By Tony Mcilwraith
Just over a year ago, enough people in this country said ‘why not?’ to the Tory party. And I am glad that they did. Whether it was to ‘Get Brexit Done’ or to stop Jeremy Corbyn, enough people voted for the Tories so that they could form a government which has at least achieved those two things. Of course we should not forget the fact that it took other parties, a referendum and years of delay and civil war for this to finally be achieved. We are into our second year of a Boris Johnson led government and I must say: it is all rather dull.
One might have hoped that the Conservative Party would have been more hesitant when it comes to lockdown restrictions; perhaps the party labelled as ‘conservatives’ would have used prudence when it came to restricting liberties (more so upholding the rights of MPs to vote on such sweeping changes). If one were to look at the tier system you would think it was adopted with the same ‘why not?’ Approach many disenchanted labour voters did when they set aside their nature and voted for Boris. As approach is continually changed the situation appears to simply get worse. Gone are the days of optimistic lockdowns. This is nothing more than a from the hip attempt at buying time. Besides from 80 or so Tory MP’s, the party has, mostly, supported the lockdown restrictions, even now. It was the Conservative Party (In England), with the support or through the abstention of the other parties, that enacted the 10pm curfew in pubs.
One may grant that the Tory party has, largely, been a laughing stock when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions; but the impact of these decisions is far from funny. The government will have borrowed almost £400 billion this year alone, bringing the UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio to its highest in 50 years. With this comes the inevitable talk: tax increases. It is difficult to get a clear message from the Conservative party on most things. A cabinet minister comes out and says one thing; a backbencher says another. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak hints at tax increases; the leader of the House Jacob-Rees-Mogg says that it would be political suicide for the Tories to do so.
It has long been clear that the Conservative party are essentially social liberals. David Cameron’s “one nation” coalition and the succeeding governments have all supported policies in line with New Labour’s cultural program. Boris Johnson has continued this strand of social liberalism. Only when there were literal riots on the streets and statue toppling’s did the Prime Minister denounce, in part, the activities on BLM. If the Tories are not at least economically conservative – as regards taxes anyway – what is left of the party, except from not being Labour?
Over the last decade, the Conservative Party has been hollowed out: social, moral, and cultural issues may just reach the back pages of the manifesto. Conservative supporters have had to come to terms with politics being a sub-branch of economics. What is even more concerning is the apparent abandonment of its low tax and pro free market approach.
The Conservative Party was elected on, what was essentially, a three-word manifesto: Get Brexit Done. It is here that most of the contemporary commentary denounces the Tory party; likewise, it is here that the government has, for a very rare occasion, my full support. For me, and I believe for most, Brexit was never an economic issue; it was a democratic, national, and cultural issue. It was the principle that we should not be governed by elsewhere, and not have law imposed by a group of people not elected by the British public (or in some cases, anybody).
I do not mean to be too harsh on the party that gets, although increasingly begrudgingly, my electoral support. The cuts in foreign aid, Brexit, and the targeting of critical race theory are all welcome from the Tory Party. If the government were to refrain from raising taxes I believe they will probably come out of this whole affair still atop of the polls. However there are countless issues that grass roots members are passionate about that are rarely discussed by the party come election time. The grass roots deplore sin taxes, hate the TV licence and despise restrictions on free speech. Until now widespread calls for immigration controls and a proper Brexit were only listened to when the Brexit party obliterated the conservatives in the EU elections and held Boris’s feet to the fire leading up to and following the 2019 election.
My problem with the Conservative Party is more a systemic one. As a conservative I am continuously lulled to sleep by the Conservative Party’s policies. One sure fire way to know if I would disagree with someone politically is if they rather enjoyed the time when David Cameron or Therese May was Prime Minister. Boris Johnson is more exciting, but politically I fear he is much the same. The Tory Party cannot – or rather, should not – keep winning elections from the fact that they are not Labour. This itself being somewhat a lie as the parties converge on the centre. In short The Conservatives are Labour a decade ago fighting electoral battles with the Labour of today.
The Conservative Party has become so that dull that when Jacob-Rees-Mogg cited a papal bull, Unam Sanctum, from the 14th century in the House of Commons, I was rather excited. I have been that bored with British politics in recent years – as I see it as two sides of New Labour arguing against each other – that I am in the mood for a resurging argument about Papal supremacy. Beyond these humorous instances the conservative party have retreated into a zombified managerial mode.
It may not be what most people want, but what I desire from the Conservative Party is some firm beliefs; held principles; a philosophical foundation. When there are current Conservative MP’s who have never heard of Peter Hitchens or Roger Scruton (in the latter case some actively denounce him), you start to wonder why they are Conservative MP’s. If the Conservative party do not start offering something new; if they do not shake up the party and message in Scotland; in summary, if they do not act as conservatives: I may stop saying ‘why not?’ To the conservative party and start asking ‘why?’