How do you feel about the standard of political debate in the UK? I ask this question at the very moment two blimps are flying over London. The first attempts to depict President Donald Trump as a giant baby in a nappy and is the property of people who do not like Donald Trump; the other attempts to depict the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, as a kind of transvestite dwarf and is the property of people who do not like Sadiq Khan. Both groups habitually call each other fascists, doing a passable impression of Harry Enfield’s Kevin the Teenager. Both groups, I would venture, are irredeemable narcissists with the collective IQ of a block of Cathedral City cheddar cheese. And yet both groups are also very much of their time, with their respective resorts to infantile insult simply because they disagree with the opinions of Trump or the hapless Khan.
Actually, the first impulse of the anti-Trump demonstrators, including Magic Grandpa himself, was to try to stop the US president from coming, to ban him from speaking because they don’t like his views. That’s very au courant, of course. Last week a livid little leftie quack called Alan Woodall, who describes himself as a ‘doctor and a scientist’, succeeded in his attempts to prevent the right-ish journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer from speaking at a conference he was to attend. He did that because he thinks he should be permanently insulated from views with which he disagrees.
I do not know the man, but my suspicion is that he is a moron. Not because he and I would disagree about stuff, but because the determination to clamp your hands over your ears when you fear someone might be about to disagree with you is surely the recourse of an imbecile, a four-year-old child, a halfwit. And yet he is scarcely alone in that intellectually stunted mindset.
And then there is Change UK, which seemed, according to news reports, to dissolve exactly 54 minutes before I started writing this article. Set up when the hounds of spring were already on winter’s traces, pretty much dead and gone before the roses are out. Six of its defectee MPs have now counter-defected, following the party’s hilarious Euro election results and the fact that everybody thinks they are ludicrous. I think it was Michael Foot who once said you can rat, but you can’t re-rat.
Piqued by the behavior of their own previous parties, Labour and Conservative, they set up a party that shared precisely the values and policies of the Liberal Democrats (and indeed the vast majority of the House of Commons) and thus for presumably psychiatric reasons called it Change UK, when it promised exactly the reverse. What did they think they were doing? Was it pure petulance and hubris which made them think they could gull the public by presenting the same agenda but in a -different wrapper? It is a genuine mystery. They are Liberals and should have had the sense and grace to join the Liberal Democrats — as should, incidentally, half our Conservative MPs and a good third of Labour MPs.Yes, the Lib Dems are led by a self-satisfied hobgoblin, but at least they represent a strand of thought shared by a sizable proportion of the electorate, especially the affluent bit of it.
The divide in politics today is no longer between left and right. It is between the individualistic and the communal, the liberal and the social. Our parliament does not remotely reflect that new divide, with five-sixths or more of MPs being effectively liberals, whereas the polls suggest that the majority of the population are more socially conservative, traditional and communal.
The liberal view is also grossly over-represented in our institutions, such as the BBC. Perhaps this is why the political debate right now is so fractious, childish, fraught and fissiparous: the forum for debate is in entirely the wrong place. The goalposts have been removed and set up somewhere else, leaving our politicians kicking a ball around in a stadium from which the supporters have long since departed. But the politicians and our liberal elite cannot quite bring themselves to accept this fact. Hell, look at Europe, and the US. Look at the alliance in Italy between the League and the Five Star Movement, look at the millions of voters who transferred their allegiance from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. It is no longer left versus right. It is something else entirely.
So what do the Conservatives do? Become Conservative is the obvious answer, even if it is one which would hurt my party, the Social Democrats. Represent that huge tranche of the population which believes that women do not possess penises and that our children should not be taught the contrary. Represent the overwhelming majority who do not wholly agree with the ubiquitous canard that immigration has enhanced our country beyond all measure and that Islam is a soothing balm which we should all respect and rub into our aching joints every evening. Give a nod to those who do not believe that the UK has been a historical source of untrammeled wickedness and that the idea of the nation state is on the ‘wrong side of history’. In other words, reclaim the conservative center ground and do not be bullied by the liberals. They have power but not hegemony.
Meanwhile, some bloke has already pulled out of the race for the leadership of the Conservative party, actually before I knew he had even intended standing. James Cleverly hoped he might win over some votes by being young! And black! It ain’t enough, mate. Brexit aside, the Tories need an ideological route out of their current stagnation and increasing distance from the voting public. The only contender who seems to grasp this, so far, is Esther McVey. A one-nation Tory who understands the difference between male and female genitalia. But I don’t suppose she’ll win.
This article was originally published in The Spectator magazine.