Quote For The Day

After the election, American conservatives cannot simply pretend that Donald Trump never happened. The Republican Party must fully reject Trumpism and then reach out to voters with a brighter, most optimistic conservative message

Jonah Goldberg, addressing an Ashbrook Center event in Cleveland, Ohio back in 2014, when Donald Trump was just a loudmouth birther and not, y’know, a major party presidential candidate:

I love first principles, I’m all about first principles, I think that’s great stuff. But people forget that politics has to be about persuasion, about bringing people to your side who don’t already agree with you. Otherwise it might as well be a Civil War re-enactment club or a Dungeons & Dragons society where we just play our little roles and then we go home.

And this is something that a lot of conservatives have lost. And one of the things we have lost is the ability to tell stories.

Goldberg goes on to criticise the excessive hagiography of Ronald Reagan, pointing out that Reagan’s recent reputation as an unbelievably principled conservative who never once sullied himself with compromise actually much more closely fits Barry Goldwater – who of course went down to glorious defeat.

The point, I suppose, is that Donald Trump fails both tests. He is not a conservative – or at least he has done absolutely nothing to prove that his Damascene conversion to traditional Republican values and talking points is remotely genuine, and not simply a convenient ploy to co-opt supporters.

Worse still, Trump is incapable of telling an authentically conservative story which might actually attract and persuade undecided voters, because every time he opens his mouth to tell a story a new victimhood-soaked conspiracy theory dribbles out instead.

I also post the quote as a reminder to myself. Lord knows that I have a lot of issues with the current British Conservative Party and the direction it has gone under Cameron and May (well, really since mid-Thatcher, when I was born). But when you rant on the internet every day it is easy to preach to the choir sometimes and forget that there are some good Conservative MPs of principle out there who do want to take the country in a different, more small-L liberal direction, and who have no truck with Labour’s vacuous centrists-in-exile or Theresa May’s flirtation with authoritarianism.

But more than anything, the Goldberg quote is a reminder of the huge rebuilding exercise the Republican Party will have to do after Donald Trump. Whatever story they previously used to connect with voters, however battered and dubious it may have been, has now been utterly obliterated. Some say that the GOP can (and will) simply forget that Trump ever happened, and move on serenely. I’m not sure that will be possible – not least because many Republican grassroots members may not let it happen. They may well find an heir to Trump, and throw their support behind Trump Mark II.

Besides, this crisis represents too great an opportunity for American conservatism to re-invent itself. This blog has been intermittently banging on about the need for small government conservatism to come to terms with our modern, globalised world – a world in which supply chains and labour markets are international, and the kind of mass, semi-skilled manufacturing work which once paid well enough to support a comfortable middle class life has either permanently disappeared, or else barely pays a subsistence wage.

This is a particular challenge for conservatives, who believe in empowering the individual and restricting the overbearing hand of government. Left-wingers can simply wave their arms and promise a new government programme to retrain vast swathes of the population, or buy their silence with benefits. Conservatives do not have this luxury.

But the eventual answer will, I am sure, have to come from conservatives. Cranking up the size of the state until it is all things to all people is unsustainable, squelching innovation at best and provoking economic crisis at worst, as proven every single time it has been attempted. Globalisation continues apace and the burning question continues to go unanswered.

Perhaps, once the Republicans are finished debasing themselves by their association with Donald Trump, they might care to have a crack at solving it.



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Jonah Goldberg On Conservatism In The Age of Donald Trump

Jonah Goldberg says it best when describing the existential danger facing American conservatism in the Age of Trump.

On Trump’s unearned reputation as a happy warrior against political correctness:

This is just flatly not true. I also don’t believe it is true that Trump is appealing to minorities based upon their status as citizens, it’s not in his rhetoric, it’s not what he says; nor do I think he gives a rat’s patoot about the Constitution, which he thinks has twelve articles. He is just making it up as he goes along, riding a populist wave.

