General Election 2019: Results & Analysis Live Blog

General election 2019 - Boris Johnson - Jeremy Corbyn - Jo Swinson

 

13 December – 6:03AM

I  have mostly moved over to Twitter for the remainder of my election night results commentary, so for now will leave you with this:

 

In due course I will try to write something about what this election result means for Brexit, for the Union and for the future of conservatism – as the British political realignment takes another giant step forward.

13 December – 2:22AM – Labour Civil War, #2

 

I’m inclined to agree that this is the best course of action from a Labour Party perspective (though notably it means contesting exactly the same new ground that the Tories are trying to claim as their own). However, the unrepentant centrists within Labour will doubtless try to use Corbyn’s failure to shoehorn their way back into power and influence, despite having learned nothing from their past failures.

I’ll say it again: Jeremy Corbyn’s tolerance of antisemitism, agnosticism on Brexit and overall bad leadership does not magically erase the past sins of the Labour centrists, who presided over the broken old political consensus which finally received its coup-de-grace with today’s general election.

13 December – 1:50AM

Hot take analysis – Whither Scotland?

 

The SNP government in Holyrood has been a never-ending catalogue of incompetence and failure, yet in their eternal wisdom Scottish voters seem to have returned a huge caucus of SNP MPs to Westminster. This will only increase pressure for another independence referendum and cement Scotland’s position as a failing one-party member state of the UK.

I’m inclined to say that we should give Nicola Sturgeon her second Scottish referendum, even though it would be an unjustified repeat of 2014 pushed for by sore losers. This time, Scottish nationalists will have  to make the case for independence as a small country outside both the UK and the EU, plaintively applying for readmittance to the European Union on unfavorable terms. They would have to adopt the Euro and likely Schengen, which would create a whole host of delicious problems that would make the Northern Ireland Brexit issues look simple by comparison. Perhaps, unlike last time, the separatists would push for independence without publishing a plan of the kind which was so mercilessly dissected by the media and unionists in 2014, running instead on vague phrases and platitudes. Maybe they could print some lies on the side of a campaign bus.

I think that Scottish nationalists would lose another referendum by a wider margin than last time. Ultimately, the SNP has never been able to make a non-partisan case for independence. The whole thing is bound up closely in anti-Tory and anti-English hatred, and has never been an inclusive movement capable of taking onboard Scottish conservatives and others. Nicola Sturgeon’s entire schtick is that the UK is an evil right-wing dystopia that Scotland needs to escape, making it impossible for her to reach out to her centre-right countrymen. And assuming that the UK leaves the EU without suffering major economic disruption in the short term, Scottish independence well and truly becomes the reckless departure from the stable status quo, versus remaining in a closely integrated political union with the rest of the UK.

And let’s not forget the Russians! It’s clear that Vladimir Putin and all of our geopolitical foes would rejoice at the breakup of the UK, the diminishment of our union and the potential threat to the continuity of the UK’s nuclear deterrent (given that our ballistic submarine fleet are based in Faslane, Scotland). Why then should Scottish unionists or the rest of the UK accept a referendum loss, in the unlikely event that the nationalists win? Why would they not simply wage a campaign of obstruction, as Continuity Remainers did with Brexit? Why would they not scream “Russian interference!”, which will certainly be attempted in any referendum on behalf of the nationalists, even if it does not succeed in making a material difference? All of the anti-Brexit arguments and Continuity Remainer hysteria deployed by the SNP will be turned round 180 degrees and fired straight back at Nicola Sturgeon if she attempts to force Scotland out of the UK.

13 December – 12:19AM

Hot take analysis – Whither identity politics?

The British progressive left have gone all-in on importing a US-style identity politics culture war into Britain, from embracing every last aspect of avant-garde gender theory to adopting awkward terms such as “people of color”, carefully noting their pronouns and generally bowing down to what comedian Dave Chapelle termed the “alphabet people”.

Doing so made perfect sense to urban progressives with international social networks, all of whom now speak a political language barely comprehensible to anyone else (or even their past selves from as little as a decade ago). But has this embrace of hardcore identity politics and the politics of perpetual victimhood also helped to sow the seeds of progressive defeat in this election?

Recall, Jo Swinson famously stumbled as she attempted to give a definition of “woman” in a radio interview the other day. She and her Liberal Democrat colleagues have gone all-in on progressive identity politics, with its painfully stilted nomenclature and unforgiving cancel culture. Now, multiple sources suggest that Jo Swinson is in danger of losing her seat.

Does all of this go some way to suggesting a “common sense” repudiation of divisive progressive identity politics in Britain? Perhaps. But one scarcely hopes to dream that this represents the high water mark of the identity politics movement, whose activists generally take defeat as a sign that they need to double down rather than question their direction.

12 December – 11:58PM

Hot take analysis – Labour civil war

Okay, so what is likely to become of Labour, if the final result conforms anywhere close to the exit poll? Clearly it will spell the end for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but what comes next? Corbyn and his supporters have been working away for several years to broaden and cement their control of the Labour Party machinery and governing apparatus, in addition to which it seems unlikely that their defeated activists are likely to throw their hands up in the air and disown the hard-left platform on which they ran. So what prospects of Labour centrists retaking control of the party? And would this even be desirable?

