On Britain beyond Brexit and the future of conservatism Liberal-news

The message of the END OF AUSTERITY has certainly reached the Center for Political Studies (CPS). On June 10, the CPS launched “Britain Beyond Brexit”, a new collection of essays edited by George Freeman and written mostly by other products of the 2010 MPs Intake. The CPS rented the largest room at 1 George Street, a grand hall adorned with gold painting and portraits of bearded Victorians, and offered guests not only decent sandwiches, but also champagne and strawberry-cream scones. Several leadership candidates, such as Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab, made speeches. Penny Mordaunt was cackling like a mother hen (I wonder if her decision not to run in this leadership election could show that she is the most sensitive member of the class of 2010). Freeman made grand claims that his book provides the party with “a new conservatism for a new generation” and the intellectual tools it needs to fight a resurgence of the far left.

His enthusiasm is contagious. But he claims too much. His book is more of a priest’s egg than a Viagra pill capable of reviving a conservative philosophy in decline, much less a hand grenade aimed at the Corbinism headquarters. In his introduction, Freeman rightly argues that the Conservative Party faces a crisis of the same magnitude as the one it faced in 1848, 1901 and 1945. The political era created by Thatcherism is collapsing thanks largely to the financial order, but also to the fact that Thatcherism offers no obvious solution to pressing problems like crowded commuter trains. The various contributors also tackle topics that conservatives have avoided, such as the importance of devolution.

However, much of the book demonstrates how difficult it is for a party to recharge intellectually while still in government. Matt Hancock’s episode, the health secretary, is terribly bad: a predictable paean of praise for technological innovation devoid of interesting examples and written in a succession of clichés. (One well-read Tory remarked acidly that the fact that the chapter was so bad showed that it was written by his supposed author and not by an assistant.) The book as a whole is remarkably free of detailed discussion of issues like social care (the issue that killed the party in the last election) or business reform. The Conservative Party as a whole will have to do much better than this if it is to make a compelling case against the resurgence of the far-left Labor Party.


An excellent coverage package this week. new statesman on “The Closing of the Conservative Mind” (with the promise of more to come!). Robert Saunders argues that the Conservative Party has always been much more of a party of ideas than it likes to pretend: its regeneration in the 1940s and particularly the 1980s was due to its willingness to embrace radical new thinking on the basic components of society. . But now, instead of ideas, the party has nothing but a kamikaze ideology (“Brexit or bust”) and empty faith in markets and technology (see above). Theresa May was an idea-free zone (compare her to Lord Salisbury or Arthur Balfour). Boris Johnson, her almost certain successor, is no longer an intellectual despite his knack for citing Latin labels. There are some interesting thinkers in the party, like Jesse Norman and Rory Stewart (both worryingly old Etonians), but this is much more the party of Gavin Williamson, the former chimneysman who boasts of his lack of interest in political theory. . of what is the party of these eccentric “reading men”.

The point is well made. But couldn’t it apply equally to the liberal mindset or the Labor mindset, or perhaps to the Western mindset in general? The Blair-Cameron-Clinton liberalism that dominated politics in the 1990s and early 2000s is exhausted. This liberalism rested on a simple formula: just add social liberalism to economic liberalism and you have the makings of a good society. The keenest observers of politics always knew this was too good to be true: Daniel Bell’s “Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism” demonstrated that social liberalism had the potential to destroy the moral capital that forms the foundation of economic liberalism.

But in recent years we have learned that, if anything, Bell underestimated the contradictions of the position. The biggest problems facing most capitalist societies right now stem from the excesses of both forms of liberalism. The excesses of economic liberalism have given us giant corporations that are crushing competition and, in the case of Internet companies, developing a sinister form of surveillance capitalism. The excesses of social liberalism have given us various forms of social breakdown that can be seen in their most extreme form in the United States: record levels of broken families; a drug epidemic, particularly opioids; millions of men who have dropped out of the workforce and led a life of petty crime and binge-watching. It is unfair to blame these problems only on social liberalism. They have a lot to do with the destruction of manufacturing jobs and the legacy of slavery. But social liberalism clearly has something to do with it: relaxing prohibitions on self-destructive behavior leads people to make decisions that, in the long run, may leave them addicted to drugs or without the skills or self-discipline to become drug addicts. productive members of society. The latest example of the failure of double liberalism is San Francisco, where hundreds of homeless drug addicts live on the streets, and where tech billionaires and would-be billionaires have to dodge mounds of human feces as they walk to the latest sushi craze. joint.

Then there is the labor mentality. The Labor Party has responded to the collapse of neoliberalism not by trying to produce a new progressive synthesis, but by re-embracing one of the bloodiest ideologies of the 20th century. Jeremy Corbyn, a man who makes Theresa May look like an intellectual, has surrounded himself with hardline Marxists like Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne who, with their public school upbringing, secular zealotry and appetite for party infighting, come directly from from the pages of “The Travel Companions” by David Caute. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is clearly one of the smartest people in parliament, with an appetite for reinforcing his Trotskyism with ideas borrowed from other traditions, particularly the cooperative tradition, and an ability to use new ideas (such as taking 10 % of shares in public ownership) to serve old purposes. But the fact that he is such a vigorous walker should not blind us to the fact that he is walking in the wrong direction and trying to lead his country off a cliff. As long as this gang is in charge, the Labor mind is not so much closed as dead.


he new statesman The cover package coincides, more or less, with the publication of George Will’s new magnum opus, a 640-page study of conservatism called “The Conservative Sensibility” (Mr. Will says he chose “sensitivity” over ” mind” because “mind” was already taken, by Russell Kirk). “The Conservative Sensibility,” a torrent of philosophical musings on the great American and European conservative traditions, is proof that at least one conservative mind is still open. Mr. Will still surpasses all his rivals in his ability to combine high thinking with an astute ability to understand day-to-day American politics. The book’s reception is also proof that it’s not just conservative minds that have shut down: When, as a Princeton alumnus, he addressed a group of Princeton students recently, these privileged kids decided to turn their backs on him for several reasons. unknown intellectual sins. But Mr. Will’s book also indirectly supports the conservative mind-closure thesis: it is hard to think of any of today’s angry young “movement” conservatives surviving in journalism for fifty years, as Mr. Will, and still having enough to say produce a great book at 78.

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