[..] This idea that Donald Trump is against political correctness is just a fiction. He’s against being held accountable to people to political correctness for himself but he is delighted to use the exact same bullying tropes of political correctness against other people. He’s done it against me when he tried to get me fired from National Review, saying I was insulting to women and that I have to apologise or resign or be fired because I was so insulting to women. What did I do that was so insulting to women? I said that Donald Trump is staying up late into the night like a teenage girl, tweeting. Which was A, accurate, and B, accurate.

During the primaries when Jeb Bush had a completely understandable and forgivable gaffe about women’s health issues, for weeks Donald Trump was talking about how horrible Jeb Bush was on women’s issues, playing these politically correct cards. He’s a nearest weapon to hand arguer in all things because he does have no philosophy, he has no intellectual grounding whatsoever, and I understand saying “well, we don’t need any more intellectuals, what did intellectuals get us, look at Woodrow Wilson, look at Barack Obama”, I get all that.

But Donald Trump is not a practitioner or a believer in American exceptionalism. He’s rejected the term outright, explicitly, more than once, nor does he represent what we mean by American exceptionalism. His core values, as he says over and over again, are strength and winning. Getting him to talk about the Constitution is like getting my daughter to eat brussel sprouts. I mean, she’ll do it, but it’s not a pretty picture and she tries to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Interestingly, Jonah Goldberg seems to broadly agree with my assessment of the first presidential debate, awarding Hillary Clinton the win, but not by a massive degree:

I thought Trump lost the debate, but not overwhelmingly. He was clearly the winner of the first 30 minutes or so, and if he’d stayed that guy for the full 90 it would have been a hugely consequential rout. But then, Hillary implemented “Bait Trump Protocol Alpha-1,” when she brought up how he got his start with a $14 million loan from his father. (She got the details wrong, but it doesn’t matter. When you’re baiting fish or Trumpzilla, the lure doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be shiny. In fact, getting the bait just slightly wrong makes it even more irresistible, because we all have a natural instinct to correct falsehoods aimed at us, and Trump more than most.)

So Trump bit the shiny thing, and for the rest of the night, plodding, dull Hillary Clinton led Trump around the stage like a matador with a red cape. And, four days later, Trump is still charging around like an enraged bull. At first I thought Clinton’s use of Alicia Machado was odd. There are so many Trump victims out there, why use one with such a weird past? But that’s what was so brilliant about it. If Machado were a nun, it’d be harder for Trump to attack. But Trump thinks he can win this one on the merits and so he won’t let go of it. He didn’t learn the lesson of his feud with the Khan family: The only way to win such fights is to not engage in them at all. The debate wasn’t a disaster but how he handled the post-debate spin was, and continues to be.

If Trump could stay on message, if he could be a disciplined candidate, I think he’d be ten points ahead by now. But realistically, this is no different from saying if he could control anything metal with his mind, he would be Magneto.

In the immediate aftermath of the debate (at 4AM UK Time, with no opportunity for reflection or benchmarking against the reaction of others) I wrote:

Clinton did become more effective during the final 30 minutes, which her campaign will be very relieved about. And did she manage to rile Donald Trump? Yes – but no more than the country is used to seeing after his tussles with Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

[..] My gut says that this was a victory for Hillary Clinton on points, but a score draw in terms of public reception. Time will soon tell.

All but the most extreme Trump partisans have indeed admitted a Clinton victory on points, substance and tone. And once again, Donald Trump is crowdsourcing advice for how he should tackle the upcoming second debate at Washington University in St. Louis – advice which he will surely reject again, whether it comes from his army of supporters or his despairing, demoralised campaign team.

American conservatives who have chosen to collaborate with Donald Trump have hitched their wagon to the wrong train – in victory or defeat, he will lead them nowhere good.


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Shameless Conservatives Try To Blame The Rise Of Donald Trump On Barack Obama And The Democrats

Anti-Trump conservatives need to stop trying to blame Democrats for the rise of Donald Trump, and take a good look in the mirror instead

While it is admirable that many prominent American conservatives are refusing on principle to support Donald Trump, far fewer seem introspective or self-critical enough to consider their own role in fuelling the mania which brought a reality TV star to the cusp of the presidency.