From my perspective, it would be something of a tragedy if Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous election allowed discredited Labour centrists to retake the party and waltz back in to power and influence having really done nothing to earn the privilege in terms of having updated their thinking or atoned for their past sins which led to the rise of Corbyn in the first place. Yet there is a real chance that the British electorate’s rightful rejection of Jeremy Corbyn (likely due in no small part to horror at Corbynite antisemitism) will allow that ghastly band of Labour centrists and machine politicians – people who more than anyone represent the old pro-EU political consensus which has now been rejected in multiple elections – to claim vindication.

Already we see two competing narratives start to form as talking heads spin their stories on the news networks. One story (pushed by a stone-faced John McDonnell) is that Labour’s disastrous result is about their opposition to Brexit, pure and simple, and in no way a verdict of the party’s otherwise hard left turn:

 

But the other story is that the Brexit agnosticism / Remainerism preferred by the centrists is A-OK, and that Labour’s defeat rests entirely on Corbyn’s shoulders. Which of these stories gains the upper hand and becomes the Official Narrative will go a long way toward determining who takes over from Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, and the nature of opposition to Boris Johnson’s Conservative government.

12 December – 11:35PM

Conservative Victory Catastrophization Watch, #2:

 

Until progressives and Continuity Remainers learn to at least hide their outright hatred for half the country (there’s no point expecting such extremists to ever actually think better of their fellow citizens, but at least they might try pretending) they will continue to suffer electoral setback after electoral setback – and ever see them coming until the votes are counted.

12 December – 11:11PM

Conservative Victory Catastrophization Watch, #1:

12 December – 11:07PM

A poll for you all to consider:

12 December – 10:31PM

On economics and identity:

 

The old truism seems to be proved correct once again.

12 December – 10:27PM

And now, a moment of schadenfreude

Gosh. It’s almost as though spending three years:

  • fighting a furious rearguard action against the result of a democratic referendum which everybody previously promised to respect
  • pretending that a very milquetoast, centrist Tory party was somehow analogous to the rise of Hitler and Nazism
  • repeatedly tolerating the cancer of antisemitism and allowing antisemites safe harbor in the Labour Party
  • embracing every virtue-signaling, low-intellect celebrity endorsement that Twitter could amplify
  • acting as though one has a monopoly on compassion, virtue and reason

are a terrible formula for electoral success. Who could possibly have predicted that embracing a campaign of being utterly insufferable might fail to persuade many of the same people whose votes you needed but just could stop insulting for three long years?

Continuity Remainers in Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP – enjoy the fruits of your labour. The frustration and sorrow you doubtless feel is richly, richly deserved.

12 December – 10:00PM – EXIT POLL RELEASED

At some point you just need to pick a direction, set a course of action and follow through on it. If the exit poll is remotely correct and the Tories are heading for a majority of around 86, then Britain can take at least one step forward in a roughly discernible direction rather than shuffling round on the spot with our ankles tied together.

Also, it’s worth noting that political parties hardly ever successfully renew themselves while in government – partly because the biggest majority comes first time round, followed by a tacking back toward the centre as the majority is threatened and chipped away in subsequent elections. But while the Tories certainly have not shown any real policy ambition during the course of the election campaign, might a solid majority and the political assurance that it brings be the shot in the arm that they need?

12 December – 9:43PM

We get the politicians we deserve

One of the themes of this election has been the unpalatable choice of leadership options – both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn being hugely flawed, often unlikeable and polarizing individuals. But rather than bemoaning the poor choice before us, maybe we need to look closer to home. We continue to reward these individuals with our votes, make excuses for their failings, believe the best of them in light of all available evidence to the contrary, and cheer them on with our social media accounts. But do we also effectively demand that politicians lie to us, before hypocritically complaining when they do so?

Paul Goldsmith advances the argument:

I will leave you with these two thoughts…imagine if Boris Johnson told millions of Leave voters the exact risks of both his deal and a possible No Deal Brexit over the next few years…imagine if Jeremy Corbyn told voters that it is very possible that people other than the top 5% of income earners would have to pay more tax, or future generations pay off more debt, to afford his policies…would they win elections? No.

We know this because the one time this was tried..by Theresa May in 2017, who, thinking she would win a massive majority, attempted to address some serious issues such as social care and tried to remove the ‘triple lock’ on pensions and refused to promise no tax rises. She lost the Conservatives’ majority.

Politicians lie because voters don’t want to hear the truth, and until we wake up to our responsibility for that, we deserve the politicians we get.

Many people in both the pro- and anti-Brexit camps have no interest in examining their simplistic “buccaneering Global Britain” or “friendship ‘n cooperation with Europe” tropes, choosing instead to believe that leaving the EU is an end in itself or that remaining in the EU by overruling the 2016 referendum result is okay because the EU is either fine or can be magically fixed on a whim, and that doing so will have no negative consequences.

