The Battle For British Conservatism: Are The Tories The Enemy Within?

Theresa May - Downing Street - Conservative Party - Tories

What if the current Tory Party represents a dangerous, long-ascendant fifth column within British conservatism?

In a blistering attack on the party of Theresa May, Philip Hammond, David Cameron and George Osborne, Laura Perrins of The Conservative Woman declares that the Tories are now the “enemy within” and the single greatest threat to what remains of British conservatism.

Perrins’ dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party – like that of this blog and other malcontents of much longer pedigree such as Peter Hitchens – has clearly been building for some time, but finally reached boiling point when the Conservatives cooked up their  “presumed consent” scheme for organ donation, yet another policy which sounds fluffy and caring at first glance but which would effectively make one’s body the property of the state, merely on loan to you not from God or nature but from Her Majesty’s Government, to which it must be returned upon death unless one specifically requests an exemption.

Perrins thunders:

The last straw for me was the proposed ‘presumed consent’ organ donation scheme, more accurately described as the State organ appropriation scheme. This is small fry in the scheme of things but it sums up the whole rotten party. The concept that your body is yours, and remains yours and then under the control of your family after death, is so fundamental, so obvious, so visceral and so conservative that it should not need explaining.

Now Theresa May tells us that in fact your body belongs to the State, unless you have taken the time and trouble to tell the State otherwise. This is wrong in principle and in practice. I was on a radio show with a chap who was waiting for a kidney and he said that his surgeons told him there were not even the beds or doctors to take advantage of this scheme. So, the Conservatives are grabbing organs just, as usual, to look nice. See, neo-Statists.

I had a very similar reaction at the time, not because I am any less keen to see organ donation rates improve and waiting lists decrease, but because this way of going about it represents about as big a power grab by the state as it is possible to make:

But this is just one of the many ways which the impostor party which bears the name “Conservative” has made a mockery of the principles they supposedly stand for, and Perrins goes on to recount the full litany at length.

Let’s face it, the Conservative party are neo-Statists and have done more damage to conservatism in this country than Labour ever could. The current leader of the party believes actual conservatism – small government, strong families and the free market – is nasty. She actually said this, yet we are all to go merrily along backing this wretched party no matter what, as we did in the last election – much to my regret.

This is the party that believes an energy gap is a good idea, and that continued government guarantee of tuition fees is sensible. The Tories are as ideologically wedded to the socialised health system that is the NHS as the Labour party is, all because they think they will look mean if they point out that in fact the Emperor has no clothes.

The Tories have interfered with the childcare market, causing the costs to rise year in, year out. They want more mothers in work, whether they want to be there or not. They lecture us on what to eat and drink; no detail of our life is beyond government note-taking. Now they have instructed GPs to ask what your sexuality is. This is Nanny turned Nurse Ratched.

The Conservatives love big government. There has been no reduction in quangos – they have quangos lobbying their own government, for goodness’ sake. They use the school system to try to solve every social problem: FGM, toothbrushing, sex education, pornography, drugs, healthy eating, on and on it goes. The national debt could hit £2trillion in the next ten years.

And so it goes on – Perrins inevitably touches on the march of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, noting that the Tories have bent over backwards at every turn to accommodate increasingly avant-garde and unproven leftist orthodoxies around gender and family life. And to each accusation there is little which can be said in defence.

Of course, there are exceptions, and I do not agree with all the charges laid by Perrins at the foot of the Conservative Party. I would certainly argue that some of the concessions to modernity made by the Tories are good and entirely necessary, particularly the opening up of the stabilising, enriching influence of civil marriage to same-sex couples. But even where one agrees with the thrust of Tory policymaking on social issues there can be little denying that the fears, objections and liberties of dissenting individuals and religious organisations have been trampled in the process.

So what to do, given that the present-day Tory Party is at best ambivalent and at worst hostile to many conservative values and priorities? Must we really shrug our shoulders, be grateful that we don’t have Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn and put up with the dismal, directionless leadership we currently have?

Laura Perrins hints that maybe we do not have to put up with this Coke Zero Conservative government after all:

A Labour government would be grim, don’t get me wrong. But I wager that they won’t last long, they will split, and they will not get to do half the things they say they will do. They have already ditched the tuition fee promise and they are not even in power. In sum, they are not the long-term threat to this country.

I am inclined to agree. As I have written numerous times before, at present small-C conservatives have the worst of all worlds. We are nominally in power, yet virtually none of our values and priorities are being addressed by the government. We are continually assailed by the Left for supposedly being heartless, callous and cruel towards the generically “vulnerable”, yet the budget deficit persists, the national debt grows and the idea of real fiscal conservatism remains as remote as ever. We are accused of seeking to destroy the “beloved” socialist edifices of post-war Britain like the welfare state and Our Blessed NHS, yet Universal Credit rollout by 2022 is apparently the best we can do.

As I once wrote:

If I’m going to be accused of callously taking a jackhammer to the welfare state I at least want to see a little bit of rubble as my reward. But there is no rubble, only the stench of craven capitulation to the leftist forces of perpetual dependency.

So given the near-futile hope of meaningful conservative ideological renewal while in power, how much worse could a Corbyn premiership actually be? Here, I again agree with Perrins. While Jeremy Corbyn himself would probably love to take the country galloping off to a hard leftist destination, in practice he is constrained by the centrists within his party. And as we are all currently witnessing with the Brexit debate, establishment centrists have a way of grinding down objections and diluting any idealism in order to get the self-serving stability which they want for themselves.

While at present this centrist handbrake serves to stymie Brexit and torpedo any possibility of real small-government conservative reform, in the event of a Jeremy Corbyn premiership the same centrist blob would also serve as a drogue parachute, arresting any sudden leftist moves attempted by Labour and limiting the damage that such a government could inflict. Therefore, revoking all support for the current Tory government need not be calamitous. After all, when we already have a government which is willing to decimate the armed forces, firehose foreign aid at countries in a manner totally unaligned with our foreign policy goals, trample civil liberties and spend taxpayer money like a sailor on shore leave then how much worse could it possibly be?

What Perrins’ article does not do, however, is spend much time looking at what kind of party the Conservatives should become if only they can be retaken. And here there is a genuine tension, not between the kind of social conservatism presumably favourable to The Conservative Woman and craven submission to the identity politics cult, but between social conservatism and free markets.

This is a battle for the soul of British conservatism which has been suppressed for far too long. A new balance must be struck between social conservatism and free markets which addresses the key challenges of our time – globalisation, automation, migration, national identity, defending Western values and defeating Islamist terror – in a way which attracts and inspires voters. The Conservative Party’s current policy mix isn’t turning any heads, and is actively alienating most people under fifty years of age. Our sole saving grace is that Labour haven’t yet come up with a compelling solution either.

There remains an opportunity for conservatives to answer these critical questions and arrive at a new balancing of priorities which works for the country, though doing so while still in office is a tall order. But if we are to have any chance of success we must begin by acknowledging that the contemporary Conservative Party is not and has not been a friend of small-C conservatism for many years.

 

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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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