In 1957, the newly appointed Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, wrote a note to Michael Fraser, the director of the Conservative Research Department. “I am always hearing about the Middle Classes. What is it they really want? Can you put it down on a sheet of notepaper, and then I will see whether we can give it to them?” There have been various interpretations of this story. Many are disparaging and suggest that it is typical of a Tory Prime Minister to be so ignorant of the electorate, that he should need to ask what it is that they want. In fact this is an unfair assessment of “Super Mac”, because he was acutely aware of the privation and difficulties of the working classes in his constituency of Stockton-on-Tees. But this is not an article about Super Mac’s alleged patrician tendencies, or his putative ignorance of the needs and wants of the middle classes; so just park this anecdote there for a moment and we will return to it.
Since 1945, British politics has been a fairly gentle seesaw between the Conservatives and Labour. It is true that there have been a few crises and disruptions to normal political business: the Cold War, the Suez Crisis, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, industrial strife in the 70s and 80s and the Falklands conflict. But in the main, it has been a fairly comfortable existence for ordinary MPs. Likewise for the Civil Service, whose task it has been to mediate between these two rather moderate positions. Macmillan himself once remarked that the British do not vote for extremists. And, by and large, he was right. Parliament has had one or two minor frights – from time to time the Liberals, the SDP and then the Liberal Democrats have shown signs of taking the middle out; but British politics has mostly steamed serenely on with little deviation from two party politics.
The principle reason for this gentle oscillation is the generally placid make-up of the British people themselves. Much is made of the apparently endless patience of the Anglo-Saxons and their brother and sisters in the Celtic nations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This is fair comment, for it takes quite a lot to rouse the Brits into beligerance – compared to other more excitable nations like, say, Italy or perhaps France.
Figure 1: Normal distribution of votes in UK elections between the Left and conservatism.
Given this, we can develop a very simple model of the preferences of the British people and the way they vote. The orange Normal or Gaussian distribution above are the UK electorate. They sit firmly in the middle of politics, leaving Marxism and related ideologies far to the left; and likewise leave the Libertarian and free market extremists to the right. This is something of a crude depiction as everything is placed upon a straight line. In fact politics is more three dimensional than this single dimensioned diagram, but this will suffice for our purposes. Another way of looking at this diagram is to describe the Left as the Marxist demand for total state control over all capital, labour and social needs of the population. On the Right, there is absolutely minimal interference by the state in production or the provision of many (but not all) social needs. i.e this is big government on the left versus small government on the right. In the middle of these two extremes lie the majority of the British public who like a little bit of both but who do not knowingly occupy either extreme.
Figure2: The traditional distribution of UK votes with Labour and Conservative policies superimposed. Note the overlap between the two main parties and also the distillation of Left and Right into Large and Small Government.
For the last 75 years, the two main parties have operated within this political spectrum by developing policies which have attempted to occupy the middle ground where most voters have their sympathies. For every General Election since 1945, there has been a fight for the middle ground. Sometimes Labour has won and pushed policies which resulted in industrial anarchy and propping up a vast and cumbersome state. On other occasions, the Conservatives have won and pushed back the state a little. Margaret Thatcher allowed council residents the right to buy their houses – and this pushed the Left back for nearly 20 years. Then Labour under Tony Blair famously fought hard for, and won, the votes of “Mondeo Man” thereby reclaiming the middle ground for Labour. Under the more Left-wing Gordon Brown, the Labour government eventually ran out of steam and taxpayers’ money. This left the middle ground open for David Cameron to reclaim government once more for the Conservatives. And so for decades, the seesaw has rocked gently to and fro for the ultimate benefit of the political and establishment classes – who have lulled themselves into a sense of total security.
Despite the apparent equanimity of the picture that has been painted above, under the surface there have been slow, steady, stealthy changes to our culture and our way of life. These changes have come from the Left, largely as a result of thinking provided by the Fabians and others who influenced much of Tony Blair’s New Labour.
