The three conservatisms – the true conservative
One of the main factors damaging our country in modern times are the strange changes taking over conservatism. I admit, I do not personally identify as a conservative, there are many aspects of even true conservatism with which I do not agree – the hierarchical ideas, the notions of conformity and authority and an overarching focus on ‘tradition’. However, I do respect true conservatism as an honest, decent, consistent and rational parallel to my worldview. True conservatives consistently believe in traditional family values, hard work, British institutions, sobriety, charity, community, stability, order, sound business practice, an entrepreneurial spirit and fiscal prudence. . . these are noble qualities, and I truly respect those who support them consistently and without hypocrisy.
However, these days, this true meaning of ‘conservative’ is being corrupted and distorted by an increasing number of hypocrites who seem to be very flexible in their application of the principles of conservatism. Many people who often don’t even truly practice the real tenets of conservatism are increasingly coming to loudly self-identify as such, and demand others follow suit.
Modern conservatism is splitting into three main branches – the Consistent Conservative, the Short-Sighted Scrooge (personified by Tory Austerity) and the Nationalist Fraud (personified by ukip). The second two come under the banner ‘Nominal Conservatives’ – people who loudly proclaim their conservatism but who demonstrate little consistency in its practice of true understanding of its ideals. As we will see, the second two are also actively harmful to the true values of conservatism.
True conservatives value family – the stability, both on an individual and a community level, which comes from having a strong, secure and loving home life. True conservatives recognise the value in committing to a partner, settling down, forging a home, working hard for your children and conducting ones affairs in a sensible, sober and rational manner. However, this notion of family is being destroyed by the economic short-termism of Tory Austerity, and the Nationalism of Ukip. More and more hard-working young British couples are waiting longer and longer before buying their first home (stability) and having their first child (family), due to the housing bubble and economic insecurity brought on by the policies of the current ‘conservative’ government.
Austerity causes a fear amongst many young people that their government has no faith in them, refuses to invest in them, does not believe in a future for them. Many cannot afford to buy a home and, even if they could, are tied to such low-quality, zero-hours, temporary employment no-one will lend to them. This is gradually killing off an entire generation’s desire to commit to the stability of a family unit, when the narrative of austerity forever promoted by Cameron and May’s Tories gives them no hope, no security, in their own or their children’s futures.
Ironically, the more liberal and left wing parties such as the SNP, Greens, Labour, and the Lib-dems, are actually putting forwards proposals (more social house-building, scrapping zero hours contracts etc.) which would do more to forge the kind of strong family units which conservatives claim to support. We are now in the strange situation where the fallout from Tory policies (increased student debt, insecure homes, insecure work etc.) is actually doing much more to corrode the idea of ‘family’ in the UK than anything the liberals or socialists have suggested!
The family unit is also under a more direct and vehement attack from the Nationalist strain, coming both directly from ukip, and from the Tory right itself. There are many stable, contributing, established and hard-working families in this country who are under threat from being either deported or split up by Theresa May’s weak stance on securing rights for EU migrants.
British husbands and wives are seeing their spouses threatened with deportation under Brexit negotiations – spouses which may have lived in the UK for decades, but who now have no guarantee of their right to remain in the country they have helped build, under the current conservative government’s refusal to protect the rights of EU citizens in Britain. This conservative government, since Brexit and under Theresa May, is threatening to tear long-established and decent families apart simply because one of the parents was not born in Britain.
This lack of support for the family by professed conservatives was also made brutally clear was when our ‘conservative’ media (Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express) argued that refugee children in the camps in Dunkirk and Calais should be prevented from re-joining their families, unless they submit to degrading dental checks to determine their ages, even when this was already well-documented. This new rhetoric coming from people who claim to be conservatives threatens to see children languishing alone on the streets of Calais when there is a loving home waiting for them in England. These are children who already have families and homes waiting for them in Britain. They will not be ‘stealing’ a job or a house from any native Brits.
