeneity of these two”. These two groups alone account for more than half the electorate, and are inherently distrustful of more leftist policies. Throw in a third tribe, the “free liberals” (perhaps including this blog) and you are looking at 57% of the electorate likely to be hostile to collectivist, redistributionist thinking.

If splits within the Conservative Party and between the Tories and UKIP look bad, that is nothing compared to the fissures on the right, according to the report. As Guido notes:

The progressive tribes are fragmented, disagreeing on openness to the world and attitudes towards the welfare state and taxation. This is bad news for the current Labour Party as the think-tank finds massive differences between so-called“Democratic Socialists” and “Community” party voter blocs – traditionally known as Labour supporters – while both tribes agree on socialist policies towards capitalism, they diverge on supporting the EU or having an internationalist approach.

Well, really it is just Labour that is fractured. The LibDems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green party have all clearly decided to tread the internationalist, social democrat path, worshipping at the altar of the EU and scorning the nation state as a worthwhile agent for change or guarantor of core liberties. This leaves the Labour Party as the only home for those patriotic left-wingers who might fall into the “Community” tribe. And even there, they find themselves under continual assault by the sneering middle class clerisy which is loathe to give up its stranglehold on policymaking. Jeremy Corbyn answers some of this tribe’s concerns, but not all. In fact, one might consider him equally dissatisfactory to the “Democratic Socialists” as to the “Community” tribe, rubbing each up the wrong way.

Even if the parties of the Left could hammer out an uneasy truce and electoral alliance, why would they? Despite the overblown leftist rhetoric, Theresa May’s Conservative government hardly shows signs of being a radical right-wing government in the manner of Thatcher (more’s the pity), so why attempt a political merger which is almost certainly doomed to failure, just to thwart a very non-threatening centrist Tory government? Leftists’ hatred of the Evil Tor-ees is certainly irrational, but they are not that irrational.

Besides, whatever faultlines currently run through the British Left, the headline numbers don’t lie. And despite the fatuous claims of opportunistic smaller parties that greater Westminster representation would enable them to participate in a progressive majority government, the votes simply are not there. They never were.

Of course, none of this is surprising – except, apparently, to London-dwelling metro-left members of the political class who never actually get out and talk to normal people. Anyone who actually does so knows that Britain remains a vaguely conservative country, shot through with a fairly strong authoritarian streak and a deeply ingrained suspicion of success.

We Brits will happily sign petitions for Things That We Don’t Like to be banned and made illegal (the authoritarian bit), light ourselves on fire outside Downing Street in protest at The Great British Bake Off moving from the BBC to Channel Four (the conservative bit) before going on a long, satisfying rant about how evil it is that the inventors and producers of that television show want to receive market-rate compensation for their creation (the suspicion of success). That’s just who we are as a country. I certainly didn’t need the Social Market Foundation and their “eight tribes” report to know that Britain is a small-c conservative country.

That’s why David Cameron was able to guide his wishy-washy, Coke Zero Conservative government to one and a half general election victories – by appealing to these instincts in us. Lord knows it wasn’t because we were excited about his agenda for government (whatever that may have been).

Anyone who pays the remotest bit of attention to British politics ought to be able to sum up our national character fairly succinctly in a manner such as this. In fact, the only ones unable to do so – who laboured under the hilarious misapprehension that there was some great progressive majority yearning to break free and assert itself, installing a wind turbine on every roof – were the deluded metro-leftists.

Perhaps now they can disenthrall themselves of this sweet but futile notion.

 

Postscript: This review of the report in Conservative Home is also worth a read.

 

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With David Cameron’s Resignation From Parliament, British Conservatism Can Begin A New, Bolder Chapter

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Finding himself prematurely out of power and seeing no value in life as a mere backbench MP, David Cameron brings the curtain down on a bland, centrist, disappointing and entirely forgettable political career

Having successfully completed Tony Blair’s fourth term of office and having a premature end called to his fifth, David Cameron today announced his decision to flounce out of parliament – despite having earlier promised to stay on as an MP after his fall from power.

He took his leave of us with these words:

With modern politics, with the circumstances of my resignation, it isn’t really possible to be a proper backbench MP as a former prime minister. I think everything you do will become a big distraction and a big diversion from what the Government needs to do for our country.

And I support Theresa May, I think she’s got off to a great start, I think she can be a strong prime minister for our country and I don’t want to be that distraction – I want Witney to have a new MP who can play a full part in parliamentary and political life without being a distraction.

[..] I hope I’ll continue to contribute in terms of public service and of course contribute to this country that I love so much.”