Latest to hop aboard the “look what the Democrats made us do” bandwagon is a writer I like and respect very much, the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. There is much to admire in Goldberg’s continued and principled criticism of Donald Trump, but he goes too far when he tries to shift blame for the rise of Trump away from where it belongs – the hysterical and alarmist nature of Republican opposition to President Obama – and create an alternative universe where the dastardly Obama “trolled” the helpless GOP and effectively forced the Republican base to become frothing-at-the-mouth crazy people uniquely receptive to Trump’s message.

Goldberg writes:

Consider President Obama. One of the central insights of both the Obama campaign and administration (the difference is subtle but real) is that Obama benefits when his critics overreact. In 2008, then-political adviser David Axelrod coined the phrase “no drama Obama” to describe not only his client’s personality but his messaging. By seeming unflappable in the face of criticism, Obama comes across as presidential. The more heated the criticism, the more presidential he seems.

The thing is, Obama often intentionally provokes the conservative base. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman put it in January 2015, Obama “seems to come up with a new idea every couple of weeks to drive [the GOP] up a wall.” That makes him a master at trolling.

[..] Obama played a similar game with his birth certificate and the whole birther craze. He could have released his birth certificate as early as 2008, when the Mephistophelean Clinton henchman Sid Blumenthal was whispering in reporters’ ears. But Obama didn’t for years — in part because he knew the conspiracy theory would galvanize his base. It not only confirmed everything liberals wanted to hear about the Right, it also provided Obama with an endless supply of one-liners. And for a long time that worked well for Obama; he got to mock birthers and play the dignified victim.

You can probably already see the problem. When you throw out so many buckets of chum, you have no idea what kinds of creatures you’ll attract.

Obama chummed the waters for so long, he pulled in a great white shark. A man often in error but never in doubt, with a thumbless grasp of facts and a total willingness to repeat conspiracy theories, rumors, and innuendo as the truth, Trump was almost the personification of the collective id of the angrier strata of the Republican base.

It takes quite some gall to accuse Barack Obama (of all people) of fuelling the birther movement, while keeping a straight face. No other presidents in history have been forced by relentless fringe political pressure to release their birth certificate in order to prove eligibility for office, and to suggest that Obama’s understandable reluctance to rise to the conspiracy theorist bait was motivated primarily by a desire to smear the Republican Party is like blaming a homeowner you just burgled for not warning you in advance that burglary is illegal and will get you in trouble with the law.

Is Barack Obama now responsible for the welfare and fortunes of the Republican Party? Does he have some hitherto-unknown obligation to save his political foes from their own worst excesses? The idea is laughable. Republicans loved having fringe birthers on their side when it helped them storm to victory in the 2010 midterm elections – it is disingenuous in the extreme for American conservatives to pretend that birtherism was something foisted upon them by Obama himself now that it has finally become a liability.

Besides, the real roots of Donald Trump’s rise – besides the pervasive weariness with political elites in general, a phenomenon witnessed on both sides of the Atlantic – lie in the behaviour of leading conservative politicians and media personalities, and the way in which they chose to portray Obama’s centre-leftism as a unique and unprecedented socialist assault on America.

As this blog recently noted:

It was the tri-cornered hat brigade whose admirable devotion to fiscal responsibility only materialised once Barack Obama took office, and then failed to force any meaningful change in Washington despite many of their number being elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms which, who have a case to answer. They were the Great White Hope whose inevitable failure formed the third strike against the political class.

It was not the Democratic Party which fanned the flames of birtherism (and then considered a nominee for president who was born in Canada) and refused to stand up to angry constituents demanding to see a birth certificate. That was all on the Republicans. Donald Trump led that effort, and nearly the entire GOP sat back with a tub of popcorn, thinking that the circus would benefit them politically. And so it did, until their attack dog finally broke the leash and turned on its handlers.

