I have written on several occasions already about how pushing for a “no deal” Brexit – or “clean” Brexit, if you like – is the least conservative thing any government has considered doing at least since the end of the war. But this unconservative streak in regards to Brexit and the Tories runs deeper. The whole language around Brexit used by Tories, almost all Tories, is that whilst Brexit will be a huge upheaval and change the way we do most things, it is necessary. Meanwhile the really hardcore Brexit bunch often sound like full blown Marxists – the system needs to be destroyed in order to be remade in a sacred image.
The major electoral problem this presents the Tories is that given you have a far left Labour Party at present, you are presenting voters with a choice between two radical possibilities. Most Conservatives seem to have no idea how or why this hands such an advantage to Corbyn – if both parties represent massive change, why not go with the one that is dishing out sweeties to everyone? If everything has to be remade, can I get some free stuff out of it all at least? If there is no genuinely conservative party to vote for, Corbyn and his terrible ideas are made to seem much more acceptable than they otherwise would be. And Labour realise this, at least since the freak general election result anyhow. In fact, they are pursuing a sort of Bizzaro World version of Blairism: ignore your core vote and try and win over the middle classes. Corbynism is just the 2017 version, it seems.
The major thing missing from Corbynism, of course, is genuine liberalism. Yes, it retains the desire for minority groups within society to be protected and allowed to go on with their lives the way those within these groups would ideally choose – but it seems to favour the most authoritarian elements even within this relatively liberal patch. Corbynism, in the end, is about proper socialism coming to Britain, which is a profoundly illiberal idea. JC has spend a lot more time talking about Cuba and Venezuela during his life than he ever has about Sweden and Norway. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems try ever harder to become a fringe party, focused on Brexit, smoking weed and electoral reform to the detriment of everything else.
The upshot of all of this is that we lack in Britain at present a genuinely conservative party at the same time as we lack a genuinely liberal party. I myself don’t see how this can continue – nature abhors a vacuum and all that. Yet at the same time, I don’t see how this logjam gets resolved, given the political system. Perhaps the hardcore Brexiteers have a point here: maybe the system really does need to be destroyed and remade again simply to function once more.
Paul W says
Nick – I broadly agree with you here except on this point: How conservative was it for Britain to join the EEC in the first place? (And before anyone mentions him, Churchill did not advocate Britain joining ‘Europe’ in that close sense). As far as one can make out, the push for membership was caused by a serious loss of confidence on the part of the British Establishment in the aftermath of the Suez crisis of 1956, and a hope among Conservative politicians of the time, at least, that by joining the Common Market competition would help modernise the British economy. But that didn’t go exactly to plan, did it? So one could argue Brexit represents the return to normal service after a 40-odd year experiment in international and economic relations. As to the Lib Dems, the ragbag of unconnected policies you mention isn’t a good advertisement for liberalism, is it? To be frank, it is not a good advertisement for any kind of discernible ‘-ism’. That, I suppose, is the problem.
David Simons says
‘I agree with Nick!’ But seriously, you raise an important point here in that the centre ground of politics has been abandoned, it appears to me, to the right or left fringes of politics. I have been a lifelong Liberal supporter and feel even more disenfranchised in the current climate, voting systems aside, as there is no movement in politics that i feel I can support that has a chance of governing in a way that supports my political beliefs and principles. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations – I voted Remain & would do so again – I am of the opinion that there will be a huge shift in UK politics back to the sensible centre-ground in the next very few years.
You are strangely unfair to the Liberal Democrats, Brexit and those who loudly propound Brexit are profoundly illiberal and has to be opposed; I wrote strangely because you yourself are even more focused on Brexit than the Liberal Democrat party. Smoking weed – OK it is an archetypal fringe issue, but electoral reform is almost self evidently important and omnipresent in nearly all your articles that are not about Brexit!
Nonetheless, you have a point about advocating Liberalism, so I look forward to your articles giving a voice to promotion of Liberalism and suggesting how the Liberal Democrats can advance the Liberal cauise.