Be the Brightest and Best: vote Tory
Many people in the creative, inventive and caring industries – the Brightest and the Best – have never socialised with people who openly espouse the Conservative cause, or have only met them to have a row. This why they should expand their horizons…..
I will ask you to try to forget what Tories often look like and even what many of them say. Much good Toryism doesn’t dare speak; much that is spoken is not the real point of the creed.
I am a right-winger of a certain sort and I vote Tory because that party is the nearest fit to what I admire. I don’t much mind if the party doesn’t do well in any particular election: I am pretty sure the developments I want to see are not only good but will gradually happen because of cultural and economic developments. Generational change seems to be ushering them in, and to watch politics is mostly to see the grinding of the new emerging from the old, in subtle and conflicted – if noisy – ways.
I believe in England (not wider Britain, so much, or not in important respects) as a country which is entrepreneurial, decent, creative, no-nonsense, devoted to thorough thought and robust speech. It has side values of great importance. The countryside is one such. So is politeness to immigrants. So is a generalised belief that responsive government and socialised capitalism are likely to be valuable anywhere in the world. It also seems that England is inherently inventive: we are a strange blend of the piratical and disciplined. I think of Shakespeare, the SAS, the Rolling Stones, Last Tango in Halifax (even Shameless) and the State Opening of Parliament. I think of The City, F1 engineering, Pinewood, Gifford’s Circus, London’s universities.
I aspire to be civilised, and to be so in a way framed by my British fathers, but informed by forebears from everywhere in the world
I also believe England is fundamentally quite right-wing in the important sense (the sense I like) that it is sceptical of an intrusive welfare state. It responds, instead, to the idea that a strong society depends on strong individuals with strong values. This boils down to a belief in the virtuous spiral of tough love. This country is capable of believing that too much bad welfare disables the needy, but that some people need a good deal of state help.
Only the Tories (and perhaps the right of the Lib Dems) hold enough of these values and ideas to stand a chance of appealing to my sort of right-winger.
Some right-wing ideas fit easily with Tories. For instance, the right-winger of my kind, and the Tory in general, believes that England spends enough on education. It notes that Hungary spends less and gets more numerate apprentices for its buck. That difference is a matter of culture, not least n the home, not of budgets. But most Tories – for reasons of politeness, conservatism and expediency – insist that the National Health Service must be owned and paid for by the UK government, and largely run by it. My kind of right-winger (and some Tories, in private) think that – long-term – almost all welfare services for almost all people should be privately run and funded.
I think most people on the right are (rightly) worried that so many of their fellow countrymen are curiously delusional. The right thinks that too many people in our caring, creative, academic and inventive worlds (many of them, heavily state-sponsored) will accept, for instance, that the Tories are wicked and enjoy hurting the poor. Most kindly liberals (and even many Tories) think the left at least want to help the disadvantaged; at worst, this riff goes, the left is strategically wrong in how they go about it. It is not likely that a Tory would spray “Scum” on the election poster of an opponent.
The green wing of the Brightest and the Best longs for various special fantasies in search of more natural life. They assert, for instance, (in a mirror image of the CND of their parents and grandparents) that unilateral adoption of solar technologies by Britain can solve the world’s climate change problems and could care less about the facts or the expense.
Kindly left-liberals are often fond of wider cultural amnesias. They accept, for instance,the Celtic myths of English wickedness which have produced what one might call Victimhood Nationalism to the West and North. They long to believe that only the left stands between immigrants and wholesale discrimination and violence (though their grandparents’ and their parents’ Britain was far from awful in that matter). They dislike British history, and especially its Empire, and refuse to accept that the Empire was largely decent and had anyway a long-accepted mandate of gradually preparing subject countries for self-determination. (Events, not all good and seldom with good outcomes, overtook that patrician ideal.) They believe England especially is prone to manipulation by a governing Establishment, in spite of good evidence that The Establishment was more clubbability than control; more pro bono publico than selfish; and extremely prone to osmosis by any rising meritocrats.
The left plays to these delusions as well as having a fundamentally flawed view of the state: namely that it should be strong; absorb a high percentage of the country’s wealth; and empower a class of dogmatic public managers. And all based on the assumption that the working class is too inherently feeble to be other than supplicant. Of course the right – and many Tories – hope that the working class will disappear as educational and entrepreneurial advance rob it of all but folkloric meaning.
It is very hard for the creative and the inventive to imagine that the right might hold views which are both pragmatically workable and – importantly – good for the well-being of top and bottom of society alike. But I am tolerably sure that both wings of the right’s argument will withstand examination.
One prime difficulty is that the creative and inventive industries are riddled with snobbery. They admire the working class as authentic, rather as tourists love the poverty they overfly or which they see as a distant picturesque view, themselves being safe from the smell and bigotry of the village.
But a bigger difficulty is the vast, more or less Tory, more or less right-wing hinterland which lies between the vibrancy of the creative world and the ferrets and footie of the working class. That in-between land of mortgaged or privately rented housing estates and straggling suburbs appalls the Brightest and the Best as being narrow-minded, tasteless, retrograde. Abhorring public debt (thought lured into private debt by a lax financial Establishment) and with virtues which are dull, the core of amorphous middle Britain is almost determinedly not glamorous. Respectability never is.
Middle Britain is in a trap which Labour and Tory see very differently. Labour (following several decades of Tory complicity) has successfully ensured that the majority of people get more paid to them from the state than they pay in. For the left this is a status quo to be nurtured since it maintains their grip on power and the poor. The Tory see this “churn” as an ignoble exchange which disables the economy, society and the individual.
Oddly, the Brightest and Best will probably shatter these leftist delusions for themselves. The memory of the post-war socialist enchantment is fading. Even the hatred of Mrs Thatcher, long a watchword of the right-thinking Brightest and Best, is mellowing – not least in plays and movies – into respect for her honesty and the truths she held as self-evident. She is becoming a freedom fighter, bless her.
And of course, middle Britain, even more than the working class rump, is spawning modernity at a great rate. Civilised Bohemianism is always lurking in British homes and institutions and it works its fruitful disruption under the radar.
So, as generation succeeds generation, Britain’s brief post WW2 corporatism is probably dying out. And it will be replaced, I am guessing, by an alert, emotionally-rich, creative, decency in our polity. Current political discourse – which must be a populist, retail business – can hardly be blamed for not catching that, but it won’t impede it much either.
Still, I say, vote Tory and be on the right side of history.
Don’t be afraid. We are not Scandinavians. Neither are we French or German. Rather, we are definitely of the Anglosphere (which as an idea is even wider than as a geographical archipelago on which the sun never sets) and we are monoglot offshore globalisers near a Continental mainland. We have a sort of perpetual hybrid vigour which makes us hard to classify, except as pretty cheerful survivors and thrivers who are often exploring the future a bit before other Europeans. I am almost sure the Tory leadership, and many Europeans, more or less gets all that.