Letter From Britain – Tories Embrace Brussels 32

Despite their good chances to win the general election, there is a great deal of discontentment with the Conservatives in Britain. The old and mostly false image of uncaring snobs was recently revived by Gordon Brown after he stated that Tory tax plans were ‘dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton’. But while this author certainly has no problems with old Etonians, he finds that a somewhat snobbish stupidity exists in the Conservative Party, and it certainly does not appeal to all.

I am a student, I am a libertarian, and I define myself as right wing insofar as the political spectrum actually makes sense. The spectrum exists – it is congested, confusing and mixed up, but it is there – and I have found a spot to stand on and to defend.

It is then remarkable how disappointing, how saddening and so how very depressing it is that when I meet a Tory, he can be so very different to everything that I believe in.

I have said ‘he’ because the example I am about to use includes a bunch of male thirty-somethings, who all reminded me how unfortunate it appears the British people might be after the next election.

It was a dinner in the fortified city of York, in a cosy, warm, ale-saturated inn. Conservative party members from all over the country – party activists, parliamentary candidates and councillors – flocked to this inn to engage in drunken nostalgia of their University of York Conservative Society days. I was there discretely, a guest and no more.

Now the old stereotype that is pertained to the Tories is that of an eccentric, snobbish, uncaring, vain twit. I have never liked or much believed this stereotype, and to look at the achievements and personalities of great Conservative politicians one can rarely find any truth in this image.

This particular notion of mine was not holding up particularly well at the inn, where the eccentric, snobbish, uncaring, vain twits were screaming, shouting, drinking, reminiscing of the food fight at the previous year’s event and gleefully hoarding Brussels sprouts in case of another such incident.

They were crass, vulgar individuals who enjoyed the vanity of riches and demonstrated the decadence of those who could not truthfully attain something without the help of others.

One of my few talents is my ability to get myself into trouble. Before I was asked to leave for telling these persons what I thought of them, I did – perhaps in hindsight unwisely – tell them that they were “not the thinkers of the party.” There is a great deal of truth to this. Of the many I spoke to, most appeared to have never had a real job, but had immediately stood for some form of office and had lived off parents’ money. Are these to be our politicians – persons with no experience, no achievements, and not one example of worthiness?

Such persons present who indulged in such vulgar activity included Frank Young, the Conservative Campaign Director for London; Iain Lindley, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Worsley and Eccles South; Gareth Knight, Director of Conservatives for International Travel; Duncan Flynn; Richard Price; and Nick Reeves.

There has come into existence a path for such like-minded people: Firstly, one joins the Conservative Party at University and gets involved locally. Secondly, one starts to perfect the image by learning of which port to drink at parties, which pinstripe suit to always wear – no matter how informal the occasion – and which public persons might be cheered and which persons might be booed. Very occasionally they might discuss politics – recycled titbits from the Times’ comment page. Finally, the slightly more intelligent ones will join the civil service while the more boorish, obtuse ones attempt to become Conservative Politicians.

The people present had followed that path’s instructions to the letter. It was noticeable that other expected guests – Chloe Smith MP and Jonathan Isaby to name but two – were not present, perhaps because they had achieved something: it would be best to call it, well, actual success.

Now I believe that the left wing is wrong; usually well-intentioned, but wrong. I take issue with the premises of their ethics and the consequences of their politics. However, I can accept and even encourage their existence because they are politically engaged, and they contribute to the academic and ethical wrangling that makes the United Kingdom a democracy. Among the people I met in that inn, there was no such engagement; instead there was a determination to become part of an ideal and all its frivolities rather than an attempt to actually discuss and achieve the ideal itself.

I must stress that these appalling persons did not represent the entire room; there were other people there that I count as my friends and I believe to be far more interesting and involved than I might ever be. And just as the vainglorious persons did not represent all those in the room, it must be said that they did also not represent the entire Conservative Party.

While the Conservatives appear to have embraced Brussels just as much as in the Conservatives in that inn, Cameron, as well as Blair, has at least helped to achieve something, that is, the end of tribal politics. Both have attempted to embrace the middle ground – they have attempted to make sure that their parties no longer exist to appeal to a particular type of person but have room for voters from a variety of backgrounds. This is laudable, but it does not endear me to Cameron.

