Après moi, le déluge

May 23, 2024By Pete North


"... If you had to pick the worst prime minister of all time, it would more than likely be one of the last seven. And it wouldn’t be Sunak. He gets his own special award as the most pointless prime minister of all time. An administration so unremarkable that in a few years’ time we may even forget he was prime minister. 

He is to be commended, though, for putting an end to this run of Tory governments. It would be unfair to blame Sunak wholly for their downfall, since the damage was done long before now, and it’s hard to see how anyone could have saved them from defeat. But there is no question of re-electing him. There is no point to his existence.

I think the day before yesterday removed all doubt when he backed away from making any radical reforms to the graduate visa route, after a cabinet backlash and warnings that driving away foreign students could undermine Britain’s universities.

The financial difficulties that universities are in is the biggest opportunity for thirty years to reform the sector. Sunak could have done something necessary and worthwhile, while also bringing down unwanted immigration. But the blob squealed, he bottled it, and kicked reform into the long grass. That's the Tory party to a tee. They cave in immediately, every single time.

This has been the hallmark of every Tory PM since 2010. They’ve whinged about the blob and complained about the ECHR and the lawfare, but haven’t lifted a solitary finger. It’s been a giant waste of everyone’s time and the most enraging waste of a majority.
But we can, at least, offer our thanks and gratitude to Sunak for not dragging this out until December. We may as well get it over and done with. If they haven’t found a way to be useful in the last fourteen years, another six months won’t help them.

Sadly, this offers no general relief. I have a feeling of trepidation and dread at the thought of a Labour government, and the most we can hope for is a hung parliament to stop them making things any worse. Sadly, a hung parliament is the one thing I can’t vote for, thus have no dog in the fight. I just won’t be voting at all.

In recent weeks I’ve taken a very close look at all the alternatives just to see if there’s a glimmer of hope, but I see nothing that comes close to competent and compelling. There is no possibility of uniting the right, nor are we likely to see anything new pop up this side of the election. My thinking has brought me to a pretty bleak conclusion. There is no alternative. 

In my analysis of the alternatives, there’s only been the SDP worthy of any praise, but that’s a non-starter too. Superficially, they pass all my tests for what a functioning party should look like. They have a logical foundational definition, they have grassroots organisation, and they've attempted serious policy. Moreover, they're pretty decent people. I have nothing against them. But I still have to call bullshit. They've started on the triangulated premise that Britain is left leaning on economics and right on culture. This is a broadly accepted paradigm. But it's been misinterpreted, and the SDP's approach is simplistic and wrong.

They're basically a British conservative party, but in order to tick the "left leaning on economics" box, they've opted for old socialist ideas of renationalising utilities and the railways. Though this is not an unpopular position, it's wrong. A change of ownership doesn't magically bestow competence, efficiency or investment. It doesn't actually solve the problems. As such, the SDP has failed the exam question.

Britain's prosperity is due to our capacity to balance the public and private realm. i.e. properly regulated industry. And this is actually the essence of British conservatism. The answer to this, as I alluded to yesterday, is a clause in the American National Conservatism charter. The clause (adapted by me) is as follows...

5. Free Enterprise. We believe that an economy based on private property and free enterprise is best suited to promoting the prosperity of the nation and accords with traditions of liberty that are central to the British political tradition. We reject the socialist principle, which supposes that the economic activity of the nation can be conducted in accordance with a rational plan dictated by the state. [Hence opposition to Net Zero]

... But the free market cannot be absolute. Economic policy must serve the general welfare of the nation. Today, globalised markets allow hostile foreign powers to despoil Britain and other countries of their manufacturing capacity, weakening them economically and dividing them internally. At the same time, transnational corporations, showing little loyalty to any nation, damage public life.

A prudent national economic policy should promote free enterprise, but it must also mitigate threats to the national interest, aggressively pursue economic independence from hostile powers, nurture industries crucial for national defence, and restore and upgrade manufacturing capabilities critical to the public welfare. Crony capitalism, the selective promotion of corporate profit-making by organs of state power, should be energetically exposed and opposed.

This pretty much sums up the gist of the SDPs other positions, which leads me to believe the SDP is trying to reinvent the wheel, and getting it wrong. 
Which brings me to the point of this article. All the factional minnow parties on the right are symptomatic of the absence of a genuine doctrinal centre right democratic nationalist conservative party. All of them are basically competing to succeed the Tory party, but none of them will manage it, not least because the Tory party still exists. Regardless of how bad it gets, people will still vote for it.

This multi-party morass is a total waste of energy outside a PR voting system. You might wish we had a PR system, but we don't have it, and the incumbents are not going to give it to us. We have two-party politics in a FPTP system, and everything else is pressure politics.

In recent years, Ukip successfully pressured the Tories, and now the pressure politics with momentum is over on the left. The Greens are growing, as are independents. The Brexit revolt on the right is dying. The largest pressure party on the right is Reform which looks to be circling the drain.

As such, the only real game in town is a revitalised Conservative Party pursuing a political agenda that the splinters can buy into, headed by someone with intelligence and magnetism. The two essential components are coherent definition and leadership. Thatcher understood this. Blair understood this. Everything else is managerialism. 
The question then is whether there is anything salvageable from the Tory wreckage. Following an election defeat there will be a space race to give the party a fresh definition. 
I suspect, then, that entryism is the only way to take back control. Corbyn's momentum showed us how it's done. We have tested to destruction the idea that a new party can unite and win. We have to work with what we've got, in the conditions we find ourselves in. Anything else is a completely delusional waste of time.

I’ve previously remarked that we are at the fag end of a political era. Brexit should have killed it off for good but it still lingers on in the British establishment. It is utterly oblivious to the fact that the era of liberal internationalism is dead, the “international rules based order” is collapsing, and the post-war construct is falling apart. They have no idea how out of touch they are or how much they are despised. Starmer’s Labour will likely be the final chapter.

Ultimately, Starmer cannot fix Britain because you simply can’t expect different results by doubling down on all the worst ideas of the last thirty years. British politics will not withstand another term of reheated, stale Blairism. The economy cannot withstand more Net Zero punishment.

It's safe bet that that Starmer will have the cold water bucket of reality sloshed over him in his first year and his party will prove just as fractious and dysfunctional as the Tories. He will have no popular mandate to speak of and his popularity will nosedive within weeks. He does not enter Number Ten with the nation behind him. He’s an opportunistic squatter moving into a derelict building.

Meanwhile, the liberal order will be collapsing around him. Odds favour a Trump victory and Europe is turning sharply to the right. The arch remainer wanting to bring Britain back into the fold will find there is no fold to speak of. Globalisation is dead, and neoliberalism is dying.

It’s conceivable that the Labour party can limp through two terms until an alternative gets its act together, but in the meantime, the public mood will darken further as the world becomes more dangerous. Voters will find they have no use for the parties and politicians of the old world. The departure of Sunak may not be the end, but it’s certainly the beginning of the end. 

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