Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday on why he still hopes that the Conservative Party will die.
Tim Montgomerie’s “Fifteen reasons why even Peter Hitchens and Simon Heffer should vote Conservative” produced an interesting response from readers on ConservativeHome, and Tim has kindly allowed me to reply – both to the posting and the reader response.
First, after many years of being so hated by New Labour that they tried to slam the doors of the 1997 Blair Manifesto press conference in my face (“It’s full!”, they lied “You can’t come in!”) it is rather amusing to be just as loathed by the Modern Conservatives, as I believe they will come to be known. And to be loathed for more or less the same reasons – namely that a fraud is being perpetrated on the public and those involved don't want to risk anyone noticing.
When Mr Cameron announced his Lisbon climb-down a few weeks ago , my attempts to ask the Conservative leader a question ( I raised my hand at the beginning, and was in the front row) were ignored, just as my attempts to question Mr Blair were ignored in the 1997 and 2001 elections (I don't think I could be bothered to ask in 2005) . Likewise he tried quite hard to ignore my question to him when he discussed his very generous expenses with an audience in his constituency, initially shaking his head to indicate that I oughtn't to be asking a question at all at such an occasion, but in the end it was more embarrassing to ignore my lone raised hand to than to take the question. He is indeed the heir to Blair, in many more ways than one.
The tone of many of the comments on me from many (though happily not all) this site’s readers is gratifyingly rude. I suspect most of these virulent critics don't actually read what I write, because (like children who won't try a new dish) they already know they don't like me. And I likewise suspect that they haven't read my books, only hostile and defamatory reviews of them. Well, all right, not everyone is keen on me. So let me concede , for the sake of argument, that I have no sense of humour at all; that I am personally vile, of hideous aspect; that children, small furry animals and songbirds flee from my presence; that flowers wither when I enter a room, that I sleep in a vault upon a bed of earth and feast on the blood of virgins.
(So how, by the way, can anyone possibly confuse me with the handsome and loveable Peter Oborne, perhaps the last specimen of the true English gentleman outside captivity? You may well ask).
But despite all my personal drawbacks, the question remains : “Am I right in thinking that David Cameron is so interested in office, and so lacking in conservative principle, that he doesn't much care what he says to obtain office, or what he does if and when he gets it. And am I right in thinking that the Conservative Party is no longer a reasonable compromise between differing allies, but an impossible coalition of opposites which is only kept alive by state subsidies and millionaire donors?
Tim thinks my concerns may be overcome by the things he lists. Well, I shall deal with this catalogue in a moment. But first, those who want the deep reasons for my dissent from Cameroon Toryism are invited to study them here.
And if they wish to go deeper, may I suggest that they take a look at my recent book ‘The Broken Compass’, unreviewed by almost any Conservative publication, including several that have reviewed my previous books, though Michael Gove – almost the only Cameroon interested in debate or thought - said of it in The Times : “This book has some passages of quite brilliant writing.”
And let me also deal with the charge made against me by so many Tory loyalists who have no other argument, that I am some sort of Trotskyite sleeper. This charge is seriously advanced by people who ought to know better . Edward Vaizey MP seems to be the origin of this peculiar idea. He expressed it on Telegraph TV in an item called ‘Right On’ in spring 2008, recorded on the Iain Dale blog on or about 6th April that year.
Though it may possibly have been an attempt at stand-up comedy, Mr Vaizey seems to be being serious in this clip, in which he says: ”I never fail to read Simon Heffer’s column. I've suddenly realised that Simon is a Marxist because his column is exactly the same as Peter Hitchens, who we all know is a former Marxist, and I think they are subversive left-wing sleepers who are trying to undermine a future Conservative government and that worries me…”. I have challenged him about this in person, and twice since e-mailed him at the House of Commons to ask him to go into more detail, but he has yet to reply.
As it happens, I stopped being a Marxist when Mr Vaizey was seven years old. Let me put it another way. I have been a non-Marxist, and an active opponent of Marxism, for far longer than Mr Vaizey has been a grown-up. Since then I have spent much of my time experiencing at first hand and close quarters things far too few Tories know anything about at all – the British Labour and Trades Union movement, the Eastern European nations under Communism, and the USSR itself, where I lived with my family. I have also lived in the USA, and continue to travel widely as a foreign reporter, most recently in China, Japan, Burma, South Africa, Iran and North Korea.