The Fabians believe in gradual change by attrition rather than open revolution. As a result of this thinking, one Labour policy was to get 50% of school leavers to attend a university. As a result, all tertiary education centres such as teacher training colleges, polytechnics and technical colleges converted to call themselves ‘universities’ more or less overnight. On paper, it gave third or fourth rate tertiary education institutions the same status as Oxford, Cambridge, the ‘Red Brick’ universities, the great northern universities and the London Colleges. A generation has now passed through this system, taught mostly by Left-leaning Postmodernist professors and lecturers. This has created an entire structure of Leftist, so-called ‘progressives’ who now dominate the Civil Service, Local Government and most of the large charities, think tanks and, importantly, the media. Most of this élite or Establishment (or what James Delingpole very accurately describes as ‘the Clerisy’) describe themselves as ‘Social Liberals’ or ‘Progressives’. This sounds nice and cosy until it is realised that most of these labels are simply forms of Neo-Marxism.
Figure 3: The Leftward shift of the Establishment into Postmodernism.
By contrast, the Conservatives do not really have any core philosophies except for some rather vague ones. Some conservatives might say they are for a small state. Some (like me) might describe themselves as ‘Burkean Tories’. Others murmur about the advantages of capitalism. Conservatives often describe themselves as ‘a broad church’ to cover a large part of the political spectrum. Others bleat plaintively that the Conservatives have not made a clear case for conservatism. Still more try to cover up their ideological nakedness with platitudinous and intelligence-insulting schemes like ‘The Big Tent’. These latter are just feelgood virtue signalling to advertise the alleged importance of the MPs concerned. The only Conservative leader in recent years who really knew the true nature and purpose of conservatism was Margaret Thatcher. And she, without any obvious reference to higher philosophy (although she was heavilty influenced by the thinking of Sir Keith Joseph amongst others) set out a clear path to proper conservatism. Sadly, John Major, David Cameron, Theresa May and most of the Conservative MPs now in Parliament, have all abandoned this path a long time ago.
Indeed many actions of this and the last Conservative government suggest that they are still following the path set out for them by Tony Blair. Former soldiers are still being questioned over actions for which they were acquitted many years ago. Children are increasingly being taught about sex and LGBT issues at very young ages – there is a sense that not only is their innocence being lost far too early, but that this is sowing the seeds of confusion for their adult lives. The police are questioning, cautioning and prosecuting people for “hate crimes”. Free speech is being shut down. The Conservative journey to the Left is a long one. In political distance, it is longer than the similar one undertaken by the Labour Party.
Figure 4: The shift of Labour to the Far Left and the shift of the Tories to the Left, following the Postmodernist shift by the Establishment.
The result of the Conservatives having abandoned conservatism is the unintentional creation of a philosophical void. It has meant that the Conservatives, upon taking office, have found themselves unable to forge polticial direction for the country. Indeed, David Cameron almost prided himself upon this by describing himself as ‘pragmatic’ – in other words he blew with whatever wind direction was prevailing at the time. Into this void has stepped the Civil Service, which instead of being politically neutral as it always used to be, is now heavily politicised towards the Left. In addition, the rest of the élites which oversee so much of our public life have ensured that the Westminster Conservative Party have been softened up socially and culturally over dinner party tables. The Civil Service has thus successfully guided the Conservative government into territory that is now firmly occupied by the Leftist Clerisy.
As a result of this shift in political territory, the Conservatives are now occupying some ground that is unacceptable to most of the people who would otherwise have voted for them. The Labour Party have done the something similar, but have moved even further Left, prompted by the espousal of Marxist ideology by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Both major parties have now shifted dramatically away from not only their core voters, but also much of the country.
Meanwhile, another phenomenon has arisen that has been pointed out by Professor Sir John Curtice of Strathclyde University (the only commentator on polling who is worth listening to). He points out that, as far as Brexit is concerned, the country is divided firmly into two camps, with almost no-one in the middle.