When it is proposed that refugee children seeking to link up with their families be subjected to humiliating Nazi-style dental checks to determine their ages, a true conservative must realise that taking harsh measures to keep families separated is a million miles away from what conservatism should be.
When the Kindertransports headed for England in the run-up to world war two, Churchill recognised that conservatism was naturally opposed to nationalism, and protected these vulnerable children, helped them find new families. Now, we see a conservative minister, David Davies, arguing that refugee children should be separated from their families by a dental check on their age?! The Tory party can no longer legitimately claim to hold the centre ground whilst courting such vile Ukip-style policies.
Hard work and self-sufficiency
Another core value of true conservatism is the idea of hard work and self-sufficiency, and yet again we see how the stinginess of austerity and the nastiness of nationalism threaten these conservative values.
Most immigrants to the UK are – as well as being devoted to their families – hardworking and self-sufficient. Many also come from more actively Christian Eastern European cultures, and would, by anyone’s reckoning, be considered more conservative than many Brits in their daily affairs. They work hard, they forge strong families, they have a strong Christian faith and they pay their taxes. But again, our ‘conservative’ press decides to focus on their nationality, rather than on their willingness to contribute, and other positive, conservative attributes.
It is an unavoidable fact that, on average, EU migrants claim fewer benefits, work longer hours, and pay more taxes than their British equivalents. Unlike the Nationalist Fraud, a True Conservative would never say “We support strong, hard-working, self-sufficient families. . . unless they are of foreign stock!”. Yet in one of her speeches, Theresa May has even called for legal immigrants to be ‘on a list’. . . what sort of message does this send? What kind of attitude to the idea of striving to support your family does this project?
We see hard working European fruit pickers, cleaners, and a whole host of other professions being threatened with deportation by our Prime minister simply because her government is clueless on Brexit and has no other cards to play than to use EU citizens as bargaining chips. These people are diligent workers contributing to the economy, paying taxes, spending money in our shops, and earning a wage doing jobs many Brits would be unwilling to – What sort of ‘conservative’ would threaten to punish hard work in such a way?
This shallow nationalism coming from the Tory right via ukip has nothing – nothing – to do with real conservatism. Real conservatives – consistent, principled ones – value those who are prepared to build stable families and contribute to society – wherever they come from. Nationalism argues that the lazy should have advantage over the strivers, if the lazy are ‘native’ and the strivers ‘foreign’. This is anathema to conservatism. Those who work hard should receive their rewards, regardless of their ethnicity or place of birth.
This attitude is also bad for business. Under the proposals of the Nationalist Fraud, a business cannot pick the strongest workers from the biggest pool in order to compete with their rivals – they must simply take someone local, regardless as to whether or not that person is the best man for the job. All this talk from Ukip of ‘points-based systems of immigration’ is also anathema to conservative ideals of free trade, dynamic business and small government. Which entrepreneurial, free-market conservative, would support the idea of the nanny state instigating ‘points based quotas’ of entry to micro-manage the labour market? Surely any true conservative would be appalled at the idea of ‘big government’ standing in the way of a free contract between employer and employee, and of the free movement of trade, workers and capital across border being stymied by red tape?
Churchill was a conservative, and fought with blood, sweat and tears against the sort of divisive, ‘us and them’ ideology now being promoted by the Tory right and Ukip. The current direction and rhetoric coming from Theresa May’s Tories is not what Churchill or even Thatcher believed in – government interference in trade and business, families being split up, communities being divided, hard workers being punished, threatened and demoralised. No compassionate, moderate, progressive, liberal or centre-right conservative could ever support such far-right narratives – no person who believes they are ‘socially liberal but fiscally conservative’ could possibly support hard working families being subjected to such threats and demonisation as come from Ukip and the Tory right.
The recent rhetoric from the tory party has not been one of rewarding those with family values, or those who are self-sufficient, but rather dismissing hard working families if they are foreign, and proposing to give extra benefits to lazy people simply because they are British. This smacks of national socialism, and it baffles me to see it taken up by a party calling itself conservative. Professed conservatives who would consider supporting these policies need to decide if they consider themselves a Nationalist, or whether they believe in true meritocracy.
Back to the false-economy of Austerity as practiced by Cameron and May’s Tories. The current direction of the conservative party is also not conservative in the literal sense. . . what are the modern conservative party in England actually conserving?
Have they conserved a manageable debt OR deficit? No. They promised it would be a surplus by 2015, now they say we won’t even be rid of it by 2021!
Have they conserved affordable university education? No, the modern student is indebted for life!
Have they conserved affordable housing? Emphatically no!
Have they conserved low levels of homelessness? No, this has quadrupled since they came to power
Have they conserved low levels of child poverty? No, 30% of all children now live in poverty
Have they conserved stable growth in new home ownership? No, this is in terminal decline
Have they conserved low food bank use? No, this has quadrupled since they came to power.
Have they conserved quality, long-term employment contracts? No, its zero-hours all the way now
Have they conserved a functioning NHS? No, it has fallen to its knees in the last five years
Have they conserved British infrastructure in British hands? No, they have sold it to the Chinese!
Every single one of these factors has worsened since 2010. This is not stability, this is not fiscal prudence, this is terminal chaos and decline! This ‘conservative’ government have actually bought radical change in the form of tripled tuition costs, a massive decline in affordable housebuilding, a quadrupling of homelessness, skyrocketing child poverty, increasing food bank dependency, a massive increase in zero-hours contracts, an NHS bought to its knees, and British infrastructure, especially energy production and rail operation, sold off to the Dutch, French, Chinese and German. Selling off great British institutions to foreign states and companies, or letting them go to rot due to under-investment, is not ‘conservative’ or ‘patriotic’.
‘Living within our means’ is indeed a conservative principle, and there is nothing wrong wth this principle provided it is genuine. However, austerity, as practiced by our current government, is not fiscal prudence. In their willingness to save pennies in the short term by selling off public sector services to private chancers, the conservatives are doing nothing to invest in our future, or bring in a true, effective, long-term recovery.
How the Tories are currently operating is the equivalent of saving £50 by employing a cowboy builder to get your roof fixed, then having to spend £1000 extra to get your entire home redecorated when it leaks. This is, essentially, what the current Tory party are doing when they employ G4S and all the other poor quality, profit-driven private contractors to enact ‘efficiency savings’ (i.e. cutting corners and not doing the job properly). Again and again these companies mess (charging to tag deceased prisoners up but again and again the short sighted phoney conservatives go to them to replace ever more of our public infrastructure, with ever more disastrous results.
We hear how conservatives are supposed to support the idea of ‘fiscal prudence’. . . yet, since the Tory party started their drive to ‘live within our means’ and ‘balance the books’, the UK has lost it AAA credit rating, dropped from 5th to 7th place in world economic tables, seen the pound drop to a 30 year low against the dollar, seen the debt triple, and seen real wages stagnate more than any other country except Greece. Austerity is failing. It has gone on too long, cut too deep, and failed in its own remits, whilst at the same time impoverishing and disenfranchising some of the most vulnerable.
Austerity ≠ fiscal prudence. Any pro-business, entrepreneurial spirit should know that you have to speculate to accumulate, you have to invest to see returns. This country will never be able to cut its way to growth, as has been proven over the past 7 years.
But there is one fundamental similarity between the two phoney conservatives, the Nationalist Fraud and the Short-sighted Scrooge – a lack of belief. Both these corruptions of true conservatism contain a resigned acceptance of the idea that Britain is simply too broken, too weak, too poor, too small and too scared to help others, have faith in itself, or it be worth investing in its future.
Both ideologies have no vision of Britain’s strength whatsoever, no belief in her potential. The Short-sighted Scrooge says Britain is not worth investing in, could never yield net gains, the Nationalist Fraud never ceases talking about how small and weak and poor Britain is, how unable to help it is, how miserly and distrusting and inward looking it must become so that it can ‘protect its own’ – a promise nationalist governments never fulfil anyway!