I know in detail why I am not and could never again be any kind of socialist, let alone a Marxist or Trotskyist. Any time Mr Vaizey wishes to discuss this suggestion with me, I am ready to do so, preferably in front of an audience.
But one thing I will say. The goals which revolutionary Marxists of my generation sought – a radical reordering of the relations between the sexes, a weakening of the married family, a general moral, cultural and social revolution, the destruction of the taboos against abortion, illegitimacy and divorce, egalitarian education, the abolition of frontiers and of nation states, the end of restrictions on immigration and the withering away of national borders, the sociological approach to crime as opposed to the belief that wrongdoing was an act of free will that deserved punishment, the infiltration of the media, the schools and universities by radical and revolutionary ideas about history and society, the dismantling of the canon of literature and of conservative attitudes towards history, the general denigration of the British Empire, the demolition of the idea that education was a passing on of accepted knowledge, and so of the idea that teachers are figures of authority, are now the policies of the establishment and so the policies of the Modern Conservative party – despite occasional sops – of the sort listed by Tim – offered to conservative thinkers.
My fellow-revolutionaries – from whom I broke and who hate me like poison as a traitor to my generation – entered the media, the law, the education system and the civil service in their thousands when the sixties ended, intent on pursuing these aims.. And As Gerry Adams used to say of the IRA ‘They haven’t gone away, you know’. The number of ex-Communists and ex-Trotskyists at the very top of the Labour Party – who unlike me will not discuss their political pasts and also unlike me try to hide them – is extraordinarily large. These are for the most part not Old labour socialists of the Clause Four trade union and nationalisation sort, but 'modern' enthusiasts for 'New Labour', which has many intellectual links with the current known as Euro-Communism , which used to coalesce round such publications as 'Marxism Today' and then migrated into the think tanks which swarmed around Mr Blair, and now swarm round Mr Cameron, who has pretty much accepted the Blair revolution as the price of establishment and BBC approval. See what I'm suggesting here?
Maynard Keynes once commented that politicians were generally the unconscious slaves of some defunct economist. They are also – especially Tories who know nothing of the Left - slaves of defunct social and political thinkers.
When Theresa May favours all-women shortlists, when David Cameron accedes to Lisbon and panders to the Green movement, when David Willetts adopts the language of the enemy as he declares that the alleged but non-existent “war against single mothers is over”, when all of them knuckle under to the idea that ‘Human Rights’ should be the supreme arbiter of what is right and wrong, they are all the unknowing followers of Antonio Gramsci, Wilhelm Reich, Herbert Marcuse and the rest of the cardboard deities of the Sixties New Left revolution, not to mention discredited sex-gurus such as Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey, whose bogus ideas and dud 'research' are still widely revered on the Left, and among those unconsciously influenced by the Left.
Most of the rest of their policies, especially on welfare and crime, are lifted straight from the ideas of the Fabian society, which has sought for more than a century to bring about socialism by gradual change rather than revolution. And the Tory elite are so contemptuous of ideas, and so ignorant of socialism. they they don’t even realise it. That is why, in government after government, they concede enormous changes imposed by the left, not grasping that by doing so they are undermining their own basis of support and their own existence.
Unlike them, I know what the Left want, what they think and what they say in private when they think nobody is listening. And it grieves me greatly to see a supposedly conservative party doing their bidding and following their ideas. I'm not denying the right of people to argue and work for left-wing radical change. I am questioning the morality of doing so while pretending to the voters that they are a 'conservative party'. And I am suggesting that conservatives need a party which is actually conservative, and that the Tory Party's continuing existence is the greatest obstacle to the creation of such a party.
I might add that one of the chief vehicles for spreading and enforcing this PC radical rubbish is the European Union, whose incessant directives lie behind much of the compulsory political correctness( known as 'Equality and Diversity') which infects our public life – and leads to the increasing marginalisation of the Christian religion. It is absolutely unsurprising to me that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, ‘Dany le Rouge’ of the May 1968 events in France, is now a prominent Euro-MP and enthusiast for the Lisbon treaty, or that Joschka Fischer, a prominent street revolutionary of the period, became the Green foreign minister of the German Federal Republic.
The Tory Party's refusal to accept that Britain must leave the EU if it is to have any sort of independent, non-liberal future is one of the many reasons why I think that party is finished, and ought to be discarded by serious patriotic conservatives. The party's dishonest, have-it-both-ways position is encapsulated in Mr Cameron's tricky pretence that he opposed Lisbon, when he must surely have realised that it would be ratified before he had any i
nfluence over it .