Has Barack Obama been a decidedly left-wing and in some (though by no means all) ways unimpressive president? Yes, he has. But is he a closet Communist, a secret Muslim planning to enforce hardline Islamism on America or a hopelessly incompetent buffoon? Absolutely not. He is a centre-left politician with undeniable skills, twice elected on a centre-left platform and governing according to a centre-left approach. But in their greed to quickly win back power without doing the hard work of making their own pitch to the voters more appealing, too many Republicans were willing to tolerate and sometimes actively participate in the anti-Obama hysteria for short term political gain.

[..] Yes, the Democrats peddle in identity politics and often come down on the wrong side when it comes to favouring political correctness over freedom of speech, religion and behaviour. But it was the Republicans who opted to whip up (and profit from) blind fury about the state of the country instead of articulating a serious, coherent alternative. And in the end they were beaten at their own game. Why vote for the politician who smirks or winks when someone else is making ignorant, bigoted remarks when now you can vote for the real deal?

And again, even earlier, here:

As Barack Obama’s second term reaches its end, the size and scope of the federal government is still stubbornly large, but America has by no means transitioned into a Soviet-style planned economy. Even the hated (in right-wing circles) ObamaCare has only tinkered around the margins, funnelling a few million uninsured into some form of health coverage, inconveniently disrupting the existing coverage of a number of other people but otherwise doing nothing to change the private insurance, private provision model of American healthcare. The Second Amendment has not been substantially undermined, let alone repealed. Defence spending may be misaligned but still eclipses the rest of the world, and the US military has not been decimated. In terms of domestic policy, in other words, the world has not ended.

Has America become a libertarian paradise under President Obama? Of course not. But that’s because a Democrat won the White House and focused (as much as he could, given a spineless Democratic congressional caucus and entrenched Republican opposition) on the kind of centre-left priorities you would expect from a Democrat. And crucially, neither has America become a socialist dystopia in that time.

That’s not to say that the Republicans did not often have a point, or that they were perpetually in the wrong – in many cases, their opposition to Obama’s agenda was justified. But at all times this opposition was carried out in a shrill, alarmist and hyperbolic manner – much as British left-wingers are currently mirroring the American Tea Party with their “pass the smelling salts” horror at the thoroughly unexciting, centrist government of David Cameron.

And when you go trawling for low information votes by feeding on prejudice and stoking up concerns about the personal motivations, the loyalty and even the American-ness of the president in a childishly obstructionist scorched earth strategy, you can’t really feign surprise when the sentiments you unleash give rise to a populist demagogue like Donald Trump.

Remember, this is a political party which urged Americans in all seriousness to vote for Sarah Palin as vice president back in 2008. Sarah Palin. The Republicans have been dabbling in crazy and courting the proudly ignorant vote for decades. Donald Trump is nothing but the GOP’s longstanding approach taken to its logical extreme.

And if decent conservatives want to ensure that they never again find themselves in a position of seeing their movement taken over by an ignorant, populist demagogue then they might want to stop blaming Democrats for their own self-inflicted misfortune and instead re-examine their behaviour both in government and opposition.

Was it wise, for example, to pretend to be super tough on immigration, yet ultimately do nothing to stem the flow of illegal immigrants or otherwise reform the system, simply because Republican donors had no interest in changing the status quo, with its plentiful cheap labour for corporations and affordable illegal domestic service for households?

Was it wise to continually shriek not just that Democrats wanted to impose stricter gun control but that they were actively seeking to abolish the Second Amendment? (The big push to completely outlaw guns trumpeted in GOP propaganda has been just weeks away for the past eight years now – is Obama waiting until his very last day in office to take America’s guns?)

Was it smart to prance around as the party of national security while consistently involving America in foreign conflagrations which increased anti-American sentiment, or to pose as the party of civil liberties while loudly cheerleading for the surveillance state?

Was it really such a genius move to talk endlessly about the benefits of tax cuts for ordinary Americans while focusing them overwhelmingly on the wealthy, or to cynically pretend that America’s lost manufacturing jobs could be easily brought back home in the age of globalisation and international supply chains?

