The muddled mindset of the Tory modernisers
Published in: Daily Mail
In the Times (£) today, Danny Finkelstein has reviewed the new edition of The Unfinished Revolution, the book first published in 1998 by the influential New Labour pollster and strategic guru Philip Gould about Tony Blair’s rise to power.
Finkelstein is one of the principal champions of David Cameron’s strategy of ‘modernising’ the Conservative party. I like Danny and wish I didn’t disagree with him, but I think he could not be more wrong. For the Tory modernisers were – as this article demonstrates yet again – absolutely mesmerised by Blair; and yet they absolutely misunderstood the reasons why he came to power.
The core of the problem lies in this paragraph:
‘And then there was the most important lesson of all. The key to modernisation is to live in the modern world. If this sounds banal, it isn’t. Labour often sounded as if it disliked the consumer economy and resented the changes that had made it possible. They were against their own voters’ television sets and kitchens. This, of course, was not a difficulty for Tories, but disliking gays and working women and a diverse society clearly was.’
This is surely to miss the point by a mile. The Tories did not lose power after John Major’s disastrous premiership because they weren’t in tune with gays, working women and a diverse society. They lost because the voters decided they were irredeemably incompetent, sleazy and untrustworthy – which indeed they were --and because the voters never forgave them in particular for their catastrophic economic mismanagement in going into and then crashing out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
With the Tory party totally unable to understand why it was out of power, its leaders were mesmerised from the start by Blair’s stunning political prowess. From the get-go, they never understood how he pulled off the trick of defeating three times the Tories who were of course born to rule.
Concluding falsely that he was ‘all spin and no substance,’ they also never understood that the left-wing threat which had defined the Conservative party’s purpose for much of the 20th century had not been destroyed along with the Berlin Wall, but had instead mutated into an insidious New Left culture war against core western principles. Failing to articulate any coherent cause, the Tories continued to fail to persuade voters that they were anything other than a bunch of unsavoury twerps.
For his part, Tony Blair didn’t come to power because he was in tune with gays, working women and a diverse society. He did so, first and foremost, because he junked the left-wing ideology of hostility to market forces and servility to trade union power which people knew was inimical to a free and flourishing society. That was Blair’s iconic ‘Clause Four’ moment, when he symbolically detached the party from union control and effectively signed up to the free market.
And second – and hardly less important – he also pitched to Middle Britain on the neuralgic issue of crime and anti-social behaviour. To the vast numbers of people who felt abandoned to young criminal predators, he promised to make Britain safe again. In other words, far from promoting liberalisation Blair appealed very specifically to a conservative mindset.
What was not clear at that time was that he was also driven by the post-modern, post-nation, New Left agenda which would rip up basic moral tenets, destroy education and family, deliberately alter the very identity of the country through mass immigration and multiculturalism and impose the mind-bending totalitarian tenets of ‘victim culture’, which masked the destruction of truth and justice by a false and sentimentalised simulacrum of compassion.
In due course, the country cried out for deliverance from the destruction wrought by this New Left agenda of ‘diversity’. Tragically, however, the Tories had now decided that Blair’s winning formula rested on ‘diversity’ and sentimentalised ‘compassion’ -- and so this was the way for them too to win back power. Thus David Cameron won the party leadership and started hugging huskies and hoodies and yattering about international aid.
Not surprisingly, the result was not political success at all but failure. Cameron is forced to govern with the LibDems because he failed to win a general election that was thought to be impossible to lose on account of the nation’s fury with Gordon Brown and contempt for the Labour party.
Yet despite this failure, and despite the fact that Cameron only resonates with majority public opinion when he adopts conservative positions -- such as Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, or (unfulfilled) promises to halt immigration, loosen the ties with the EU or deal firmly with crime -- the modernisers even now refuse to admit their error. The reason the Tories did not win the election, they say, was that they still weren’t diverse or compassionate enough. British society, they say, has fundamentally changed -- and no-one can win power ever again unless they go with that flow.
Well, Britain has indeed changed, and to some extent they are right. There is a growing constituency, alas, of the wrecked and marginalised and uneducated -- the self-designated ‘victim classes’ who will either punish or be indifferent to any political message that does not slavishly give them exactly what they want and remove all brakes on their behaviour.
But there is also a very large constituency which does not think like that at all. The shibboleths of ‘diversity’ that so totally obsess the Tory modernisers simply don’t register on these voters’ radar. What they are troubled by are economic pressures, mass immigration, welfare cheating, social order – the very same concerns they had under Tony Blair, but now even more acute.
This constituency was on furious display after the recent riots, when it gazed with unbridled horror at the anarchy and violence unleashed by decades of moral and cultural destruction. This constituency looks with ever-growing distaste and dismay upon the Tory leadership, whose fathomless shallowness and opportunism are on display every day. This constituency is beside itself with fury over the Tories’ green taxes, soft approach to criminals and ring-fencing of international aid to corrupt tyrannies around the globe. And it is this constituency which the Tory ‘modernisers’ have so ruthlessly abandoned, along with the very country of which it is the true centre ground.