[..] I spoke to Theresa May and she was very understanding about this decision. I support her, I support what she’s doing, she’s got off to a cracking start. Obviously I’m going to have my own views about different issues – people would know that. And that’s really the point: as a former prime minister it is very difficult, I think, to sit as a backbencher and not be an enormous distraction and diversion from what the Government is doing. I don’t want to be that distraction; I want Witney to have an MP that can play a full role in parliamentary and political life in a way I think I would find very difficult if not impossible.”

Naturally this has led to speculation that David Cameron somehow disagrees with Theresa May’s loudly-trumpeted plans for new grammar schools and the return of potentially widespread academic selection to the education system.

I find this explanation…unconvincing. If the capsuled history of David Cameron’s premiership and leadership of the Conservative Party has taught us anything about Cameron the man, it is that he has absolutely no core political convictions which he is not more than willing to toss overboard for the sake of political expediency and his relentless desire to engage in centrist triangulation.

Fiscal conservatism? As long as he and George Osborne were able to find some statistical or rhetorical device to falsely claim that they were “paying down Britain’s debts”, Cameron was more than happy to continue spending hand over fist, driving Britain’s national debt ever-upward while exhibiting enormous timidity in reversing many of Gordon Brown’s most draconian tax increases.

Strong national defence? It took his successor, Theresa May, to drive through the parliamentary vote on the renewal of Trident, while under David Cameron’s watch Britain temporarily waived goodbye to our aircraft carrier capability (a true diminution in the eyes of the world) as well as the ability to effectively patrol our own coastline and airspace without the help of allies.

A smaller state? The much-vaunted “Big Society” was dead on arrival in 10 Downing Street back in the spring of 2010, and whatever rearranging of deckchairs the coalition government engaged in, nothing was done to tackle the biggest budget black holes – pensions and the NHS. Under David Cameron, the government preferred to virtue-signal their progressive credentials by spending borrowed money on international aid than get to grips with departmental spending.

So given this singularly unimpressive track record, the idea of David Cameron suddenly discovering an ideological backbone and beliefs strong enough to resign over is frankly ludicrous.

In fact, what really happened is quite obvious. Cast from power unexpectedly and with unexpected speed, Cameron lied when he said that he intended to stay on and complete his term as MP for Witney. To have said otherwise and admitted his intention to resign would have appeared churlish, and more than anything Cameron wanted to cultivate the image of himself as an easy-going happy warrior, ready to relinquish the trappings of office without regret and re-assume a more humble role as a backbencher.

This announcement came as quickly as it possibly could without making Cameron look completely dishonest and reprehensible. At least when Gordon Brown resigned as an MP he had managed four years as a backbencher – albeit four years in which he collected a hefty MP salary while being virtually invisible in Westminster. David Cameron’s brittle ego wouldn’t even permit him to last a year on the backbenches. His top flight political career having been brought to an unexpected end, Cameron saw no reason to stick around as a mere constituency MP.

To politicians like David Cameron, the role of constituency MP is merely a springboard to ministerial power. When the possibility of prize cabinet jobs or the keys to Number 10 Downing Street are no longer an option, wasting time on select committees or dealing with constituents’ issues appears a supreme waste of time – time which could be better spent cashing in on fame and carefully tended relationships while they are still relatively fresh and can bear the most fruit.

James Kirkup is similarly unimpressed with the manner of Cameron’s departure:

On June 27, David Cameron issued this statement: “I will continue with my duties as the MP for Witney. It is an enormous privilege to serve the people of West Oxfordshire.”

So enormous that he could only bear it for a few more weeks, apparently. He’s off, leaving the Commons and triggering a by-election in Witney: some lucky Tory will soon inherit one of the safest and prettiest seats in the country.

What does this tell us about Mr Cameron? Nothing terribly positive, to be honest. Let’s remember, he fought the EU referendum campaign promising not to quit if he lost, then quit when he lost — but only having clung to office as long as possible and having banned the Civil Service from doing any preparatory work for Brexit, thus making it harder for his successor to actually get on with the job.

In between breaking his promise not to resign as PM and breaking his promise not to resign as an MP, the only significant official work he undertook was drawing up an honours list handing an OBE to his wife’s stylist and a knighthood to his press officer.

Not exactly the most dignified departure from office, is it? And certainly not one that’s easy to reconcile with many, many statements from Mr Cameron about the sense of duty he owed to his nation, the selfless service he felt obliged to render.