Even those of us who claim to want smaller government tend to squeal a lot when the bits of government activity we actually like are suggested for a trim. And hardly anyone seems willing to peel back the embarrassing Cult of the NHS, that last remaining bastion of blinkered British exceptionalism, which insists that our healthcare service is the envy of the world (yet strangely not copied by any other nation on Earth) and also perpetually on the brink of collapse.

We demand exponential improvement across a whole range of areas, but are unwilling to tolerate any real disruption or change to achieve it. In these circumstances, do we not actively incentivize politicians to lie to us, telling us that we can have everything on our wish list for free, and that the only thing currently preventing us from having them is a lack of imagination or belief in whatever Utopian idea is being peddled?

Given all of this, it is probably fair to say that we have the politicians we deserve. And when the votes are all counted, I imagine that whoever we put into 10 Downing Street will also be richly deserved.

12 December – 9:21PM

Prediction

Not much point in making a prediction at this point, other than to be proved laughably wrong in 40 minutes’ time, but if pressed I would predict a small-to-modest Tory majority, probably enough to get Boris Johnson’s Brexit “deal” over the line but with the tiresome rainbow alliance of progressive parties continuing to act as an effective obstruction to anything but the blandest and most non-controversial domestic legislation.

I hope I am wrong, and that the Tories secure a more robust working majority – not because I admire Boris Johnson or much like the present incarnation of the Conservative party (getting Brexit done and unleashing Britain’s potential is not a programme for government or an effective diagnosis of our national challenges) but because the alternative of another hung parliament and enfeebled minority or coalition government is worse. Britain has been drifting – on domestic policy, geopolitically and every other way – since 2016, and at some point it is necessary to stop arguing, pick a direction, commit to a course of action and let the consequences (rather than outrage on social media) shape the next steps.

Not that I expect it to happen happen, but if Jeremy Corbyn were to somehow become prime minister I believe that while it would be bad domestically and awful for our international standing and national security, the more radical parts of his domestic agenda (on taxation, nationalization and so forth) would be largely fought to a standstill by obstructive centrist forces fighting a rearguard action. Lord knows that they have honed their skills in this regard, doggedly holding up Brexit since 2016.

In such an unfortunate scenario, Labour’s appalling tolerance of antisemitism would likely continue unabated, and while this would be unimaginably worrying for Britain’s Jewish community and an appalling indictment of the Left in general, Labour’s anti-Jewish animus would likewise fail to translate into any kind of government policy thanks to the forces of restraint and moderation described above.

Anyhow, 30 minutes to go now. Let’s see just how wrong I am.

12 December – 8:39PM

Welcome!

Welcome to this live blog of the 2019 UK winter general election results. Yes, for some inexplicable reason I have decided to come out of blogging semi-retirement to offer semi-partisan hot takes on developments as they occur tonight and tomorrow morning.

I’m sure I will quickly come to regret this decision and/or give up half way through. However, I intend to keep going for as long as things remain interesting and there are still issues and arguments to dissect, advance and rebut. If things die down on here, I’m probably still ranting away on Twitter @SamHooper.

Please feel free to share your thoughts using the Comments feature, by emailing me at semipartisansam@gmail.com or engaging with me on Twitter @SamHooper.

 

general-election-2019-polling-station-sign

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The Perfect Storm: When Continuity Remainers Meet NHS Worshippers

Peoples vote for the NHS - Brexit - EU

 

When all else fails, Continuity Remainers invoke the NHS in their last-gasp attempt to win support for their “People’s Vote”

The past few years have seen an inexplicable surge in the release of implausible, cheaply-produced disaster movies, aided by the falling costs of CGI, with plots based on supersized or hybrid creatures doing battle with the unfortunate humans who encounter them.

One of the first such movies, Sharknado, premiered in 2013 and is now up to the sixth film in the franchise (The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time). The dubious low-budget aspiring cult classic has also spawned spin-offs such as Lavalantula, a gripping tale of fire-breathing spiders which take over Los Angeles. Indeed, in order to maintain viewer interest the premises and storylines have had to become more and more outrageous, such that most new movies in the genre now require more than one type of freakish hybrid monster pitted against another – see Sharktopus vs. Pterocuda, in which a half-shark / half-octopus fights a half-pterosaur / half-barracuda for ninety excruciating minutes.

And as is often the case, what screenwriters see in their florid imaginations is eventually reflected to some degree in the real world. Right now, for example, British politics can be best analogized to the climate disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, in which multiple large storm systems combine to create a deadly superstorm which plunges the world into a new ice age.

One such storm in Britain – as ever present as the red spot on Jupiter – is the constant chorus of mindless praise for the National Health Service, a gale which blows moderately during Labour administrations but turns into a full force hurricane whenever the Conservatives are in charge (despite the constant failure of the Tories to destroy the NHS, as warned by the Left). This storm system manifests itself in the hordes of pathetic activists who croon love songs to the NHS on YouTube, but also in actual political parties which have been established for the sole purpose of uncritically venerating this one very specific public service.

