What is the point of Boris Johnson's Tory party?

26 August 2020

3:58 PM

26 August 2020

3:58 PM

It was way back in 2003 that the journalist Peter Hitchens first declared the Conservative party to be ‘useless’. Peter’s thesis was that the Tories had become incapable of fighting effectively for any significant conservative cause, and were in any case usually unwilling even to try and therefore should be disbanded. In a series of columns over several years embracing issues from the EU to mass immigration to law and order and cultural matters too (they certainly repay reading again) he sustained what was at the time a lonely barrage on the right.

His thinking certainly greatly influenced my own decision to join forces with Nigel Farage and Ukip while actively campaigning for UK withdrawal from the EU from 2010 onwards. And as we contemplate the banishing of the lyrics of Rule Britannia and Land Of Hope And Glory from the Last Night of the Proms, the relegation of the statue of Hans Sloane at the British Museum and the general advance of extreme ‘woke’ identity politics through our public institutions, the Hitchens Thesis comes to the fore again.

If all this is happening under a Tory administration with a majority of 80, then what is the point of anyone with a patriotic attachment to British history, tradition and culture wishing the Conservative party well?

The lily-livered and befuddled initial response of Boris Johnson to these latest reverses recalled his initial feeble response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, with their attacks on police officers and defacing of national monuments in central London.

And yet while Boris has been slow to act, if at all, in the face of this new woke orthodoxy, I do not despair. Because visionary as he undoubtedly was, I do not think Hitchens got it exactly right all those years ago.

The lesson from the Brexit years is surely that the Tory party is not useless but listless and flaccid. Lacking a confident, empowering ideology or cause and accustomed to surviving by making continual concessions to the remorseless ‘progressive’ tide, there is one thing that can shake it out of its slumber. And that is the threat of losing office.

So it was that first Ukip and then the Brexit party was able to bully the Conservatives into holding an EU referendum and then, eventually, stay true to its outcome. The provision of an attractive alternative offer to many of the voters that the Tories depended on to stay in power was what did the trick.

Naturally, after they had been forced into a pro-Brexit position, many Conservative MPs played the part of long-term and principled proponents of the cause of restoring national democratic self-determination. But in fact that was true of only a handful.

So now, if there is to be an effective pushback against the woke orthodoxy, it will not come through just sitting around waiting for the Tories themselves to decide it is necessary to ‘defund’ the BBC, scrap the absurd ‘protected characteristics’ guff in equalities legislation or whatever else.

It will only come through the creation of an alternative political party unashamedly dedicated to such causes. The necessity for a new party was part of the original Hitchens analysis. But given the entrenched advantages of incumbency under a first-past-the-post electoral system, the impact of such a party will most likely not be to replace the Tories but to force a shift in their position.

On that basis, things are actually set pretty fair for patriotic social conservatives in the culture war. Despite widespread disillusion with the recent performance of Boris Johnson, Tory support is not switching to any of the other available parties represented in parliament because they are even more in hock to the Wokes. There has however recently been a notable uptick in the poll rating of the Brexit party – a mothballed entity with obsolete branding and zero media coverage. In one recent poll it scored four per cent despite being unprompted, out of sight and out of mind.

It is as if the electorate already understands what must happen and is champing at the bit for things to get underway. As the leader of two startlingly effective previous sorties against Conservative party listlessness and with a huge social media presence to assist him, Nigel Farage undoubtedly has first dibs on convening a potent new alternative.

But it has become inevitable with or without him. At some point in this parliament, a new socially conservative force is going to spring to prominence, very quickly reach double figures in the polls, leave the Tories trailing Labour as a result and then force them to – among other things – scrap the compulsory funding model of a BBC that has totally lost the plot.

The Tories will then recover their poll lead and claim all the credit for doing stuff they declare themselves to have passionately favoured all along before slumping back into listlessness at the first available opportunity. In politics this is the new circle of life.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments