Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Johnson's yobocracy is not a Conservative government

Say what you like about Mrs Thatcher, but she not only had a vision, she also had a plan. But more than that she did not believe in free markets as a cold economic instrument. She had thought deeply about what sort of society she wanted to build. She believed that left wing policies and obese liberalism would result in a lazy, feckless and decadent culture.

Whether she was right or not is not the topic of this post. The point being that her version of conservatism had a moral foundation from which all other policies flowed. She believed in certain radical economic policies as a means to an end. Whenever she spoke, she spoke with determination and precision. She knew her own mind and was anchored to her ideas.

This we cannot say of Boris Johnson and his entourage. His entourage resemble more a teenage tribute band - too naive and fame hungry to understand the nuances of the song lyrics. Then there is Johnson himself who will do or say whatever it takes, including a reckless no deal Brexit, to cling on to power. They sing all the same songs but as a siren call to those Tories who have long complained that the party lacked a moral mission and a clear cut conservative agenda. They've been so starved of meaningful conservatism they've forgotten what it actually is.

To a large extent, conservatism has mutated over the last twenty years, largely as it festered on the fringes. Some now take it to mean making all the grunty populist noises about immigration and law and order while the "liberal" wing (largely young London tories) take it to mean low taxes and pruning back the state. These are mantras, not ideas.

It's actually Roger Scruton who distills conservatism to its essence. "Conservatism", he says, "starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created".

From this flows the need for immigration control. We have established cultural norms that make for a safe and liberal country but after years of mass immigration we are in serious danger of losing that. From this flows the need to leave the EU, in that we have a long standing tradition of (relatively) good governance tempered by democracy of a sort. From this flows the need to keep government living to its means so that it does not overstep the boundaries and trample on our basic liberties.

But I would go further than Scruton to say that Conservatism as we know it is particularly configured to a very British operating system for government in recognition that there is an essential instinct for fair play, where we recognise the power and vitality of markets but also recognise its excesses and the dangers of untrammelled greed. This is perhaps where Mrs Thatcher overstepped the mark. That's for you to decide. We can either blame some of her policies or the manifest failures of her successors. I lean toward the latter.

So when I look at Boris Johnson's thugocracy, and his government full of cronies and zealots, I do not recognise anything that I would call conservative. This is a government that, unlike Thatcher, does not seek to explain the agenda and win the argument as Thatcher consistently did. The agendas are all concealed. Political and commercial. Instead of seeking to persuade, they're relying entirely on political arithmetic and massaging the ignorance of harliners, feeding them what they want to hear.

Here there is no statecraft. Johnson is a punk - in the American sense of the word. He is lying through his teeth to bring about the single most damaging act ever done to the United Kingdom, in contempt of fact, with total disregard for the integrity of the Union and indeed democracy. Were this agenda ever on a manifesto there is zero chance it could ever secure a mandate from the British public. He knows it which is why he will do all he can to evade a general election for as long as humanly possible.

What we have here is the very worst of populist demagoguery. Britain doesn't fall for hardline fascists and never will, but we always have a soft spot for prestige and cheeky chappy antics. Both of which are embodied by Johnson. All he really has to do is vomit the obligatory slogans and to have the Troy right eating out of his hands.

With the appointment of Dominic Cummings, with his long standing vendetta against the civil service, and with hardliners and yes men parachuted into all the major offices of state, we can see what this is really about. This is little more than a nihilistic wrecking spree, after which the corporate predators can move in and hoover up British assets. This is more like an elaborate Ocean's Eleven heist than a revolution. Call it what you like but it isn't conservatism. It has no moral centre and no intellectual foundation. This is all about the narcissism of one man and the greed of those not far behind him. 

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