Another such storm, much more recently developed, is generated by the ongoing howls of indignant outrage from Continuity Remainers who lost the EU referendum in 2016, failed to engage in any introspection during the subsequent two years and who have now convinced themselves that they and the entire machinery of the British state were plucky and outmatched underdogs who lost against a dastardly Leave campaign with a complete monopoly on lies and misinformation. To their minds, Brexit is an evil con perpetrated by Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Russians, and while the issue of Britain’s EU membership should never have been put to a public vote in the first place, now that the people have foolishly voted to leave the EU we must immediately hold another “People’s Vote”, and another one after that if necessary, until the current result is overturned.

Two political storms, both alike in stupidity. And now, as in a bad sci-fi movie, these two storms have collided and given us a superstorm – something new but equally tedious to watch:

 

Just as every general election since the 1950s has been billed as our last chance to save the NHS, now we are being told that thwarting Brexit and keeping Britain in the EU is the only way that a benighted country like the United Kingdom can possibly continue to provide healthcare free at the point of delivery.

Why? Because some opportunistic souls working for the Astroturf, Not At All Funded By Foreign Billionaires group People’s Vote realized that there were few more effective ways to rally hordes of whinnying, metro-leftist, public sector voters to their banner than by merging their own pet issue with the seventy-year campaign to Save Our NHS.

This is the new B-movie of British politics. Call it Sharktopus, call it Pteracuda, call it the Perfect Storm – what we have are two laughable, commercially dubious characters or phenomena forced together and foisted on the public in the grasping hope that the people will be too dim to see through the cynical political manipulation and buy into the resulting hackneyed storyline.

Watching Continuity Remain merge with Britain’s incessant Cult of the NHS is like witnessing two giant storm systems collide and combine to produce a Force 5 shark-spitting tornado of self-obsessed, teenage drama. This is disaster porn for crusty socialists and upper middle class EU cheerleaders who have yet to learn that a public which was not persuaded by hysterical worst-case scenarios during the 2016 referendum is not going to be effectively persuaded by an even cheaper, more ludicrous sequel two years later.

The ironic thing, though, is that these B-movie producers of British politics don’t see themselves as peddlers of low-budget tat; on the contrary, they think that they are highly skilled directors producing a critically acclaimed masterpiece. These are the folks who consider themselves the smartest people in the room, the people who think that their social position, academic credentials and professional accomplishments make them uniquely equipped – and entitled – to chart Britain’s political course. And the best that Britain’s top policy minds have come up with in response to Brexit is “let’s try shouting about the NHS at the same time we shout about the EU”. No introspection. No positive, compelling vision for Britain within the EU with which to convince swing voters. Just more worst-case scenario disaster peddling from the same overcredentialed mediocrities who still haven’t figured out why they lost the last round.

At this point, one can only laugh. If they were to have any hope of decisively seizing the public imagination and turning the tide against Brexit, Remainers needed to come up with a rich, compelling and superior new narrative. They needed to produce The Godfather, but instead they have given us Sharktopus.

 

Jaws vs Sharktopus

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An NHS For Housing And Food – What Fresh Hell Is This?

Free school meals

With all the political momentum behind them and the Conservative government in chaos, even more moderate leftists are now pushing for a radical expansion of the size and role of the state

Fresh from advocating for a 100 percent inheritance tax, Guardian columnist Abi Wilkinson takes her desire for all of us to be vassals of the state to the next level by calling for a National Housing Service and National Food Service to rival the wonder that is the NHS. No, seriously.

Wilkinson is responding to a new report published by UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity, which calls for an ever-expanding range of “universal basic services” to be provided free of charge to all British citizens.

From the report’s summary:

The UK should provide citizens with free housing, food, transport and IT to counter the threat  of worsening inequality and job insecurity posed by technological advances, a report launched by the Insitute for Global Prosperity recommends.

The proposal for ‘Universal Basic Services’ represents an affordable alternative to a so-called ‘citizens’ income’ advocated by some economists, according to the expert authors working for UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity.

Building on the ethos that saw the establishment of the NHS and public education – that essential services should be free at the point of need – the plan would “raise the floor” of basic services all citizens can expect, providing better protection for workers in the face of rapid advances in technology and automation.

As always, the report’s sponsors and cheerleaders make heavy use of emotional manipulation to press policy solutions which make people feel good and altruistic at the time, but which ultimately do more harm than good as they act as a dead weight on the economy. Andrew Percy, “citizen sponsor” for the report, predictably puts a rather more positive and moral spin on it:

It cannot be sufficient to excuse hungry school children or an uncared-for elderly population with a notion of ‘unaffordability’ in a society that is as rich as any that has ever existed.

Because let’s not blame irresponsible parents for having children they can’t afford or selfish adults for having no interest in caring for their elderly relatives, both groups not just being willing to palm these responsibilities off on the state but expectant of doing so. Let’s not assume that any of these problems require even the slightest change in the way that we ourselves behave. No, let’s just scream about human suffering and point angrily toward the government, demanding a solution.

