Politics Week, 1: Tories

by stephenpalmersf

I sometimes think British liberals and lefties don’t realise how innately conservative this country is. It’s so easy to perceive a political system of two roughly equal halves, one Tory, one Labour. But since WW2 the Tories have been in power for well over a decade more than Labour, and if you don’t count New Labour, which I don’t, it’s a much more unequal balance: four decades against one and a half. At the moment, we face a situation where, regardless of Tory sleaze, incompetence and general unpleasantness, Johnson and his blue cohort are laying waste to formerly red constituencies. Why is this?

Britain is an unusual country. The Tories are the political wing of big business – that much is certain. We are a nation of shopkeepers, apparently, with big business in our blood. We had an Empire. The Empire fragmented. We had a monarchy. For some reason, we kept the monarchy. We have a second chamber of “lords” that actually includes bishops. Quite extraordinary for 2021.

These are the foundations of the British natural conservatism. We look backwards. Our social systems are based on hierarchies of privilege, exclusion, land ownership and stasis. Our national character is one of deference, the denial of reality (mostly through emotional suppression), a presumption of social immobility, and a high level of group narcissism. We are a selfish, uncaring, authoritarian, patriarchal country where nobody is supposed to raise themselves above the unspoken norm. We are afraid of change. That we have an “unwritten constitution” says everything you need to know about this backward, benighted country. Politics is all done on who politicians know and what’s been done before. That the national rules are unwritten is a fact directly leading to the reliance on tradition, which then becomes a normalised part of the political landscape, which gives the political establishment its innate conservative character.

There was no revolution in Britain in the nineteenth century because of this innate conservatism. The British are in general too frightened and repressed to be revolutionaries.

The most important job in the world is parenting. But in Britain, we don’t like children. We’re really not terribly good with children. And thus centuries of neglect and abuse are perpetuated, not least through our revolting “public schools,” which still, in 2021, are the breeding grounds for so many snotty-nosed boy politicians. Some people characterised Johnson of Eton as rather like Trump, but Johnson is only a mini-Trump, benign where Trump was malignant, incompetent and petulant where Trump was genuinely dangerous. Johnson simply doesn’t have the mental reach to be dangerous.

Imagine a woman PM with as many former partners and children as Johnson. Then imagine how far in the future you’d need to be for that to become a reality. It is a thought experiment exposing Britain’s juvenile culture of boys. Lads, lads, and more lads. Britain loves ’em.

The Tories are notoriously ruthless amongst themselves when it comes to the party staying in power. In part, that’s because they see themselves as the natural political party of Britain – they believe they have a right to rule. They see Labour as somehow other, as un-British, untraditional. Tories see conservatism as a normal British quality, and I think that’s why people like Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Foot were so vilified by the press. Somehow, those two were deemed un-British: alien, foreign, unknowable, unwanted. The Tories and the Tory press fear what they don’t understand – humanity.

And it’s not just a case of class dynamics, though that, in this wretched country, has a lot to do with it. It’s a case of Tories believing themselves to be Britain, to represent the national character in a way no other organisation can. With their roots in capitalist, exploitative economics, they see themselves as the source of Britishness as well as its expression. Their natural antipathy to Europe is a result of their jingoistic admiration for themselves and the nation they believe they are equivalent to.

No wonder they hark back to olden times: “this great nation of ours” and so on and so on. That’s when a man could exploit without the unions getting in the way.

Opinion