The future of the Conservative party needs to be as the Brexit party. It ought not to cede this title to any other contenders as the nature of its opposition to the EU grows out of its core beliefs.
The Tory party in all its guises, over many centuries, has had the view that society is best organised from the bottom up rather than the top down.
In the 18th century it was the squires of rural England rather than the grand Whig magnets; in the 19th century, it was Peel’s desire to favour the consumer against the producer. In the 20th it was defined by opposition to socialism, whether this was Churchill’s abolition of identity cards, or Lady Thatcher’s council house sales. The great events in the party’s history can be seen as backing the individual against the overmighty.
This is as it should be; the Socialist thinks that the interest of the individual are best served by the collective, while the Conservative knows that the collective is best served by the free actions of the individual. Brexit is an expression of this at the international level.
If it is accepted that society is most successful when built from the bottom up – that is to say that individuals and their families come together to create a society with a sufficient commonality of interest that they are willing to make sacrifices one for another – then the nation state is the natural end point.
These nations may then work together, when they have similar interests but it needs to be derived from the individual countries’ desire, not from the direction of a central body. The latter tends to be as successful as governments telling individuals what to do. If it were true that support for Brexit grows organically from the Tory party’s basic beliefs, then now is the time to claim this policy clearly.
Theresa May said, after her Withdrawal Agreement was defeated for the third time, that “I feel that we are reaching the limits of this process in this House”. This implies that she thinks that a general election may be necessary to produce a new House of Commons. In addition the Prime Minister decided, even before her recent announcement, that she would not lead the Conservatives into the next election. There is a potentially short opportunity to find a new leader who sees the benefits of Brexit and is willing to set out specific policies from which these advantages would flow.
The House of Commons in its recent votes has shown its deep-seated opposition to leaving the European Union. About 400 MPs simply think that they know better than 17.4 million voters. This is in part arrogance and intellectual condescension.
It is also dishonest as most MPs stood on manifestoes that promised to deliver the referendum result. This is a challenge to the country’s democratic system, which will be put under intense strain if no major party represents the Brexit view.
Now is the opportunity for the Tories to move from the current government‘s position of ameliorating a bad idea that, at its highest level, it never believed in, to one that embraces it. This will be the major task any new leader and may well only prove possible for someone who has always supported Brexit.
The advantages of Brexit are based on the slogan of “taking back control”. The United Kingdom and its voters can take better decisions about the future than a centralised bureaucracy can. The UK’s interests are not the same as those of Greece or Germany. That does not make co-operation impossible, but it ought to make direct rule undesirable.
In the EU British consumers pay more for goods to protect German manufacturers and French farmers. This helps no one, it encourages inefficiency on the continent and lowers the standard of living here. Financial services are increasingly regulated in the City of London to meet the needs of the Eurozone, making this country a less attractive place to do business as it becomes inflexible and uncompetitive. The free movement of people keeps the wages of the least well off down and increases the welfare burden on taxpayers.
Individuals create families which grow into communities , which in turn lead to the nation state. This is the Tory view of society; there is no higher legitimate authority than the nation state and confident countries do not accept one. The post-war “managing of decline“ needs to end and it ought to be the destiny of the next Tory party leader to end it. Margaret Thatcher showed it could be done. Is there a big enough figure to inherit her mantle?
Click here to read the piece in full.