And Kirkup’s unsparing conclusion:

And this is why flouncing out of Parliament in this way is so telling: it speaks to something fundamental about Mr Cameron’s character and his approach to politics: a lack of seriousness, the absence of real commitment.  Yes, he wanted the job and yes he put the hours in, to the cost of his family.

But he would never die in a ditch for his political beliefs, never shed blood and move mountains to hammer home his arguments. It was always enough to get by, to do just enough to get the top grade and do better than the rest.

Sadly, that describes Cameron perfectly – far more obsessed with optics than reality, and forever in search of the path of least resistance, even when that path ran direct through traditionally left-wing territory.

Ultimately, David Cameron was a weak and instantly forgettable prime minister because he was a centrist triangulator and a technocrat at heart. As prime minister he had no real interest in reforming Britain in his own image, imposing his own worldview or being a statesman. Rather, he was content to campaign and govern as a mere Comptroller of Public Services, the living, breathing symbol of the diminution of our national politics.

With his happy departure from Parliament (en route to a minor footnote in history) one hopes that the ground has shifted under British politics, and that the age of the technocrat might be coming to an end. His successor, Theresa May, while far from being this blog’s preferred choice, at least seems to have some strongly held political views of her own, while Jeremy Corbyn’s imminent re-election as Labour Party leader promises a 2020 general election offering genuine choice to the electorate.

All we need now is for George Osborne to follow his chum David Cameron into political retirement and we may finally be able to turn the page on this most boring and depressing chapter in Conservative history.

 

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Nicola Sturgeon’s Failure Of Courage

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75 days after her massive tantrum about the EU referendum result, a meek and humiliating climbdown from Nicola Sturgeon

From the Guardian:

Nicola Sturgeon has shelved plans for a quick second referendum on Scottish independence after dire spending figures and a fall in public support for leaving the UK.

The first minister told Holyrood on Tuesday that her government only planned to issue a consultation on a draft referendum bill – a measure which falls short of tabling new legislation in this year’s programme for government.

Two months after telling reporters a referendum was “highly likely” within the next two years, she told MSPs that that bill would now only be introduced if she believed it was the best option for Scotland.

Her officials later said that consultation process could start at some time in the next year, with no target date in mind for its launch or its conclusion. Sturgeon’s official legislative timetable, the programme for government, described the referendum as an option and not as a goal.

Well, well, well.

Looks like a tacit admission that running a creaking, statist, big government petro-state north of the border – all based on a fiercely irrational cult of personality – doesn’t produce the kind of dynamic, resilient country which could frolic its way to independence without an economic care in the world after all.

Who could have possibly known?

 

Postscript: But let us not be too smug. The same report also tells us that the SNP plans to use the Scottish government’s discretionary fiscal powers cut the outrageously high Air Passenger Duty tax by 50% – a good first step in reducing it even further, back to the kind of levels which no longer put passengers off flying to or connecting through the UK:

She confirmed that the SNP would cut air passenger duty at Scottish airports by 50% from April 2018 to stimulate spending, a plan lambasted by Labour and the Scottish Greens as it would damage efforts to tackle climate change.

The day that the Conservative Party can lecture Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party on pro-consumer, supply-side economic reform with a straight face will be the day when Philip Hammond stands at the despatch box and promises an even greater cut in APD for the rest of the UK in his first Budget.

Until then, the Conservatives continue to disappoint expectations, preferring to virtue-signal their environmentalist credentials and rob leisure and business travellers of their money than usher in the aviation revolution that this country sorely needs.

 

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This Weak Conservative Government Refuses To Get Tough With The Unions

Southern Rail Isnt Working

When even staunch New Labour grandee and columnist John McTernan thinks the Tories are behaving like a weaker version of the Labour Party, British conservatism is in real trouble

As the RMT union’s strike on Southern Rail enters its third consecutive day, inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of commuters while a dithering Tory-lite government watches on, wringing its hands, former New Labour political adviser John McTernan uses his Telegraph column to tear into the Conservative Party.

McTernan writes:

We are in the middle of a five-day rail strike on Southern Rail. Commuters are being massively disrupted. And this is just the latest stage in a dispute in which the Luddite RMT union has made it clear that it is fully committed to fighting against the future.

What about the Government? Where are they in this dispute. It is a crystallisation if all their key themes: investment, modernisation, innovation and productivity. But they are silent.

Well not quite. What we have actually seen is the resignation of the then rail minister Claire Perry, who said:  “I am often ashamed to be the Rail Minister.” And so she should have been – just for her pathetic capitulation to the RMT. This, of course, is just what you would have expected from a Miliband government; but this is a Tory government, with a majority.

