Old-Fashioned Conservatism: The Antidote to Modern Left and Right

March 9, 2018

 

It is increasingly clear that traditional ideas of Left and Right are no longer the relevant dividing lines in politics, and this goes a long way in explaining why so many people feel that no political party stands for what they believe in. Modern left-wing identity politics of race, gender and sexuality would seem utterly bizarre to an old-fashioned industrial socialist from even a single generation ago. Go back a little further and the differences would become even more stark. Consider for example Keir Hardie, an icon of Scottish Labour and to left-leaning elements in the Yes movement: he certainly stood up for the working-class and socialist principles, but he also supported an outright ban on immigration and claimed that Eastern European immigrants had "filthy habits", lived off "garlic and oil" and that they carried "the Black Death" (to add further insult to injury for his modern cosmopolitan admirers, he was also an Evangelical lay preacher and supporter of the Temperance movement).

 

But the modern Right of global finance, porous borders and social liberalism would seem equally alien to anybody who identified as right of centre a couple of generations ago. The things with which they would have identified were traditional family values, economic protectionism, patriotism and such dry constitutional matters as parliamentary union, parliamentary democracy and parliamentary sovereignty; all things which have now been totally abandoned by all mainstream parties across the spectrum. In their place, the modern 'Right' have adopted an ideological fixation on market liberalism, to the point where they have torn down such fundamental conservative values as the integrity of national borders and national sovereignty in the pursuit of the unfettered free movement of goods, capital and people which their market-based ideology so venerates. This transition took place across the administrations of Heath and Thatcher, the latter of which was really more of a market radical than a conservative; a zealot for the Single Market in which she played a pioneering role and a signatory of the notorious Anglo-Irish Treaty; all much to the dismay of Enoch Powell, by then an Ulster Unionist MP, and the small band of genuine conservatives which remained in her party at the time, and who could see Britain's borders dissolving before their eyes.

 

To understand modern politics, it could perhaps be said that the modern Left is the side of culture war and social revolution, while the modern Right is the side of global finance. As such their prerogatives occupy different spheres and are by no means mutually exclusive; indeed both sides largely adopt each other's agenda and the only difference is what they consciously choose to self-identify with. Theresa May for example will talk about finance and the economy, while in the background implementing the same revolutionary social policies backed by Corbyn: that is the broad politically correct agenda of equality, minority politics, gender politics, open borders, the sexual revolution, and so on. Corbyn on the other hand will talk openly about his support for revolutionary social policies and make them the foundation of his campaigns; but as his capitulation to the EU on the Single Market and customs union shows, he also ultimately offers no real opposition to the global finance and market liberalism so venerated by his more 'mainstream' opponents. The SNP, of course, have to out-idiot everybody and therefore make sure they shout and virtue-signal the loudest about every trendy issue from the EU, to Trident to refugees (anything's better than getting on with the relatively boring day job at the regional assembly).

 

THE BLAIRITE'S BOGEYMAN

 

All this is why this author, despite being very much conservative, old-fashioned and proudly patriotic, finds the portrayal of Jeremy Corbyn as uniquely radical, or as some sort of bogeyman, to be quite hypocritical when it comes from within the existing political class. I am not aware of any way in which Corbyn is more radical than his Blairite opponents in the Labour or Conservative parties, or the regional nationalist parties. Corbyn's views on the IRA are despicable, yet it was the Blairites who made the leadership of the IRA perpetual joint-rulers in Northern Ireland, and who continue to support this arrangement, as does Corbyn. Corbyn does indeed openly associate with some of the worst terrorist groups in the Middle East, but it was the Blairites, Labour and Tory, who armed and continue to arm al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups in Syria in an attempt to overthrow the Assad regime. Corbyn is indeed a republican, yet it was Tony Blair himself who so symbolically paraded around Diana's funeral as though he were head of state, and inflicted that notorious humiliation upon our monarchy when it did not even fly the Royal Standard from Buckingham Palace; a humiliation which struck at the hearts of monarchists. Another example would be David Cameron's rather presidential decision in January 2012 to announce a Scottish independence referendum with no consent from parliament or the electorate, which typifies how the office of Prime Minister seems to function less and less as that of first among peers and increasingly as an executive and de-facto head of state. Corbyn does indeed support very liberal immigration policies, yet it is the current Conservative government which has rendered our borders meaningless and presided over year-on-year record levels of immigration; reaching over an astonishing 700,000 under Theresa May according to official figures. On the economy, Corbyn's proposals to whisk several hundred billions of pounds into existence to fund his manifesto commitments is indeed highly irresponsible from a fiscally conservative point of view, but not any moreso than the decision of the Conservative government to conjure a similar amount to bail out bankers a few short years ago.

