Monday, May 8, 2017

The Three-part Identity of the British Conservative Party

In Britain they just had local elections and the anti-EU party UKIP got nearly wiped out. Does this mean the end of Brexit and eventually Trumpism?  Not at all, writes John O'Sullivan. It just means that the Conservative Party has pulled together the three strings of its bow and will likely score a blow-out in the elections for the House of Commons in June.

The wise heads all thought that Brexit would divide the Tory Party, but in fact they were wrong again. What Brexit does is bring the Tories home to their most glorious successes.
Toryism has three overlapping identities. It is the party of economic freedom and enterprise — Mrs. Thatcher is the purest symbol of that identity. It is the party of British nationalism — Churchill and Disraeli are the greatest figures in that tradition. Its third strand, however, is a more complicated one: It’s the party that always seeks to interpret, defend, and advance the interests of the British state in a skeptical and non-partisan way — Lord Salisbury and Sir Robert Peel are the most distinguished exemplars of that view.
The point is that the European Union is hostile to all three Tory identities. It is protectionist and opposed to economic freedom; it is globalist and opposed to simple patriotism; it is utterly committed to its agenda of the centralized Euro state, and unable to deal with critique and skepticism.

So when the Tories took Britain into Europe they lost the support of the patriotic working class, and up to 1970 the Tories had got the votes of one third of the working class.

When Nigel Farage started UKIP he was, as befitted a stockbroker, proposing to get out of Europe on "economic freedom and enterprise" grounds. But over the years UKIP has morphed into a Trumpist kind of party, nationalist and also protective of working class support for the welfare state, and UKIP has moved from being a drain on Tory votes to being a competitor for white working class votes in the old Labour heartlands of the north of England.  The North used to be the industrial powerhouse of Britain, from cotton to mines to steel to manufacturing, and now is suffering just like the US Rust Belt that elected Donald Trump.

Of course, the three identities of Toryism are, in many ways, contradictory. How can you be all for freedom and economic growth and still profess the nationalism of British is Best (or America First)? How can you be all for the nation state and still be skeptical like the Lord Salisbury who is famous for this quote:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of common sense.
There are other, equally delicious, Salisbury quotes here.

Of course our modern experts, the climate scientists, make the old experts look like pikers. To the climate community nothing is wholesome, or innocent, or safe! Not until you submit to the advice of the climate 97%.

But hey, let's not be afraid of contradiction. That was the whole point of Hegel. It is through the contradiction of opposites that we get to the next level in a synthesis of contradictions.

Now in Britain, the opposition to the tripartite Tory identity is split. The lefties go for the Labour Party and the globalists go for the Social Democrats, with each getting about 20 percent of the vote.

But in the US the lefties and the globalists are all in the Democratic Party, which means that the GOP could never get the blowout that the Conservatives are expected to get in Britain in the next election. Maybe that's a good thing, because blow-outs, while very exhilarating, tend not to be good news in the long term for the winning party.

I must say that I like the idea of a political party that is for freedom, nation, and skepticism. If you ask me we need more of it, particularly on the skepticism about experts front.

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