This is a non-partisan blog.
A few months ago this blog argued that ‘conservatism isn’t working’. That diagnosis is now clearer than ever.
As the Conservative Party struggles to navigate Britain’s exit from the European Union, the Paradise Papers have ensnared its leading donor, Lord Aschroft, while parliamentary sex scandals have humiliated party grandees.
Meanwhile, each passing day socialism gains momentum. Last month the Labour Party overtook the Conservative Party in the polls, and a few days ago the Labour leader wrote in the Sunday Times: ‘if she (Theresa May) can’t get a grip, she should move out of the way and let Labour deliver’. On the same day, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, and the man behind the infamous 1980s campaign advert ‘Labour Isn’t Working’, Maurice Saatchi, wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph arguing that conservatives need to rekindle free-market philosophy. Brady and Saatchi wrote that ‘politics is a battle of ideas…and at the moment the wrong ideas are winning’.
Quite right. But conservatives do not even agree on what the right ideas are. Unlike the Centre for Policy Studies, a new website set up by conservative intellectual Tim Montgomerie, UnHerd, is making the case for compassionate capitalism. It published an article by Scottish Conservative Ruth Davidson arguing that ‘western capitalism must work for the many’ – an explicit adoption of Corbynite clothing. Meanwhile, Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former aid, recently challenged conservative orthodoxy on austerity, arguing in The Sun that ‘there is no need to make a fetish of running a surplus every year’.
Such disagreements plague western conservatives. Donald Trump, a billionaire with little interest in politics – and who did not even secure the vote of a former Republican president – now sits in the White House. Similarly, Theresa May now faces the prospect of “mutinous MPs” from her own party blocking the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill. A vote of no confidence in her administration is highly likely.
However, these events mask a deeper ideological problem. What once was, is no longer. Property remains inaccessible to many people under the age of 40. In the UK, the state religion is now no more a minority cult. The British Monarchy receives more acclaim on Netflix than it does from its own subjects. Parliamentary sovereignty, the foundation on which the British Constitution is built, means little to 48% of British people. Family breakdown and free-movement have created a society torn between “Nowheres” and “Somewheres”. And western statues fall by western hands.
Like a decaying star which slowly implodes on itself, western conservatism now sits suspended in its own crumbling force field.
The force is with Jeremy Corbyn. Socialism will soon strike back.