Wild Colonial Boy a lesson for Tories
Published in: Miscellaneous
The British Tories are in a state of finger-gnawing nerves. With Gordon Brown's Labour government in terminal meltdown, the Conservatives should be on course for a landslide victory at this year's general election.
In fact, their poll ratings have dropped dangerously into hung parliament territory.
While some believe the quirks of Britain's electoral system may deliver the Tories victory in the end, there is no doubt that they are losing support overall.
The lesson they surely need to learn is staring them in the face in Australia. This is the remarkable rise of Tony Abbott, on the apparently improbable platform of opposing man-made global warming theory and the policies this entails.
Indeed, that Abbott is snapping at Kevin Rudd's heels demonstrates a crucial lesson for conservatives everywhere. This is the truly astounding fact that a conservative will most likely win power by remaining unambiguously true to conservative principles.
To Tory leader David Cameron and his inner circle of liberal modernisers, such a view would be proof of a pitiable absence of political sophistication. Their strategy of 'hope and change' is based on their unshakeable belief that the Tories were denied power for the past 13 years because they were not progressive enough.
Accordingly, they rebranded themselves by taking left-wing, socially liberal positions and, in particular, a wholesale embrace of the environmental agenda.
Alas for the new green Tories, man-made global warming theory has gone spectacularly belly-up. More fundamentally still, Cameron has made a strategic error. He wants to tell the country it's 'time for a change', but the change he has implanted in people's minds is that the Conservatives are more similar to Labour.
At the same time, he is keen to pacify his increasingly unhappy right wing. The result has been mounting incoherence.
He appeared to retreat over his long-proposed tax advantages for marriage, then restated the policy; now he has supported a campaign to end the stereotyping of single mothers.
He endorsed a smaller state, but supported Labour's ruinous public spending targets; he then proposed purportedly deep cuts to public spending to reduce the deficit that weren't deep at all, before retreating to more modest economies still. He proposes allowing householders to kill burglars in cold blood, even if they are running away, yet he countenances cuts to Britain's defence budget.
By contrast, Abbott took a clear and firm position on global warming against conventional wisdom, and called it right. He even ventured into the lethal minefield of sexual mores, telling a journalist he advised his three daughters not to give themselves away carelessly.
Abbott is scoring so well for two main reasons. First, he is expressing views that are in tune with what so many think but are too intimidated to express. He is a champion of the voiceless mainstream.
Perhaps even more crucially, everyone can see he speaks from principle, and it is no accident that this is securely rooted in his Catholic faith. He is therefore clearly a leader.
By contrast, the British Cameroons appear to be opportunists slavishly following whatever the latest focus group tells them. People need to know where they are with their leaders, even if they don't agree with everything they say. But there is no courage or consistency in going with the flow.
Moreover, what all successful politicians instinctively understand is that most people are conservative. What Cameron crucially failed to grasp about Tony Blair was that he won power by appealing to a conservative yearning for social order and tranquillity.
So why are the British Conservatives in such a muddle? Their plight reflects a confusion besetting conservatives everywhere.
Conservatism is not an ideology but a cast of mind that seeks to defend what is valuable. That means in the West defending liberal democratic ideas and the Judeo-Christian precepts on which these depend.
With the defeat of communism, many conservatives really believed this was the 'end of history'. Since everyone embraced the free market, they thought there was no longer anything to defend.
They couldn't have been more wrong. The battleground had simply moved from economics to culture, with an onslaught against normative moral values, national identity and Western civilisation itself.
But British Conservatives don't grasp that a culture war is being waged for the soul and future of the West. As a result, they have put themselves to a large extent on the wrong side of that war by jumping on to the progressive bandwagon.
Thus they support gay adoption and all-female political short lists, are nervous about discussing mass immigration or egalitarianism, and are all but silent about Islamism and the Orwellian moral inversion that tries to criminalise as 'Islamophobia' the legitimate concerns about radical Islam.
The great battles today are not between left and right. They are between morality and nihilism, truth and lies, justice and injustice, freedom and totalitarianism, and Judeo-Christian values and the would-be destroyers of the West both within and without.
If conservatives are not on the right side of all these touchstone issues, then what is the point of conservatives at all? Why should anyone vote for them if they are merely left-wing wannabes? If people want utopia and the repression that inevitably follows its pursuit, the party to vote for is Labour: it does it so much better.
Moreover, one of the dirty little secrets of the Left is that, far from being the voice of the downtrodden, its agenda has tremendous appeal to the rich.
Green politics in particular provides painless radicalism; it lets people believe they are acting out of high-minded conscience without causing themselves any more pain than cycling to work and recycling their rubbish.
By contrast, the decent working class and lower middle class who have no moneyed leisure for such self-indulgent frivolities are naturally conservative. And the most successful Australian politicians have understood this key fact.
The main reason for John Howard's four election wins and 11 years as prime minister was his capture of the blue-collar vote from the Labor Party, especially voters in Sydney's west and their counterpart in other capitals.
He did this by standing up against the Left through initiatives such as dropping multiculturalism, strengthening border protection and refusing to apologise to the Aborigines for the so-called Stolen Generations.
Now Abbott is once again appealing to the people Howard scooped up so effectively. These are the same kind of people the British Conservatives have abandoned. That's why Abbott is on a roll while the British Tories wonder why they are floundering. They should raise their eyes from their collective navel and look 15,000 km away for the answer.