 

Most significantly, and rather ironically, Corbyn's 2017 Labour manifesto was actually quite dull and Keynesian; more status-quo ante than status quo, his policies for example on rail nationalisation and student debt would have wound the clock back in many ways to the Thatcher years, since she was the last Prime Minister to preside throughout her time in office over a nationalised rail service and to financially support students throughout their education (and this is why, though she was a radical, she was less radical than the Blairites who came after her, and who sold our rail contracts to foreign governments and introduced the phenomenon of mass debt to our student youth). As for the rest of the broad revolutionary agenda at work in this country: the war on the family, radical feminism, gender politics, ethnic/minority politics, the broad forces of political correctness, as well as constitutional matters such as legislative devolution and rule through referendum, there is absolutely no distinction between Corbynite Labour, the Blairite elements within Labour or the equally Blairite Conservative Party, or indeed the regional nationalist parties like the SNP. Peter Hitchens, one of the few remaining conservative commentators in this country, made some similar observations, and noted long ago that the trendy middle-class intellectuals and Eurocommunists who filled the ranks of New Labour and the Conservatives were every bit as radical as the old hard-Left, and much more potent as a threat to genuine conservatives and patriots (this particular article of his ought to be mandatory reading for any student of politics).

 

LEFT OF LENIN?

 

It was on a recent trip to what was formerly East Germany, aka the GDR, that I was struck in quite a visual way by just how redundant modern delineations of Left and Right have become, and how radical our own political class truly are. When viewing portraits of the old leadership of the Socialist Unity Party, a rather dull and technocratic looking bunch of old men, it crossed my mind that in the UK they would probably be hauled before a gender equality panel and face all sorts of sanctions and public and media wrath; committed Marxist-Leninists who would be scolded by the Theresa May's, Jeremy Corbyn's and Nicola Sturgeon's of this world for failing to meet their demands for equality and political correctness. Amusingly, this ruling socialist party of Soviet-backed East Germany would as it stood have fallen far short of the SNP's planned equality laws for 50/50 candidate lists for the Scottish parliament, and thus be unable to stand without conforming to the PC fervour at Holyrood.

 

East Germany's NPA (National People's Army), that last outpost of old-fashioned Prussian military tradition, never held quite the same fascination with its numbers of sexual and ethnic minorities that the British Army now does, to the point that it dedicates its advertising campaigns to the recruitment of LGBT and Muslim soldiers, and assures them that "it's OK to cry". I also learned that in that one-party state, the only non-unanimous vote in its parliament was one to liberalise abortion laws held in 1972, which allowed abortion on demand within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. It occurred to me that this was much less liberal than the laws in the UK today, which effectively allow abortion on demand for up to twenty-four weeks, and have done so since 1967 (for a brief period it was up to twenty-eight weeks) when Roy Jenkins and a cross-party cabal of MPs began their own cultural revolution to change forever the fabric of British society. I also noted that while one 'party' in East Germany's ruling Nation Front, the Christian Democrats, voted against the liberalisation, there is not a single party in modern, Western Britain that would back such restrictive abortion laws.

 

Another interesting graphic  in the GDR Museum showed the dramatic change in religious affiliation in East Germany over the forty-year existence of the GDR; from an overwhelmingly Lutheran society in 1949 to an overwhelmingly atheistic one by 1990. It is telling that this transformation has over a similar period been 'achieved' in the United Kingdom, and was done so through the same means as the GDR: namely a secular state education system and the abandonment of Christian values in every area of policy-making, in particular those relating to the family.

 

The most visual statement of socialist triumphalism in East Germany was the iconic TV Tower on Alexanderplatz, deliberately built by the ruling SED to tower over the grand religious and civic structures which once claimed Berlin's skyline. The grand Palace of the Republic, now demolished, was built just across from the Berlin Cathedral for the same reason. If the TV Tower and Palace of the Republic were intended to transform the skyline into a visual statement of socialist and secular domination, they never achieved it quite so successfully as the glass skyscrapers of multinationals and the various postmodern monstrosities that have claimed the skylines of Britain's cities since the 80s; a visual statement of the domination of global finance and corporate internationalism over what was once a sovereign and quite self-sufficient country.

 

It is astonishing to think that as late 1962 St. Paul's Cathedral was the tallest building in London, which only got its first real skyscraper in the form of the NatWest Tower in 1980. A skyline which for centuries belonged to buildings like St. Paul's Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge now belongs to buildings dubbed The Shard and The Gherkin. In so suppressing the grandeur and authority of the  key national, civic and historical structures in our city skylines, the chaos of open borders and global finance achieved what the planned economy of Soviet socialism never could.

 

All this is why genuine conservatives and patriots must recognise how totally inadequate, and even outright misleading old concepts of Left and Right are when applied to modern Western politics. Neither modern Left or Right have any interest in any of the things which conservatism used to be about: those family values, the quiet yet deep patriotism and the concern for social peace and national sovereignty which were once shared by the average mine worker and the average middle-class housewife are now held variously in derision and contempt by the political class. They simply don't fit into the narrative of the modern Left or Right, which have both strayed far from their ideological roots.

 

This is why we believe it is more important than ever that there is a genuinely conservative and patriotic party that will stand up for traditional values, our national integrity and our national sovereignty; that will reject the social radicalism of the modern Left and the liberal internationalism of the modern Right, which so often seem to blend seamlessly into one another. If we can do this, we may finally be able to give a voice to those who feel they have been totally abandoned by the political class across the ideological spectrum.

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