At nearly every election going back to the Bill Clinton administration and probably earlier, the Republican Party has been writing rhetorical cheques that its politicians cannot or will not cash when they are either in office or a position of influential opposition, at a national or statewide level.

They promised to be on the side of ordinary wage and salary earners, yet together with the Democrats they did nothing to address the economic stagnation of the middle class.

They ran around screaming that ObamaCare (originally a conservative think tank idea, in large part) was socialism incarnate, an evil government takeover of healthcare rather than merely a messy and flawed patch to America’s abysmal healthcare system.

They took tons of cash in campaign contributions and small donations in order to fight the Culture Wars, enriching many pundits and activists in the process, and then rode to glorious defeat on nearly all fronts.

In other words, the Republican Party was acutely vulnerable to a Trumpian takeover because they have consistently been a party of failure. They sucked at doing the things they promised their base that they would do, and they did a whole load of other things in office or opposition which their base never wanted. And still they coasted by for years, knowing that they were their supporters’ least-worst option, until a brash new arrival appeared on the scene, a stranger to Washington politics, who promised – however glibly – that instead of mere talk he would deliver decisive action.

I think this is one of those times when I see things a little more clearly and with better perspective than American conservatives like Jonah Goldberg who have been in the trenches, fighting Barack Obama from Day 1 of his presidency. Aside from eighteen instructive months in Chicago, I spent the past eight years living in Britain, where the legacy and tradition of socialism is much stronger and more pervasive than it is in the United States.

In Britain we make the NHS, our nationalised healthcare system, into a ghastly national religion and worship it from dawn to dusk even as it kills people. We accept a much bigger welfare state than Americans would tolerate. Many of us actively demand a large, activist state to protect us from the consequences of our own decisions. Even our nominally conservative party supports many of these things.

And while I may not have the painful first-hand experience of socialism as someone from, say, Venezuela, I am surrounded by enough monuments to it for Republican wailings that Evil ObamaCare is going to destroy the “greatest healthcare system on the face of the earth” and institute socialist “death panels” to dispatch infirm Americans as the opportunistic, partisan rabble-rousing that it is. Those conservatives screeching about Obama’s plot to force “socialism” on America need to take a vacation in Venezuela, and then come back and moderate their language.

As proclaimed conservatives, the Republicans are supposedly the party of personal responsibility. Well, Donald Trump is 100% the responsibility of conservative politicians and pundits, and their scorched earth approach to opposing President Obama’s agenda. It was never the job of Barack Obama to protect the Republicans from their own worst excesses, though the GOP has done a remarkable job of “socialising” the consequences and spreading the cost of their greed and idiocy across the entire country in the risk of a potential Trump presidency.

Jonah Goldberg and other conservative thinkers peddling the “look what the Democrats made us do” defence are better than this. Donald Trump is the product of decades of establishment and conservative failure to address the needs, concerns and aspirations of millions of traditional Republican voters. And rather than blaming a Democratic president for failing to keep their own supporters in check, influential conservatives should hold themselves accountable for their part in this failure.

Hopefully the price of their failure will not be a Donald Trump presidency. But if Hillary Clinton does prevail in November, Republicans should be aware that opposing her in the same shrill and apocalyptic manner as they opposed Obama may see the donations come rolling in to conservative candidates and Super PACs, but it will leave them acutely vulnerable to takeover by someone far worse than even Donald Trump in 2020.

In other words, this would be a very good time for American conservatives to learn the right lessons from their own recent history.


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Blast From The Past: Jonah Goldberg Lashes Out At Political Centrists

A refreshing tirade against political centrism

Most regular readers will know that this blog has time for just about anyone on the political spectrum, save the out-and-proud centrists, those virtue-signalling, sanctimonious oiks who think that by eschewing strong opinions and continually fudging every issue they are somehow morally superior to us hot-headed partisan folk.

