|Britain after May 5th||John Tyndall reconnoitres the post-election scene|
The consensus view is that last month's General Election was one of the most boring, and also one of the nastiest, on record. In terms of the gigantic problems besetting the country, it solved absolutely nothing and was never going to solve anything; but the same can be said of most elections today in the world's leading democracies.
Increasingly, political parties have come to represent, not principled viewpoints or ideologies, least of all alternatives for governing the nation, but huge vested interests. People seeking public office choose them, not out of any firm conviction, but mainly in cold calculation of how their personal ambitions might most quickly and easily be realised. Tony Blair, on his own admission, opted as a young man for Labour because he perceived that its cupboard was barer in talent than that of the Tories and therefore offered better prospects for a would-be political climber. Where the rank and file of the parties are concerned those, that is, with no desire for high position of any kind the choice of allegiance may have slightly more to do with genuine belief but is much more likely to be influenced by social considerations. With which crowd do they most enjoy mixing? Where, perhaps, might they locate the most desirable marriage partner?
Against this background, elections are bound to be supremely colourless affairs, of little more national import than the bidding for contracts by commercial firms whose products are almost indistinguishable from each other and where the winner scores only on packaging. And when passion creeps in, it is not the passion generated by raging clashes of doctrine but merely the mutual jealousy of rival gangs jostling to get their snouts at the feeding trough of office, rank, celebrity and honours egos butting heads rather than great ideals in conflict.
Rich pickings for those that get on
And money is by no means an absent consideration. Basic parliamentary salaries, at just under £60,000 a year, are not of the highest: in other professions people of real ability can earn much more. But to most political wannabes an MP's pay is only the first step on the road to richer pickings: as one ascends the ladder the perks can be enormous. And, in contrast to elsewhere on the job market, mediocrity is no bar whatever to advancement to the highest levels. John Major and William Hague were disasters as Tory leaders, the former as prime minister too; but both are now millionaires several times over, Major as a City 'fixer' and Hague as a writer of books which would have little selling power were it not for his name and previous status.
When mainstream politicians heap abuse on 'outsider' parties like the BNP, how genuinely do they believe their words? When considering this question we would do well to remember that a paid politician is very like a lawyer (many were indeed just that before they took their seats): it is the lawyer's job to argue a case for his or her client, quite regardless of belief in innocence or guilt; it is the politician's job to argue the case for his or her party and attack opposing parties. The lawyers who get the most coveted briefs are those who win reputations for their persuasiveness in court; and in high-profile cases such people will be found addressing their remarks, not just to judge or jury, but to the wider public who will read about it all in the newspapers the next day. In assessing the sincerity of politicians when they espouse causes that have the backing of the mighty and the powerful, this parallel with the legal profession has to be borne constantly in mind.
We need to take account of these basic realities of modern politics when we assess democratic elections and their likely aftermath. So where stand British politics in the aftermath of the General Election of May 2005? Daily newspaper reports focused on many details, fascinating to read about but small in their overall importance. At the end of it all, and when we have taken a pace or two back so as to focus on the bigger picture, what is the dominating fact revealed?
It is that Tony Blair's New Labour did not win the election; the Tories lost it. With a record in government possibly worse than any other premier within living memory, with a reputation deeply tarnished over the lies and fiasco of Iraq, with public anger simmering to boiling point over asylum-seekers and immigration, and with all these things highlighted by a mainly hostile press, Blair managed somehow to survive, albeit with a reduced majority. There can only be one verdict on this phenomenon: New Labour lived to fight another day because of the utter feebleness of the opposition. It is ensconced in power for at least a further four years, in which time it will inflict yet more damage on Britain in every sector of the nation's life: economically, socially, culturally, morally, demographically and in the institutions of government all because the nation was offered no commendable, while presently electable, alternative.
Where New Labour is concerned, it will be business as usual: nothing can be done. It is what happens outside New Labour that really matters.
