Saturday , May 25 2024

Social Conservatism – Flogging a Dead Horse

What has the world come to? Before the General Election, I incorrectly predicted that the Conservative Party would win hands-down, and to my own credit, so did many other commentators. Then democracy happened, and the great hand of uncertainty threw all my assumptions to the wind. Looking back at the election now, I see why I was so wrong, but I also see that my initial reservations about Theresa May’s campaigns were not unfounded. Meanwhile, on the left, Corbyn gloats about his ‘great success’ (and indeed we shall come to that later) as the right tears itself apart over the notion of having to ally with a party (the Democratic Unionists) who dare to voice an alternative opinion on LGBT rights. This is a right mess, and I am caught in two minds: the first calls to me to depart from politics, and urges me frankly to not care; the other demands that I remain, and seek to argue the alternative once again. The truth is, no party at the moment is offering the sort of government required to guide the country through these times, but as for people like me, well I suppose we might as well keep trying.

The Tories did so catastrophically worse than predicted at this election for one reason: their campaign was all about Theresa May. The strong and stable soundbite was thrown around her, and she extolled as some sort of Messianic alternative to the destructive forces of Corbyn’s Labour (whose motto For the many, not the few, by the way, was much better than the Conservative offering). The politics of personality can work, but only if the person around which it revolves is genuinely charismatic; this is not something which Theresa May is. Of course they tried to make her seem that way, it was hard not to notice the deliberate lowering of the voice, the styled hair, the assertive and Laconic answers to Prime Minister’s Questions which suddenly appeared at the start of her Premiership, but no matter how much like Thatcher they tried to make her, she only ever came across as exactly what she is: a pseudo-Thatcher, who isn’t even half as good as the late Baroness anyway. But as vitriolic and harsh as I may sound, the fact remains that Theresa May is not conventionally likeable. Conservative politics has completely lost sight of vision and ideas, of policies and ideology in favour of inane statements and helpless personality cults which only serve to further  damage the cause of conservatives in general.

Now we have a Labour party emboldened, growing stronger in the polls, with a more visionary leader (however detestable his policies may be). Any last hope the Conservatives had of remaining popular is being snatched away by the politicisation of the Grenfell Tower disaster – a tragedy, no question, but a tragedy seemingly used by the left to blame Theresa May for the deaths…It is sickening, quite frankly, that Corbyn would dare to make such accusations, given that the Prime Minister has nothing to do with the management of some abstract building in Manchester. But no matter, the damage is done, and the Tory Party is thoroughly wrecked. What is far more worrying, however, is Corbyn’s latest policy idea: to seize the homes of the wealthy in order to house the homeless and needy. I cannot begin to express how truly awful this idea is: no matter whether the homes are occupied or not, the state has no right to seize citizens’ property, no matter how rich or poor they are. Part of the point of living in a free society is the right to private property. Burke wrote wonderfully on this in his Reflections when the leaders of the French revolution began seizing property. If our right to property is impinged, our very freedom itself is also impinged. The only appropriate response is to oppose policies like these at all costs.

Herein lies the rub: conservatives have polemicised for years about the collapse of traditional institutions and the decay of society. We have been the first to point towards the downfall of the Christian religion in the Western world, to point to immigration and question its benefits, to point to the tendency towards unethical economics and ask “Is this right?”. Every time we have had our wrists slapped bitterly by those above, telling us to embrace ‘tolerance’, ‘freedom of religion’, ‘safe economic management’ and perhaps most stomach-churning of all ‘egalitarianism’. Again, soundbites and vacuous statements are all that compose the arguments of the harbingers of decadence. We are getting nowhere by making ourselves sound like bitter old men (which many of us are not, there are, surprisingly, many young conservatives in the world today), complaining about society changing around us. I still maintain that many aspects of modern society are detestable, and are changing for the worse, but these sorts of arguments will never help the cause, and all those who are sympathetic to this view have already made up their minds. The politics of negativity is just as useless as the politics of personality. Individuals do not change things by their appearance, or by their angry rants. We should think about something far more important if we are to succeed: our liberty.

The Labour party is now threatening us with some of the worst sorts of leftist dogma. This isn’t soppy middle-way Blairism, this is pseudo-communism. A world where the state seizes property, controls the education system and the media by directing its cash flows, assigns named-persons for every child and throws borders wide open and closed again at its beck and call is not free – it is tyrannical. Conservatives need to stop complaining and get working: if these policies are implemented, and if too few people are converted to the cause of preservation of our long-held civil liberties, we will see Britain slide into misery and despair as never seen before. Conservatives have always been the ideologues in favour of small government, small tax, the defence of property and law, and maintaining a localist attitude which builds communities and inter-dependence at a series of local levels, rather than having the state orchestrate such projects itself single-handed. British conservatism has always been about the freedom of the nation, so let us bring that message of freedom back to its people. If we allow these Marxists full reign over government, they will destroy it. We must protect all that is dear to us by making conservatism our saviour, the saviour of our freedom without which we will be on a sorry path to much loss.

Unless of course you want the streets of London to end up looking like the picture above, in which case do disregard what I have said………

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About Alex Illingworth

Alex Illingworth lives in Oxford where he pursues studies in philosophy and theology, having previously studied Classics. He has written extensively on conservatism, and on British politics, and is a co-founder of the conservative blog aimed at students: The Burkean. His debut book in political philosophy "Political Justice" is a forthcoming publication with Arktos Media.

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