Whither The British Tories Politically?


Nope. This isn’t another turgid post about who will be leading the British Conservative Party next Tuesday lunchtime. This one is about the likely direction of policy-making in that party.

I’m not going to go on at length. I’m going to offer some links and some thoughts.

First, a paper comparing Thatcherism with Cameronism. Everything else in between was pretty much a version of one or the other.

This paper describes Thatcherism as Authoritarian Populism. Not inaccurate. I would say definitely populism.

Neo-liberal economics. As little state intervention in the economy as possible. Which attracted me in 1976, because, at that time, Labour were offering neo-Communism.

Plus, a very conservative social stance. Against which some of us advocated.

I made an attempt to address the 1986 (? – I lose track of dates) Conservative Party Annual Conference, in the Law and Order debate.

I was vetted. One is. They don’t just let any pig farmer up on the podium to speak.

Got as far as a backroom meet with the Chairman of the Conference and the then Home Secretary, Douglas (now Lord) Hurd.

I was told I could not be picked. Because they could not guarantee my safety from the podium. After telling the gathered Conservative Party faithful and blue rinses that we Tories needed to do more to protect those in the inner cites who were more scared of out-of-control police officers than they were of burglars.

The Chairman offered me a slot in the much-prized Economy debate instead. I declined. Stuck to me principles. Sigh. Those were the days.

Anyways. Thatcher’s brand became toxic. Exiled the Tories to the Blairite wilderness for thirteen years.

We then moved onto Cameronism. A blend of warm-and-fuzzy economic liberalism, called the Big Society. Mixed with tree- and hoodie-hugging social liberalism. Remember, it was Cameron who passed legislation recognizing gay marriage in the UK.

This is when I rejoined the Tory fold. With enthusiasm. Not least because some of the many remaining rough edges and sharp angles were further smoothed by the restrictions placed on more rabid Toryism by the LibDem-Tory Coalition government of 2010 to 2015.

During the course of Cameron’s tenure as Prime Minister. Brought on not least by a need to react to the Great Recession. Cameron was much influenced by the political thoughts of one Robert Halfon.

Robert recognized the need to soften the stark neo-liberal austerity of Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. To reach out to struggling, hardworking Brits. And at least to try to give the impression that the Tory Party was interested in folk other than the filthy-rich, young stockbrokers of the City of London.

This all came to a sticky end in 2016, with the Brexit result. When opportunist Theresa May took over.

Her primary adviser was (he resigned this morning) Nick Timothy. Who peddled a Tory offering called ‘Red Toryism.’

Back to populism. Muscular paternalist politics. Where the state actively looks after the interests of those whose votes it wants. Interventionist economics. And ‘keep-the-bastards-away’ rightist social policy.

What May saw in his approach (she really ain’t what you’d call an intellectual). Was an opportunity to corral the ‘left-behinds’ in Great Britain, the white van voters. With wholesale conversion of the Tory Party into a right-wing, statist, populist political package, which was essentially Trumpism meeting UKIP, sitting down, having tea, and reminiscing about the glorious Fifties. Norman Wisdom, with a rosette, and a snarl.

I’m not convinced the 2017 General Election (#GE2017) was entirely a rejection of that approach. To some extent, yes. But not completely. I believe this past General Election was more about personalities and pocket-money, than politics, per se.

I think that history will show that the 2017 British General Election was one long scream against everything, a vicious reaction against Nanny, who wouldn’t hand over more candy or pay for university, and a headlong rush into the arms of Grandpa, who promised to do both.

I take the view that, notwithstanding the pleas of those conservative talking heads in the British popular press begging for a return to naked Thatcherism (hack, hack, Norman Tebbit), the Tories still have their hopes firmly set on hanging onto the ex-UKIPers and the wayward Labour voters of the North of England. And will do so with a gentle meld of all of the above.

A modified fiscal prudence. For which read, abandoning targets for the deficit. And a quiet trawl through the Labour Manifesto. Merrily adopting the more appealing populist promises. But with a thrift-store price-tag.

More state intervention. No nationalization as such. But a few more regulations. Get those trains running on time. Stop hitting old age pensioners with huge fuel bills in the winter.

A softer Brexit. But Brexit nevertheless. With at least some genuflection towards the bitter voters who continue to be jealous of those ‘entitled’ the embittered think have more than they should have. The latter including the very rich. The disadvantaged on benefits. Foreign folk. And anyone who is different to them socially.

Oh. And a whole raft of goodies for 18-25 year olds. Running to Grandpa did pay off.

I’m not sure I’ll like all of it. But we’ll see how much it differs from my own foray into populism in the US.

My starting point is a macroeconomic structure of neo-liberalism. With immediate adjustments made for localized intervention and transition. With a thoroughly liberal social policy. Without a toxic, over-stimulated slide into identity self-absorption.

Ok. So where is my analysis of whither the British Labour Party politically? Hey. They ain’t my party. Someone else can analyze them.

I will say only this. Whatever happened on Thursday of this past week. Whatever your personal political leanings. I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it presages a dramatic leftward lurch in the politics of the US or the UK.

When all is said and done. Cuddly Grandpappa-with-a-cardigan-and-a-birdie-on-the-lecturn campaigning aside. I do not believe the US wants undiluted social democracy. Nor the UK a return to the bankrupt democratic socialism of the Seventies.

But then. That’s just my point of view.

(Facebook comments here.)

Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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