I am told that I should work within the Tory party for change. How? Even if one had any belief that one could work for change, how would one do so? When I was a member of the Tory Party, I could discover no mechanism through which I or anyone else could campaign for policy change. The party is now enormously centralised, as the Howard Flight affair, and the current revolting shortlist procedures emphasise. All was and is settled by cliques and elites clustered around the leader's office. When I tried to use the privileged access that was available to me through Fleet Street, privately to press conservative ideas, as expressed in my books, on crime, education or the family, on Conservative politicians, I was met with a lofty Oxbridge scorn. I did not come to my current position without trying everything else I could think of.
Now, to the list:
- An end to taxpayer subsidy of the trade union movement*:
- Abolishing ID cards:
- An annual cap on immigration from outside the EU:
- An independent medical examination of every incapacity benefit claimant:
- A recognition of marriage in the tax system:
- Abolishing regional government:
- Replacement of the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights:
- Moving public sector job advertising away from The Guardian and on to the internet**:
- The abolition of inheritance tax for all but millionaires:
- The protection of private schools from interference from the Charity Commission:
- Freezing the BBC licence fee:
- A 10% reduction in the number of MPs:
- The repeal of the ban on foxhunting:
- Full renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent:
- A free vote on reducing the time limit for abortion.
What a strange catalogue this is. Of course the plan to abolish identity cards is good. I like to think that some years back, in the days of Michael Howard, I helped to persuade the Tory Party to abandon this horrible idea. I am viscerally against it. But it is not by itself enough to overcome the following difficulty, especially given the devaluation of Tory pledges by Mr Cameron's shifty performance on the EU and the marriage tax break. Most of the rest are minor sops hurled in various directions to try to maintain the Tory Party's unsustainable coalition between social liberal, economic liberals, foreign-policy neo-conservatives, rural campaigners, and a dwindling and confused rump of patriotic social conservatives. The basic thrust of the Cameron Modern Conservatives does not challenge the social democratic consensus of the British and EU establishment, or propose to reverse the damage done over many years buy such governments. A Cameron government is no threat to that consensus, and acknowledges that left-wing policies are irreversible. That's why the initially heartening pledge on the Charity Commission does so little for me. When an openly-declared social democratic government returns, as it will, the squeeze on the independent schools will resume where it left off.
Meanwhile, there will have been no attempt to restore the grammar schools, the only effective measure for restoring rigour to state education.
Oh, and leaving aside the obligation to enforce the ECHR as long as we are EU members, we already have a Bill of Rights, which does what such documents ought to do – and restricts the power of the state.. We would do well to pay more attention to it. But I am not sure I would trust the Tory front bench, many of them neo-conservative 'war on terror' types, to draw up a replacement.
This approaching election is a unique opportunity for genuine conservatives. the Tory Party cannot and should not survive a fourth general election failure. It will be ages before such conditions exist again. In our two party system, the Tory Party's failure and resulting collapse and split would provide the opportunity to create a real conservative formation, which could throw new Labour into the sea. not least by winning the votes of the patriotic, conservative working class so comprehensively abandoned by Labour.
What have we to lose? A Cameron government would be so similar to a Blair government that it would be very hard to tell the difference in a poor light, and those who had campaigned for such a government would then be compelled, with sinking hearts, to waste their energies defending it from criticisms they knew to be just.
It is blithering nonsense to imagine that the Blairites or the Brownites will be 'punished' by being removed from office. They are longing for the chance to run off and feather their nests, with memoirs, consultancies and speechmaking. It would be far harder for them, and far less lucrative, if they were left to try to clear up the mess they had made, while the people of Britain used the time to form a resistance movement that would throw New Labour into the sea at the next election, and then actually reverse the damage they have done, instead of feebly managing a socialist, PC welfare state under EU rule, as the Cameroons plan to do.
So no thanks , Tim. No serious, thoughtful conservative should give his vote to the Cameron project. We have seen in this week's swervings and zig-zags on marriage a pretty good dress rehearsal of what a Cameron government would be like in practice – shifty , unprincipled and not very competent either. The Tory Party doesn't do what it says on the tin. If it were a consumer product, nobody would buy it. And I don't buy it either.