Cynically using the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a convenient emotional launchpad to push her leftist Utopian vision, Wilkinson picks up the banner and writes:

The horror of Grenfell Tower has also given impetus to those who wish to see a more communal politics. Though a public inquiry into the tragedy is in progress, leftwingers have long argued that programmes for poor people are poor programmes. That is to say, when fewer people are dependent on a service – and when they’re among the most marginalised, disempowered and ignored members of society – there’s a higher chance that standards will fall.

If a larger proportion of people lived in social housing, this sort of treatment would be impossible. Politicians can only neglect a certain percentage of the population without facing consequences: mess with too many of us, and we’ll vote you out. In essence, this is the basic argument for universality. It’s one that even many left-of-centre politicians seem to have forgotten in recent decades. The higher the number of people who have a stake, the better resourced, monitored and defended a public service will be.

Interesting. Abi Wilkinson seems to have forgotten the more important and proven lesson from history – that when everybody is dependent on a service (as in every Communist state yet attempted) standards do not just fall, they crash through the floor, except for those well-connected apparatchiks who are given unofficial permission to bypass state provision and get what they want or need on the black market.

At first glance, Wilkinson’s argument may make sense to many people – because  many of us do not have an immediate, direct stake in social housing or welfare payments, we are naturally less concerned with the service offered to those who are. But even this is not entirely accurate, since the majority of Brits are now net beneficiaries from the state rather than contributors to it. And this is reflected in the dismal Politics of Me Me Me which has utterly taken over, our selfish badgering at every general election not about what we can do for the country, but what the country can do for us.

In other words, half of the population effectively consider themselves (or are considered by government agencies) to be among “the most marginalised, disempowered and ignored members of society”, or at least among the most entitled members of society, and still this has not generated sufficient political pressure to force the socialist gold-plating of these services. But then clearly this is why Abi Wilkinson is pushing for more. Her New Jerusalem can only be achieved when literally everybody relies on the state for housing, food, healthcare, transport, education and probably cultural and leisure services too, for good measure.

And this is precisely what she then calls for:

As the neoliberal order of the past several decades enters its death throes, we should take the opportunity to reconsider our conception of universal rights. Healthcare and under-18 education we already agree on. In a changing economy with a growing need for highly skilled workers, why not university education as well? What about state-provided universal basic services, which is what leading economists and social scientists at UCL propose as a practical, affordable and morally justified response to growing poverty and inequality?

The left has spent years focusing primarily on opposition: resistance to spending cuts, punitive welfare changes and the erosion of employment rights. Now, with Labour tantalisingly close to power, we have, at last, a chance to imagine something better.

Except it’s not better at all. What she proposes has been tried, tested and failed every single time it was implemented. There is already a steady ratchet towards greater state provision underway, both fuelled by and fuelling public clamour for the same. People now expect to be able to procreate and have the state cover the cost of raising their children, and to even question this absurdity is to find oneself excommunicated from polite society. People expect schools to feed their children, and act as though schools expecting parents to provide meals for their own kids is somehow a mark of barbarity.

After a brief retrenchment, more and more people once again are clamouring for the state to be landlord to everybody, and the weak, pathetic incumbent Conservative government is actively cooking up plans to build more council homes while doing almost nothing to increase private provision. At every turn, people look first to the government to solve their problems, and with some justification – they have been falsely led to believe that this is normal and moral their entire adult lives.

Leaving aside universal basic income (for which there may arguably one day be a case if current trends toward automation continue on their present trajectory) the idea of universal state provision of individual services like housing, food, endless tertiary education and more besides is corrosive to the human spirit, as is the idea that it should automatically be the compelled responsibility of productive individuals to pay for the bad choices of another person. A basic welfare safety net is absolutely required, particularly at the present time, when civic society is so eroded after years living under a system where government comes to be seen as an auxiliary parent. But we must recognise the ratchet effect for what it is – increasing state provision leads to decreased personal initiative and increased demand in an endless, self-fulfilling cycle.

And where would it end? Today, food, housing and internet access are seen as essentials for which no human being or head of household should have any responsibility for providing for themselves. Presumably, then, every new invention from here onwards will quickly be decreed by the Left to be so vital to wellbeing and participation in society that it requires nationalisation and state provision to an ever-expanding pool of “vulnerable” people. Where does it end? And what happens when the innovators and high-income people who fund the wretched Ponzi scheme leave Britain in disgust?

The irony of such wicked proposals emanating from an organisation calling itself the Institute for Global Prosperity is almost too much to bear. How does the IGP think that prosperity is generated in the first place? Which is the economic system which has lifted more people out of poverty and want than any other, and which is the system which always begins in a blaze of idealistic optimism and ends with round-the-block queues for government bread?

But this is why it is essential that conservatives wake up, stop their petty infighting over personalities and develop an alternative policy programme to address the issues tackled in the IGP report. At present, the socialists are the only one with ideas and the political courage to speak them out loud. And at a time when dissatisfaction with the status quo is high and populist policies quickly gain traction, these ideas could end up being implemented by a Corbyn government sooner than many people think possible.