That’s why this blog has been a consistent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. While I would never vote for him myself – and what’s with this trend of demanding that even the leaders of parties we would never vote for still agree with us on key issues? – far better that the Labour Party has at its head someone who stands for vaguely socialist principles than another rootless centrist in the mould of Tony Blair or David Cameron.

That’s one of many reasons why this blog campaigned tirelessly for Brexit and a vote to leave the European Union. Bland, woolly, resigned pro-Europeanism – the centrist belief that Britain is hopeless, the nation state is outdated and that security and prosperity can only come by surrendering sovereignty to an unaccountable supranational body – was the watchword among every single one of Britain’s main political parties, save UKIP. Brexit slapped that smug consensus off the face of Britain’s politicians, and their pampered cheeks will be smarting for years to come as a result.

All of this is an unnecessarily long way of labouring the point – again – that I really, really, don’t like centrists. I may have written about this already, once or twice before:

Bring up the subject of taxation, to pick a random example, and you’ll get a group of people who strongly feel that taxes should be cut in order to stimulate the economy and allow taxpayers to keep more of what they earn, and you’ll get another group of people who think that it’s morally obscene that some people are enjoying themselves, so we should make the tax code more punitively progressive to help bring about social ‘equality’. But you’ll also get a third group of rather bovine people who look up from Britain’s Strictly Come Bake-Off On Ice, wipe the pizza grease from their mouths and just say “what?”

At present, we tend to think of this last group of people as “centrists” or “swing voters”, simply because they do not quote direct from either the Labour or Conservative Party manifesto when asked to offer a political opinion. But are they really centrists? There’s a world of difference between someone who carefully studies the competing policies of different parties to arrive at a considered position half way between two extremes, and someone who mutters something about politicians being “all the same” before their eyes glaze back over.

[..] And can we also please disenthrall ourselves of the unsupported and misleading notion that these “centrist” voters will immediately startle like shy fauns if they encounter a strong political opinion once in awhile, when most of them probably could not run for the bus in the morning, let alone into the arms of another political party?

Which seems as good a time as any to revisit this Jonah Goldberg video taken from an interview with Glenn Reynolds, in which Goldberg is promoting his (then) new book, “The Tyranny of Cliches”.

Here is Goldberg on how centrists are overrated:

We all see the centre as this incredibly privileged and wonderful place, right? The mainstream media constantly talks about the centre as if it’s just the greatest place in the world, and centrists are somehow wiser and more noble than the rest of us — “Shh! David Gergen’s about to talk!” And it’s all nonsense.

First of all, the whole idea of the centre as being this privileged place is actually one of these enlightenment myths. There’s this whole slew of argumentation about how Galileo and Copernicus “dethroned mankind” by getting rid of geocentrism, that the theory of heliocentrism, that we revolve around the sun rather than the Earth being the centre of the world [sic] was an elevation or promotion for mankind, and in our arrogance we couldn’t handle it and the Catholic church beat up on it. And it’s not a real left-right thing, except in the regard that it explains how we understand the whole geographic political landscape.

The reason why the Catholic church and pretty much everybody else opposed geocentrism was one, they weren’t sure the science was right because it was a novel theory at the time, but two, because they considered it a promotion. In medieval understanding, in ancient Greek understanding, Jewish medieval understanding and Catholic, Thomas Aquinas understanding, the centre of the world, the centre of the universe is literally the asshole of the universe. The centre of the universe is considered the lowest and most disgusting and turgid place in the whole cosmos. In Dante’s Inferno, the lowest pit of hell is the centre of the universe. Maimonides talks about this, Aquinas talks about this and it is this myth of the modern mind that somehow geocentrism, getting rid of geocentrism somehow elevated mankind. It completely misunderstands where the medieval mind was, and we carry it forward to today.

There are a lot of huge arguments we have with the Left, or are between the Left and the Right. The Left says we have to build this bridge over a canyon, it’s a stimulus thing, it’s infrastructure, we need this bridge. The Right says are you frigging crazy? We can’t afford it, we don’t need the bridge, it’s a bridge to nowhere, it makes no sense, blah blah blah. That’s an honest argument – one side says let’s build the bridge, the other side says let’s not build the bridge. The friggin’ pinky-extending centrists parachute in and says no no, let there be peace among you. We’ll compromise – we’ll build half a bridge that goes halfway across the canyon.