Whilst John Curtice is careful to describe the divide as part of the Brexit phenomenon, I contend that this divide has not happened overnight. There have been many who have claimed that these divisions have only happened “because of Brexit”. In fact, what Brexit has done is to expose divisions which started a long time ago. In particular, Labour voters have been abandoned by their party of choice for many years. It is only necessary to examine what happened to Labour in Scotland to see how the Labour Party has been swopped for the SNP, by people who are fed up with promises which achieved little. They have walked away from Labour because an alternative was presented to them. Many in the North of England now feel the same way. The South-West, Midlands and East Anglia are at one with their northern brethren (and sisters). Only London and the university towns of Bath, Cambridge, Oxford and the like are oases of the clerisy.
Likewise, Conservative voters have now also been abandoned. They feel beset by political correctness, uncontrolled immigration, breakdowns in law and order, ordinary people being arrested for little more than ‘thought crimes’ whilst the real criminals go unchecked, and so on. The list of grievances is long and very, very damaging for the Conservatives. I learned a long time ago that politicians should never, ever upset the middle classes, for this will lead to electoral defeat and oblivion. It would seem that there are only a very few Conservative MPs who have understood this.
Figure 5: The post-Brexit abandonment of the traditional distribution of voters into Remain and Leave groupings.
What John Curtice and an increasing number of other commentators are begining to recognise is that instead of the nice, normal distribution with the centre of the population sitting fair and square upon the middle of the political spectrum, we now have two populations, both having departed from the centre ground. Curtice, in the context of Brexit, suggests that the division is roughly the same as it was in the referendum, with perhaps the Remain side now having slightly greater numbers – he is suggesting a small shift towards Remain. Regardless of their respective sizes, in the diagram the population on the left comprises the Remain voters (and for the purposes of this argument, the Leftist clerisy). The right side contains Labour as well as Conservative Leave voters, and those who might have voted Remain but wish to honour the result. The two main parties are wooing the left hand population, but not the right. The right hand part of the electorate has been disenfranchised. No current mainstream political party represents them.
It could be argued that the split described by Curtice is for the referendum result only, and that this does not spill over into ordinary politics and decisions made during a General Election. However, many of the Leave voters are now saying that they will never vote Conservative again; and many who normally vote labour are saying similar things. The referendum and the subsequent Parliamentary and governmental shambles has spilled over into ‘ordinary politics’ whether the politicians like it or not.
Figure 6: The effect of Labour and Conservative party policies moving Left and abandoning the right hand grouping who are now disenfranchised.
In fact the Brexit vote can be viewed as a cry of anguish from the electorate, who are feeling increasingly unrepresented at all levels. People voted Leave for all sorts of reasons but, importantly, disregarded the Remain campaign’s constant warnings about immediate collapse of the economy. The economic arguments failed to cut through to most who live outside London and the metropolitan cities. This phenomenon is thoroughly discussed in Eatwell and Goodwin’s excellent book National Populism – the Revolt Against Liberal Democracy . In the diagram above, what we are looking at is the division in society which has been growing steadily over the last two or three decades and has now manifested itself in the Brexit vote. This can be labelled a ‘populist revolt’ if you wish.
Now let us return to that note by Harold Macmillan. That outwardly superficial, perhaps even patronising question looks as if it is a model for the faux patrician Tory of David Cameron. However, Macmillan was far, far shrewder and more attuned to the needs of the public than Major, Cameron, May and CCHQ hierarchy have ever been.
Macmillan was trying to understand the needs of the voters – an act which is the most basic, fundamental principle of democratic politics. This is an essential part of the process of governing the country in the interests of the nation. The current Conservative Party are not asking this question at all, but a completely different one: “How can we dress ourselves up to be attractive to the voter?” Far from seeking the best way of responding to the needs of the nation, they are simply finding ways of staying in power for the sake of it. This explains the lace-and-pink-ribbons frivolity of some of their prettier schemes – the Big Tent, Big Society and so on. There is no interest in understanding the fundamental needs of the electorate, only in producing a ‘brand image’ which they think will lure the voter into supporting them.