Carefully cultivating their reputation as the wooden, uncharismatic, technocratic comptrollers of public services, as the Tories seem determined to cast themselves (witness Theresa May’s most recent awful performance at Prime Minister’s Questions this week), is now a recipe for political suicide. Indeed at this point, given the uselessness of the present Tory party, it may already be inevitable that the political pendulum swings toward the Corbynite Left no matter what is done now. But thinking conservatives of vision and courage need to be ready to step in with an alternative as soon as the opportunity presents itself, whether it be a successful U-turn while still in government or a quick bounce back from Opposition.

And unlike the Left’s beguiling promises of an easy life stripped of any personal responsibility, this new conservative vision must inspire humans at our hardworking, civic-minded best rather than pandering to us at our grasping, self-entitled worst.

 

UCL - Institute for Global Prosperity - Universal Basic Services report

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Is There Hope For Conservatism In Generation Z?

Generation Z conservatism

Generation Z does not automatically share the same predilection for leftist identity politics as the Millennial generation which precedes them. But can conservatives do enough to appeal to this newest group of emerging voters?

Many conservatives, myself included, have been worrying a lot about how we can better resist the relentless encroachment of leftist identity politics and the regressive, illiberal social justice warriors at the movement’s vanguard. But what if we have now reached Peak SJW? What if the spell is wearing off and a new generation is emerging with less time for the pervasive victimhood culture spawned by the 1960s radicals and their fragile children? And if so, how can the Right appeal to this generation (or at least cease driving them toward the parties of the Left)?

These are the questions explored by Sam White over at Country Squire magazine, in a thought-provoking piece which explores how conservatives might find favour with (at least some) young people again.

Sam writes:

Corbynism has been painted as rebellious and anti-establishment, but underneath the endorsement from Stormzy and the party leader’s appearance at Glastonbury (not that Glastonbury is pushing any boundaries) it’s nothing of the sort. If the current Labour leadership’s schemes were ushered in, they’d lead to constraint and conformity. And the new establishment would be authoritarian to a degree that its youthful supporters had not felt before.

There wouldn’t be much of a celebratory mood in the air then, as it slowly became clear that all that rebelliousness was nothing more than a carefully-managed means to an end.

Conservatives should be highlighting all this, and at the same time pushing the message that a free market model provides the best possible mechanism by which for changes to occur organically. Crucially, that model is how we safeguard the capacity to change, but it isn’t a change in itself.

If the Conservative Party were to realign around its libertarian element, then it might achieve resonance among younger voters, particularly those who come after the Millennial Red Army. Generation Z are shaping up to be open to a conservative message, and will surely react against the postmodern nonsense bought into by Millennials. Conservatives must be ready to meet them.

And the message should be simple: that the right-wing will safeguard classical liberal values and ditch victimhood-fetishizing identity politics. And it ought also to be made clear that socialism represents the polar opposite of all this: it’s a half-fossilized ideology that would usher in micro-management, politically correct hectoring, and state imposition.

The idea of the Conservative Party realigning around its libertarian element seems ludicrous at first glance, considering how few genuinely small-government, pro-liberty MPs exist within the party (and the even smaller subset of those whose views are vaguely coherent and pragmatic rather than ideological fantasy).

But then one remembers how Jeremy Corbyn first captured his party and then vast swathes of the country with a hard left message that his opponents and nearly all the commentariat dismissed as being terminally unpopular, and suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so unrealistic. One also thinks of how devotees of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were able to establish a beachhead within a Conservative Party which still fully bought into the statist post-war consensus. And suddenly the idea of a radical shift in the Conservative Party seems feasible, if still unlikely.

Of course, such a shift would require somebody with vision and political courage – a conservative version of Jeremy Corbyn. And necessarily somebody without very much to lose, given the high probability of failure. Like him or not, Jeremy Corbyn possesses this conviction in spades, and even many people who are none too keen on 1970s socialism respond warmly to his candidness and the fact that he is unwilling to apologise for his beliefs. It is hard to see anybody within the current Conservative Cabinet playing a similar role on the Right. Indeed, all of the candidates most hotly tipped to succeed Theresa May are either grasping opportunists (Boris Johnson) or bland nonentities with no clearly articulable political philosophy of their own (Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd).

But even if the Tories were to search deep within their party and find a leader with moral and ideological backbone, could they make political traction with any group of voters by standing up to the identity politics Left? Sam White argues yes:

Conservatives needn’t pay regard to the social justice diktats which have taken over left-liberal discourse and muffled people’s rational capabilities. Simply by speaking directly and honestly, the politically correct narrative can be disrupted. And if that ruffles some left-wing feathers then all the better, let’s refuse to apologise and then offend them some more.

[..] The Conservative Party ought to be rejecting SJW new-leftism unequivocally. Why not just state it clearly? If you value the sovereignty of the individual, if you want the freedom to say what you like, create what you want, and make of yourself what you will, then steer well clear of collectivist movements.

A serious party would throw out badly defined hate crime regulations, reject the CPS’s garbage about policing what people say online, and get a grip on the police force so they stop tweeting photos of their trans-friendly, rainbow coloured cars.

There’s a gap in the market right now as common sense, libertarian ideals go under-represented, and there’s a Conservative Party that needs revitalising.