It is these difference splitters who drive me absolutely batty, and we treat them as if they hold this privileged place when we don’t even understand that the centre is a geographic metaphor, it’s not an actual place in politics. All the serious ideas in politics have always come from where they were considered to be the extreme at one point or another.

Brexit and the reclaiming of our nation state democracy from the failing euro-federalist experiment in Brussels was considered a niche and even extremist idea for most of the past 40 years. And look at us now – with the only remaining resistance consisting of Owen Smith’s pitiful, petulant bleating and a few pathetic europhiles with the EU flag painted on their faces, Brexit is happening.

All the serious ideas in politics have once been described as extreme and unmentionable, says Jonah Goldberg. Darn straight.

And nobody has ever built a monument to a centrist.


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Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty – Closing Update

Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty 2014 5


The Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty 2014 is now wrapping up at London’s Guildhall.

Semi-Partisan Sam is live-tweeting the event here, previewed the conference here, and summarised developments here and here throughout the day.

It has been a very insightful day. Tim Stanley put it well when he observed that many of the old Thatcherites in attendance, though advancing in years, often spoke with more energy and enthusiasm than the focus group-approved, cookie-cutter young politicos filling the ranks of the main political parties today.

Here is a round-up of highlights from the afternoon sessions:

A resounding result from the poll on funding of the BBC. Fully 70% of respondents said that British taxpayers should no longer fully subsidise the organisation.

A stern warning from John Howard to the British Conservative Party on electability: “The worst way to try to win office is to pretend you’re not too different from your opponents”. Will David Cameron’s Tories heed this advice once freed from their LibDem shackles in the 2015 general election campaign?

The roots of the financial crash were analysed, and John Howard pushed back on the increasingly popular idea that it was a crisis of capitalism: “US legislators flung money at people who had no ability to repay housing loans”. That sums it up quite well.

The debate on immigration missed the mark a bit, with US/Canadian speakers and those from Europe talking past each other, not really understanding the huge differences thanks to the EU’s common market and free movement of people.

The seeds of an interesting new angle on immigration by John Howard, who described himself as a “multiracialist, not a multiculturalist”. Howard explained that this meant welcoming all races and ethnicities in the immigrant community, but expecting everyone to assimilate. Could this be an effective way for political parties to express a civic view of Britishness?

Rousing words from Toby Young, saying that the British right wing was ideally positioned to claim the mantles of free speech and equality from a tired left wing that is all too eager to “turn a blind eye [when minority groups] do not stand up for equality in their own communities” – citing the treatment of girls in the schools implicated in the Birmingham school trojan horse scandal.

More Toby Young on free speech: “The left has surrendered free speech to those of us on the centre right. We saw this in the Leveson affair”.

Fighting back against the Thomas Piketty phenomenon, Toby Young declares “They [the left wing] have promoted the idea that there is fundamental antagonism between free market capitalism and inequality”.

Property rights came up, and John Howard called for US-style laws on mineral rights: “Mineral rights should belong to landowners, not government”. If fracking is to become widespread in the UK, it is only fair that affected homeowners, rather than the Crown, should reap the benefits.

Jonah Goldberg’s excellent joke when he suffered a Marco Rubio moment – “excuse me, I smoked a huge amount of pot before I got here, I have terrible dry mouth … That joke worked better on college campuses. And in Colorado” – crashed and burned in the hall. CPS delegates need to lighten up a bit.

Jonah Goldberg gives some sound words of advice – that we should all become happy conservative warriors. “Nothing annoys a liberal more than a conservative who smiles … Our tradition of liberty is the best guarantee enabling people to enjoy life”, he says.


Stay tuned to @SamHooper on Twitter for final live-tweets from the CPS conference, and to this blog for review and post-game analysis of the conference once it concludes.