Whilst the public are trying to buy a racehorse, and CCHQ is attempting to sell them a pantomime horse decorated with lace and pink ribbons, the whole of the Establishment has moved dramatically to the Left. This Leftward lurch has been caused mostly by Postmodernism which is a system of thought developed by some third-rate dead French philosophers – Foucault, Derrida and others.
At the bottom of Postmodernism is the idea that all the world’s problems have been caused by the white, male patriarchy. And so the postmodern solution is to destroy everything which is the product of said white, male patriarchs. This means just about about everything good that came out of the ‘modern’ period i.e. all systems of thinking which arose out of the Enlightenment.
The consequences of the variants and derivatives of Postmodernism explain the casual, and very selective, racism of Diane Abbott and David Lammy for instance. It explains the willingness of our taxpayer funded artistic elites to wax lyrical over the artistic qualities of random piles of bricks parked in the Tate Gallery. It explains the aquiescence of the police and social services to the industrial scale grooming and rape of young white working class girls. It explains increasing instances of where the rule of law (which is designed to apply equally to everyone regardless of their station in life, race, colour, sex or creed) is being applied only where those in power actually want it to be applied. It explains why favours are granted to one group and not another. It explains why wholesale, untrammelled immigration was allowed by Blair’s government to take place without public knowledge or consent.
It explains Brexit and the now almost universal contempt that the public have for our politicians and institutions. It explains the anger and frustration of the disenfranchised who now occupy the right-hand curve in Figure 6 above.
The Conservative Party have failed the country on three counts. The first is their failure to recognise and stop what Postmodernism and the mass move to the Left amongst our establishments have achieved. The second is their own movement to the Left because they have tried to pursue the Leftist Establishment. In so doing, unforgivably, they have abandoned their core voters. The third is their failure to achieve Brexit.
Whilst Labour have been quietly preparing for a General Election for at least a year, the Tories have sat on their thumbs imagining that they have only to erect a few Big Tents and compare themselves to the horrors of Corbynism in order to garner sufficient votes. They are still thinking the electorate occupy a single normal distribution as in Figure 1. Their policies are designed to attract the middle ground. But sadly for the Conservative Party, the electorate has moved away from this middle ground, leaving only a huge abyss into which the Tories will fall.
The consequences of these failures will be twofold. The first is that populist parties will fill the political void – the right hand curve in Figure 6. There is a distinct possibility that some populist parties, such as Ukip, will gain seats. But the most important effect is that they will split votes for both Tories and Labour at the next election. The outcome of this is impossible to predict.
The second is that there is an enormous sense of despair and frustration at the status quo. And so this will prompt a growing move towards national disobediance and protest. We have already seen lorry protests on motorways. These will grow in number and size. Do not forget the fuel protests of the year 2000, where refineries were shut down for days. There are many other things being mooted – non-payment of the BBC licence fee being one of the favourites. Another is expressed in this photograph below:
This is brilliant: I knew that the left’s poilicies since 1997 would bring chaos, I knew it was deliberate, but I didn’t know why. This explains it. Interestingly Peterson rails against the same postmodernist virus infecting Western thought.
Peterson has shown us some of the possible ways forward. There will be others and we should not dismiss any of them because there are many ways of skinning a rabbit.
Excellent. I’d agree with all of this, except perhaps this bit:
“they [the Conservatives] are simply finding ways of staying in power for the sake of it”.
I do think that they have an agenda. They don’t seem to have one because they’re deliberately vague about it, but they want, like new Labour did, a society ruled by the educated classes, where there is a lot of freedom within a certain circumscribed area, but that area is quite small.
