The Brextremist hard right culture wing of the Tory party, which these days is most of it, has been holding a conference in London to air its delusional and self-pitying views. The so-called ‘National Conservatism’ conference is giving the Tories full throttle to blame all the ills of modern Britain on migrants, the EU, the poor, trade unions, and a supposedly all powerful globalist liberal elite which however was not powerful enough to stop Brexit from happening. The event was organised by the right wing Edmund Burke Foundation, one of those right wing think tanks with an opaque funding structure. The conference show cased the reality-phobic right wing authoritarian, xenophobic and minority bashing politics which are in store for the UK unless the Conservatives are utterly thrashed at the next General Election, an eventuality which is looking less and less likely as that election draws closer.
The National Conservatism conference represents the Trumpification of British politics, it is nakedly and shamelessly nationalist and British exceptionalist and triumphalist even as it denies that it is nationalist. The event platforms an authoritarian populist form of Conservatism which is all but indistinguishable from fascism. Delegates to the conference discussed the Tories’ favourite culture war tropes, a form of political masturbation which could not be further removed from the issues which will really determine the outcome of the next election. It’s the Daily Mail comments section in the flesh.
When I first heard about this conference, I imagined it was going to be held in some vast hall, like the QE2 Centre in Westminster. Instead, it’s being held somewhere as tiny as some of the minds on display. The modern Tory party is presenting us with Suella Braverman as one of its great thinkers. It’s the political equivalent of praising a toddler as a genius because it managed to get most of the poo in the potty.
It seems the Tories have given up on winning the next General Election outright and are contenting themselves with depriving Starmer of a majority. The Conservatives have learned nothing since they were given a message at the English local elections. What they appear to have taken from that defeat, which saw them lose more than one thousand councillors, is the same lesson that Liz Truss took from her disastrous and thankfully short chaotic term as Prime Minister. It’s the people who are wrong, the Tories need to double down on the extremism and go even further.
The populist extreme right of the Tory party has run Britain into the ground with Johnson and Truss, and a disaster of a Brexit which even Nigel Farage has had to concede has failed. So the Tories sticks Sunak into power in order to take the blame for their inevitable defeat at the next General Election, thus permitting the hard right-wing to take full control of the party again in the wake of the General Election. But even if defeated at the election their ideas will live on through Starmer’s Labour party.
This conference would be laughable were it not so dangerous, a direct threat to democracy railing against liberal values before our eyes. We had the ludicrous spectacle of Tory MP Marian Cates railing against the UK’s low birthrate, which make inward migration necessary. According to Cates the reason the birthrate is falling is ‘cultural Marxism’ and ‘excessive education’ and not the late stage capitalism which she so strongly defends even as it makes a small number of people obscenely rich and condemns the majority to a cost of living crisis unaffordable housing, soaring childcare costs, and the collapse of public services. But no, it’s really all the fault of university academics pointing out the evils of British imperialism and Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. It would be a joke were this woman not a legislator with the power to shape public policy.
One speaker was right wing historian David Starkey, who insisted that left-wing activists are “jealous” of the Holocaust and want to replace it with slavery. I have no idea what that means although it’s obviously both asinine and offensive. Starkey went on to claim that groups such as Black Lives Matter were attempting to destroy “white culture” and “do exactly what was done to German culture because of Nazism and the Holocaust. And this was coming from one of the supposedly more intellectually distinguished contributors.
Right wing author Douglas Murray averred that people were not ‘allowed’ to be proud of being British, in his own words He could “see no reason why every other country in the world should be prevented from feeling pride in itself because the Germans mucked up twice in a century”. The Holocaust, and a war of aggression that killed 70 million people are “mucking up.” In his book” The Strange Death of Europe”, Murray pandered to the tropes of the extreme right wing white nationalist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, arguing that Europe “is committing suicide” by allowing non-European immigration into its borders and losing its “faith in its beliefs.”
Another speaker at the conference was the academic Matthew Goodwin who asserted that during the past 50 years the people of Britain have been victims of a revolution imposed on them by the left. It’s clearly escaped Goodwin’s attention that over the past 50 years the UK has only had 13 years of Labour government, and that was the government of Tony Blair, whose wholesale adoption of previously Conservative policies was described by Margaret Thatcher as her greatest achievement, a cruel trick now being emulated by Keir Starmer.
Goodwin is one of those right wing poster boys who constantly rails against cancel culture even as he has no apparent shortage of high profile platforms from which to air his grievances. This is the guy who wrote a book entitled ‘Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics’ a book whose contention that ‘liberal elites’ are responsible for all that ails Britain has been enthusiastically taken up by the right of the modern Tory Party. Despite its title, nowhere in its 240 pages is there a single mention of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The dominance of the right in the British media and the dark money which floods into right wing British nationalist and pro-Brexit politics are likewise given short shrift by Goodwin. For Goodwin, as for the right of the Tory party for whom he is the modern guru, England and Britain are synonymous terms, British nationalism is identical to English nationalism and its distinguishing feature is its refusal to admit that it’s nationalist at all. One reviewer of Goodwin’s book noted that Goodwin had become “part of the right-populist movement he once sought to explain.”
In the UK, as we have seen with Trump in the USA, the Law and Justice party in Poland and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party in Hungary, there has been a creeping right wing populist authoritarianism, which prioritises ‘culture war’ issues and claims that an out of touch global liberal elite does not care about the working class even as it cracks down on the ability of trades unions to organise, introduces tax policies which favour the wealthy and has little to say about low wages, the casualisation of the workforce or the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the real elite whom the right protect and defend.
It’s a right wing which increasingly trades in conspiracy theories and which rejects any attempt to hold it to account, dismissing elections which it loses as ‘rigged’ or introducing measures to suppress the participation in elections of demographic groups which oppose it.
This is the future of British politics. This is what English fascism looks like in the 21st century, deeply xenophobic, reactionary, and hostile to any distinctly Scottish political expression. Labour cannot protect Scotland from this as its response to English nationalist right wing populism is to co-opt its garb, its language and its policies. All Scotland can do is escape. If Scots want their country to be more than a neglected region of an authoritarian, right wing and intolerant Greater England, independence is the only option left.
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