There is a famous scene in The West Wing episode about President Bartlet appointing a member of the Supreme Court. He meets Justice Joseph Crouch, whose retirement creates the vacancy, and is angrily addressed by Crouch: “I wanted to retire five years ago. Five years. But I waited for a Democrat. Instead I got you.” The Southern Rail dispute is just like that. Commuters in the Home Counties could be forgiven for thinking: “I waited 23 years for a majority Tory government. Instead I got you.” Where are the core Tory values? Where is the support for management’s right to manage?

This is utterly stunning criticism – shocking not only because it is self-evidently true (the Conservatives in government are a shadow of their glorious best under Margaret Thatcher) but because they are now so bad at governing in a conservative fashion that it has fallen to a former New Labour apparatchik to set them straight.

Why on earth has it fallen to a Labour Party grandee to inveigh against the more militant trades union? Where is the useless europhile Greg Clark, supposedly Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy during this whole dispute? Where is Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary? Have they all taken lessons from their new boss in the art of disappearing and avoiding the media during scandals affecting their ministerial briefs?

This criticism is particularly damning:

Where are the core Tory values? Where is the support for management’s right to manage?

Where indeed. This blog has wondered the same thing, as the Tories in government behaved like centralising statists, presided over an unprecedented weakening of our national defence, dithered over the housing crisisfailed to get to grips with the nation’s finances, alienated principled conservatives, and as the leader of a supposedly eurosceptic party did all he could to cheat his way to victory for the Remain camp in the EU referendum. Where are the core Tory values?

A Thatcherite government would have stood boldly on the side of consumers over producers, and thus would have been unafraid to plant its flag squarely in the same corner as Southern Rail’s unfortunate commuters. And unlike the Cameron approach to industrial disputes (seemingly applying maximum pressure on businesses to capitulate to union demands, as seen with the London Tube strikes) a Thatcherite government would have recognised the offensive absurdity of the union demands and unashamedly sided against them.

Needless to say, we do not have a Thatcherite government – despite all of the ingredients being in place for another properly ideological right wing government to flourish. The left-wing opposition is hopelessly divided. The Conservatives are under new leadership for the first time in a decade. Boundary review looks set to help the Tories by correcting decades-old biases in favour of Labour, potentially gifting the Tories tens of additional seats. All of these factors stand ready and waiting to be exploited by a radical Conservative government which understands that it has a duty to do more than hold power for the sake of it.

And yet at every turn, the Tories triangulate and tack to the centre. They did so under coalition government (when they had a modicum of an excuse) and they continue to do so now, when they have none. Right now, there is effectively no opposition. A conservative government right now could make a fair stab at privatising pensions and the NHS, and still not be forced out of office so long as the Corbynite and centrist wings of the Labour Party continue their childish tussle for power. The political landscape is ripe for a radical conservative reduction and reshaping of the state, yet there is almost zero evidence that Theresa May’s government intends to attempt any such bold enterprise.

And for what? Will being a centrist clone of New Labour win the Tories any new fans? Of course not. The swivel-eyed Left have long ago convinced themselves that all Tories are “evil” and “vermin”, no matter what they actually do in government.

We shall win no new fans by trying to adopt the cuddly persona of a young Tony Blair. We will never be liked. Therefore we should focus on being effective, without giving a second thought to winning over the admiration and votes of people who have been raised since birth to despise us. That’s what Margaret Thatcher taught us. And that is the lesson which we seem determined to cast aside in our feverish pursuit of the focus group’s favour.

John McTernan’s quote from The West Wing is very apt. Many conservatives have indeed been waiting for years – since Margaret Thatcher was forced from office, in fact – for another strong Tory leader; somebody committed to conservative, small government principles and willing to fight for them.

Conservatives waited thirteen long years of New Labour government only to get David Cameron. We then endured six years of Cameronism before being presented with the authoritarian Theresa May, foisted on the party in the confused wake of the EU referendum. And whatever electoral success Theresa May enjoys, she may well end up being every bit as much of an ideological disappointment as her predecessor.

But maybe this criticism is premature. Maybe the autumn Conservative Party conference will give birth to a conservative policy platform actually worth voting for. And to be fair to the new prime minister, even Margaret Thatcher bottled her first confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers, staging a tactical retreat before coming back to finish the job in 1984-85.

But right now, British conservatives are in the ludicrous and humiliating position of being upbraided by a Labour Party grandee – someone from the party of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, for heaven’s sake – for being insufficiently dedicated to conservative principles.

And when it falls to Tony Blair’s right hand man to tell the Tories how to get tough with the unions, something is clearly rotten with the state of British conservatism.

 

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