I will not vote for Cameron because I do not trust him. Whether or not his promises speak from the heart or are a political ploy I do not care, because both lead me to disagree with him. The former I find mostly unappealing and the latter I find phoney and thus dangerous.

It was in that inn, among the Conservative Party’s foot-soldiers and political socialites, that I encountered the attitude that sickens me. The general topic of speeches during the evening ran on the line, ‘When we get into power…” This is what I find frightening: the yearning to be ‘in power’. To be a politician should be a duty and not a job; it is to be a servant and not a ruler; and it is to be an honour and not a prerogative.

So I despise the snobbish Tory and I do not trust the new Tory, and this leaves me with few places to go.

It is hopeful to note that it is unlikely we shall see the persons of that inn in the future, because having failed so hopelessly now, it is unlikely they shall succeed in years to come. But it is with caution that we should look upon the Conservative party, which appears to be either false or divided – and so neither appeal to me.

The phony compassion of the left 18

Roger Scruton sets out the opposing ethical-political views of conservatives and liberals in his article Totalitarian Sentimentality in The American Spectator. It is well worth reading in full.

In part he writes:

The USA has descended from its special position as the principled guardian of Western civilization and joined the club of sentimentalists who have until now depended on American power. In the administration of President Obama we see the very same totalitarian sentimentality that has been at work in Europe, and which has replaced civil society with the state, the family with the adoption agency, work with welfare, and patriotic duty with universal “rights”. The lesson of postwar Europe is that it is easy to flaunt compassion, but harder to bear the cost of it. Far preferable to the hard life in which disciplined teaching, costly charity, and responsible attachment are the ruling principles is the life of sentimental display, in which others are encouraged to admire you for virtues you do not possess. This life of phony compassion is a life of transferred costs. Liberals who wax lyrical on the sufferings of the poor do not, on the whole, give their time and money to helping those less fortunate than themselves. On the contrary, they campaign for the state to assume the burden. The inevitable result of their sentimental approach to suffering is the expansion of the state and the increase in its power both to tax us and to control our lives.

As the state takes charge of our needs, and relieves people of the burdens that should rightly be theirs — the burdens that come from charity and neighborliness — serious feeling retreats. In place of it comes an aggressive sentimentality that seeks to dominate the public square. I call this sentimentality “totalitarian” since — like totalitarian government — it seeks out opposition and carefully extinguishes it, in all the places where opposition might form. Its goal is to “solve” our social problems, by imposing burdens on responsible citizens, and lifting burdens from the “victims,” who have a “right” to state support. The result is to replace old social problems, which might have been relieved by private charity, with the new and intransigent problems fostered by the state: for example, mass illegitimacy, the decline of the indigenous birthrate, and the emergence of the gang culture among the fatherless youth. We have seen this everywhere in Europe, whose situation is made worse by the pressure of mass immigration, subsidized by the state. The citizens whose taxes pay for the flood of incoming “victims” cannot protest, since the sentimentalists have succeeded in passing “hate speech” laws and in inventing crimes like “Islamophobia” which place their actions beyond discussion. This is just one example of a legislative tendency that can be observed in every area of social life: family, school, sexual relations, social initiatives, even the military — all are being deprived of their authority and brought under the control of the “soft power” that rules from above.

This is how we should understand the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. … The prize is an endorsement from the European elite, a sigh of collective relief that America has at last taken the decisive step toward the modern consensus, by exchanging real for fake emotion, hard power for soft power, and truth for lies. What matters in Europe is the great fiction that things will stay in place forever, that peace will be permanent and society stable, just so long as everybody is “nice.” Under President Bush … America maintained its old image, of national self-confidence and belligerent assertion of the right to be successful. Bush was the voice of a property-owning democracy, in which hard work and family values still achieved a public endorsement. As a result he was hated by the European elites, and hated all the more because Europe needs America and knows that, without America, it will die. Obama is welcomed as a savior: the American president for whom the Europeans have been hoping — the one who will rescue them from the truth.