It’s difficult to decide what their agenda is, as there is no outward sign of any philosophical back-up. Say what you like about the Left, at least they have some concrete ideas to draw upon (even if those ideas involve exterminating large numbers of people). The contrast with the Tories is that nothing is visible. And I maintain the lack of visibility is because there is nothing actually there. But I am content to alter this if you can show me evidence of real thinking.
I agree with this. I think there is a complete lack of intellectual rigor behind the Tories – I mean, even Jacob Rees Mogg, who seems to be the smartest of them, said something last week which made me wonder whether he’d actually read and understood the Withdrawal Agreement. The cause of this intellectual collapse? And the thing that has made Theresa May and pretty much her entire parliamentary party (as well as, apparently, the top echelons of the civil service) simply not up to the task? It can only be down to our education system. Thus, if I had the power, I would call a judge-led public inquiry into this fiasco, and include in the terms of reference a full examination of the education which Mrs May, her cabinet, and her top civil servants received, and try to ascertain if there was something systemically defective about it (I would hazard a guess that standards are simply not as rigorous as they were half a century ago, and therefore people are leaving our schools and universities with only a fraction of the knowledge that they had until the 60s – when Labour took over again. But I might be mistaken).
Missing from this history is the overtly communist, state-owns-the-means-of-production, Labour mis-government of 1945 onwards. Never since has the socialist dial been turned back in any meaningful way, save some of Thatcher’s work. Since 1945, UK has become increasingly socialist, if no longer fully communist. The nationalisation of medical care, education, Bank of England and P Office in the late 1940’s are burdens from which UK has still not escaped, nor is likely to ? Most of the other state-owned efforts have gone the oblivious way of most socialist endeavours. Nobody in the grey elites today seem to even know about the glorious opportunities, post-Brexit, which could derive from more open trade, with much less govt. involvement. Brits. are good at trade. An EU customs union does not fit the bill.
All of this is perfectly true and thank you for making the points. My excuse for not including things like this is that the article is already 3,157 words and is at the outer limits of what people are prepared to read in an article.
Thank you for a fine and surgical analysis of the situation.
Great article! I think the Conservative agenda is the unconscious evolution of a technocratic elite; a return to the idea of aristocracy for the modern age ie we will tell you what to do/think because we know best/have the power. I had thought that authoritarianism was the preserve of the Left – no longer.
The penny dropped for me a couple of years ago, when I had a stand up row with a friend and fellow Conservative voter (a senior figure in the City) who admitted as much – that the ordinary person could not be trusted to know what was ‘right’ whereas he, as a person of superior intellect and achievement, did – and therefore should have authority over the rest of us. Needless to say he is a remainiac. For me, it was like the final scene in ‘Invasion of the Bodysnatchers’ when the Donald Sutherland character realises that his fellow escapee, the one person he trusted, has in the end been taken over by the aliens – I now realise that there is a large body of people who do not actually believe in democracy, contrary to what we might have assumed; and it is those people who are currently in power. Brexit is the first challenge to their authority and they are complacent about their ability to squash us.
Can democracy survive this onslaught? Orwell said, “if there’s any hope, it lies with the proles” but are we too stupefied to do anything, like the proles in 1984 who comprised 85% of the population of Oceania but were too inert to rebel.
Thank you. You may be right about the aliens/Remainers. They are among us.
My point actually was that you shouldn’t assume that just because you’re a democrat living in a democratic country that you are surrounded by like minded people. More people in this country than you might imagine, do not believe in democracy.
Democracy is not a done deal. We are not moving forward to a more perfect reflection of the bell curve of opinion. If the bell curve of opinion does not suit the powers that be, then we shall retreat from democracy.
I can’t argue with that. There seem to be a growing number of people who do not accept the need for democracy. Indeed many repudiate it completely because of the unfortunate tendency of the electorate to express independence of thought. This is one of things that Brexit has brought, shockingly, out into the open.
Just found you via Stefan Molyneux, fantastic site. Thank you.