I don’t disagree with Sam in principle, but I do believe that the approach he advocates would require a degree of political courage and holding one’s nerve that I have not yet seen in any potential future leader, with the partial exception of Jacob Rees-Mogg (who disqualifies himself from serious consideration in several other ways and is therefore irrelevant).

We have seen time and again the ability of the social justice, identity politics Left to summon national outrage, to raise a mob, to hound people from their jobs and careers and even to incite violence when they sense a threat to their illiberal worldview. Even when it transpires that the target of their fury is innocent of the charges levelled against them, the damage is often done and no retraction or apology is forthcoming – see the inquisition against decent people like scientists Dr. Matt Taylor and Sir Tim Hunt.

We have seen, too, the unwillingness of senior politicians to take even the mildest stand against a leftist orthodoxy which demands 100 percent compliance on pain of excommunication from polite society. Even on his way out as Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron equivocated and resigned rather than stick to his guns and defend what were presumably his true, religiously-motivated feelings about gay marriage. And regardless of one’s feelings about gay marriage (this blog is supportive), how many conservatives will have watched these various witch hunts play out in the news and concluded that to speak out on other issues like climate change, the gender pay gap, affirmative action or radical gender theory means career suicide and likely social ostracisation as a bonus?

In short, it would take almost superhuman bravery to stand in the face of this potential hurricane. Even Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have to fear such public opprobrium for stating his political beliefs. When running for the Labour leadership, despite being on record as supportive of dictatorial leftist regimes and terrorist groups from the IRA to Hamas, Corbyn was still very welcome in polite society, and regarded at worst by most his critics as a harmless curiosity from the past. By contrast, if a conservative politician were to publicly question or doubt the “institutional racism” of swathes of British society, denounce affirmative action or even state that there are just two sexes and genders, the dinner party invitations and television interview requests would dry up instantaneously. To even state political opinions held by a plurality of people effectively makes one persona non grata in Westminster and other elite circles.

Therefore, given the hostile environment and lack of courage seen in our politics, we will likely have to look for salvation from outside, in the form of Generation Z. As Sam White correctly points out, this emerging generation – unscarred by the great recession, less coddled (so far) by helicopter parenting, more individualistic and sceptical of identity politics narratives preaching collective racial guilt – may yet react against the politics of their older siblings and illiberal, leftist parents.

And this is why it is more vital than ever that the Conservative Party stop bickering over which of three or four identikit centrists replace Theresa May, and instead articulate a positive conservative vision with concrete policies that actually inspire young people rather than continue to screw them over. In short, they need to do precisely the opposite of what they accomplished during their car crash of a party conference in Manchester.

The newly-minted young adults of today are still politically up for grabs. There is nothing written in stone which decrees that they must become the perpetual property of a moralising left-wing movement which combines 1970s statism with 21st century, self-obsessed identity politics. Many of these new voters can still be called to a higher, better and more conservative purpose if only somebody was there to show them that there is more to conservatism than droning on about the deficit, apologising for their principles, chasing after Labour and messing up Brexit.

Tick tock, fellow conservatives.

 

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Don’t Mistake Labour’s Party Conference Triumphalism For Complacency

The World Transformed - Labour Party Conference - Momentum - Brighton - 3

Don’t waste time laughing at over-enthusiastic Labour activists who claim that their party “won” the 2017 general election despite falling 56 seats short of the Conservatives. Labour will soon be celebrating for real unless the Tories can close the enthusiasm deficit with Corbyn’s motivated activists

Abi Wilkinson makes an important point in Total Politics today, refuting the growing accusations that the ebullient and positive Labour Party conference in Brighton is somehow a sign of derangement or complacency on the part of left-wing activists:

To dismiss the jubilance on display at the party’s recent conference as hubris is to misunderstand what’s going on. The MPs who claimed, at fringe events and on the main conference stage, that they believe Labour will win the next election were not, on the whole, complacent about what such a victory might require. Nor were any of the smiling, energetic young activists I met at Momentum’s The World Transformed parties and panel discussions naive about the challenge the party faces.

These are individuals who’ve spent the past couple of years campaigning and persuading, as the majority of the mainstream media and parts of their own party screamed that they were idiots, wreckers and dangerous hardliners. They’re people who were determined enough to drag themselves out door-knocking even when the polling gap appeared uncloseable. They built apps, organised car pools and slept on sofas to ensure that key marginals were flooded with volunteers. Many of them donated their time and skills to outmatch Tory efforts on a fraction of the budget.

This is absolutely true. Politics is an expectations game just as much as it is a net results game. Surpassing expectations can inject unstoppable momentum into a political party or movement, while failing to meet expectations can drain energy and enthusiasm faster than air escapes a burst balloon. That’s why Theresa May’s Conservative Party has the unmistakable pallor of death about it; grey-skinned, dead-eyed and utterly bereft of purpose, it shuffles forward to its party conference in Manchester like a zombie.

But even more than expectations, politics is about narratives and ideas. This was seemingly forgotten in the centrist, technocratic age ushered in under Tony Blair and growing to full fruition under David Cameron. For a long time, political elites have professed bland managerialism, aiming to do just enough to keep the population quiet with “good enough” public services and not much more. There was certainly no soaring national ambition or optimism for a different future preached the whole time that I grew up under Tony Blair and came of age under Brown, Cameron and Clegg. And the people miss it. You can explain Brexit and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn a million different ways, but one absolutely irrefutable component is the fact that people responded to politicians who offered something more than to hire a few more nurses and make the trains run on time.

Jeremy Corbyn has a compelling narrative because he actually believes in something, and people know he believes in something because he has been banging on about the same things for thirty-odd years, and doesn’t have to consult a focus group before he opens his mouth to respond to a question. So Labour’s confidence comes from a combination of new-found charisma at the top (say what you will about any of Corbyn’s centrist leadership competitors, but none of them could be described as charismatic) and huge energy and enthusiasm within the base. This is a potent combination, not to be sniffed at by cynical journalists and arrogant Tories who utterly failed to predict the 2017 general election result.

Wilkinson continues:

Enthusiasm is one of the most important resources Labour has. A party pursuing an agenda of increased tax and redistribution, regulation and nationalisation is never going to have a cosy relationship with media barons and big business in general (though it’s worth noting that the corporate lobbyists who stayed away from last year’s conference came flooding back this time) but it can reach people in other ways. Keeping activists’ spirits up ensures they’ll keep doing the work that’s necessary to maximise the likelihood of a Labour win.

Maybe it’s possible the current mood could tip over into slack triumphalism, but I’ve seen little sign of it yet. Many of the conference fringe events I attended involved smart discussions about what the party’s strategy going forward should consist of. Is it realistic to think that youth turnout could be increased further? Are the Tories capable of coming up with a decent answer to the housing crisis, and if they do so how will that impact our vote? What can we do to win over pensioners? What about self-employed tradespeople, a demographic we performed comparatively poorly with?

Does this sound like complacency? Hell no – it is determination. Labour might not be measuring the curtains in 10 Downing Street, but they have certainly tapped the address into their GPS and turned towards Whitehall.

This should be enormously worrying for conservatives, not least because the Conservative Party conference in Manchester promises to be a constant parade of recriminations and mediocrity, with Theresa May’s vacuous Labour Lite conference speech the rotting cherry on a very stale cake. The only enthusiasm on display will be among the cheerleaders and acolytes for the various potential Tory leadership challengers, waiting in the wings lest the prime minister make one more fatal error of judgment or messaging.

And if the government falls or the country otherwise gets dragged to the polls again before the Tories have had a chance to get their act together, what then? Corbyn is already on the brink of becoming prime minister, and increasing numbers of Britons are swallowing his story. The Conservatives, meanwhile are organisationally, intellectually and ideologically exhausted after seven years of being in office, but never really in power.

This blog has already warned how Labour’s hard left wing spent their summer busily plotting and organising for the next election to get them over the finish line, not licking their wounds, sunning themselves in Italy or plotting future leadership challenges. Momentum has been actively learning from the surprisingly viable presidential primary campaign of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who fought Hillary Clinton nearly all the way to the Democratic convention. And now groups of Momentum activists from sixteen to sixty years old are gathering in meeting rooms to learn how to make better use of online campaigning coordination and voter turnout software, while others are learning how to run a viral video campaign on social media even more successful than the 2017 effort.

Unfortunately, aside from last week’s Big Tent Ideas Festival and a series of articles in Conservative Home, the Tories have been engaged in no introspection and no reorganising of any kind.

As I recently fumed:

Meanwhile, what are we conservatives doing to retool ourselves to better fight the next general election? We are creating juvenile Jacob Rees-Mogg fanclubs on Facebook, engaging in pointless speculation about a cast of future leadership contenders all alike in blandness, and spending more time trying to ingratiate ourselves with the Tory party machine in constituency and at conference than figuring out what we should actually stand for, and how we can persuade others to stand with us.

Abi Wilkinson and I obviously come at this from opposite angles – she does not want Labour complacency and is reassured because she sees the frenetic organisation efforts taking place on the ground, while I would love to see a bit more Labour complacency and am disheartened by the fact that left-wing activism and organisation so utterly outstrips any efforts on the Right.

I campaigned for the Tories in 2010. God only knows why, in retrospect, but I pounded the pavements in my hometown of Harlow, Essex to help unseat Labour incumbent MP and minister Bill Rammell and elect Tory Rob Halfon in his place. But today you couldn’t pay me enough money to slap on a blue rosette and stump for Theresa May’s Conservative Party, which has somehow managed to blend barking authoritarianism, a statist, centre-left approach to the economy and the general incompetence of Frank Spencer. And if the Tories can no longer get enthusiastic conservatives like me to actively support them at the constituency level, then there’s a real problem.

Abi Wilkinson is right – there is no general complacency within the Labour Party, only a frightening seriousness of purpose. The only complacency for the past seven years has been on the Right, and specifically within the Conservative Party.

And now that complacency is metastasising into something even more deadly and hard to eradicate – resignation and defeatism.

 

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