Let us now focus on the Tories. With a largely sympathetic press behind them, their effort has generally been presented as a brave fight against overwhelming odds. Mr. Howard has been portrayed as the valiant damage-limitation specialist who did not and could not win this time but has laid the foundations of a Conservative recovery to come. In fact this is rubbish. The Tory performance in May 2005 was, if anything, an even bigger disaster than four years previously because it was conducted against a Labour Government far groggier and more unpopular than then. An even moderately competent party, under a no more than average leader, should have been able to beat Blair & Co. out of sight. Yet this didn't happen. Michael Howard, a not unintelligent man, probably realised this much better than the faithful among his followers, for he announced his intention to step down as soon as the result of the election was known. He talked about the age factor (he will be 67 or 68 by the time of the next election) but this was just a convenient excuse Gladstone, Disraeli and Palmerston were much older when they were managing the affairs of a vast empire. Howard almost certainly knows that his party is finished, that it is an irretrievably sinking ship, and he does not want to be the captain when it finally disappears beneath the water.
Peter Hitchens, writing in The Mail on Sunday on May 8th, got it just right:-
Hitchens, for reasons perhaps not unconnected with the fact that he has a Jewish mother, is no friend of this magazine nor of the British National Party; yet for several years now he has been using his column in mostly admirable presentations of our case and never better than when he has been writing obituaries to Conservatism. After May 5th these have carried all the greater weight. Hitchens may be wrong in the odd detail: the next election could be in 2010; but that is of tiny importance. To call his likely successors pro-EU careerists is to understate the case; they are careerists who can be relied upon to be 'pro-' everything that is approved of as orthodox and mainstream by the liberal-globalist élite, otherwise they will stand no chance of acquiring the Tory crown. Hitchens is quite right in dismissing recent Tory anti-immigration noises as cheap and dishonest. On racial matters he no doubt would not wish to be seen dead on the same platform as ourselves, but regardless of this we have to agree with him in saying that Howard's immigration stance was phoney and opportunist to the nth degree. In the Tory post-mortem that is undoubtedly taking place in the wake of the poll this issue will be evaluated purely in terms of its electoral utility; thought for the long-term good of the British Nation will be entirely absent.
So which way are the Tories likely to go from here? Will it be more towards the hard right or the ever-soggier centre? Political common sense and the instinct for survival would suggest the former, but neither commodity has been very noticeable in the party in recent years indeed since the Macmillan era. One always has to understand that, great though is the pressure to please the voters, in the kind of democracy that has evolved in Britain there are other pressures, mostly hidden, that are far more compelling. At the heart of our political system there is an inner 'establishment' of immense patronage and power, with tentacles in the world of high finance, international politics and the mass media, which can virtually make or break parties and politicians. The fact that the post-war Conservative Party has been so zealous in performing to the agenda of this establishment, which is internationalist and socially 'liberal' and so often to the detriment of its standing with the British electorate suggests that it is not likely to embrace the 'hard-right' way forward to any substantial degree, though it may indeed make a few weak gestures in that direction just for popular consumption.
No solutions on the right
It would be a mistake anyway to presume that Tory 'hard-right' prescriptions are necessarily any answer to Britain's ills. 'Hard-right' in present jargon means an even greater lurch in the direction of free-market economics of the kind that have almost wiped out British industry. It also means, to borrow a fashionable American term, a move away from so-called 'big government' and towards ever greater libertarianism and the satisfaction of individual selfishness and greed all sanctified in the name of 'freedom', which has become a right-wing Tory altar symbolising everything that is holy and good. In fact, what Britain should be seeking to get away from is not 'big government' but bad government something with which we have been afflicted for the lifetimes of most of us. The antidote to bad government is good government; its size or extent is of secondary importance.
The Tory Right may offer a foreign policy that is just marginally less wedded to Europe than the present one, but it is probable that this would be replaced by one yet more joined at the hip to America and subservient to Bush & Co. On neither the conventional right, nor the conventional left of British politics over the past few decades, has there been any suggestion that Britain should pursue an independent role in the world, beholden to no foreign powers but pursuant solely of its own interests.
The latter course is one of nationalism, pure and simple. Is the Tory Right in any way nationalist? In the sentiments of some of those at its grass roots, very probably though most of them would flinch at the word. But in terms of the realities of power within the party the Right would never become more than a cosmetic substitute for nationalism. These matters apart, when it came to immigration what we would probably get would be a faint shift in the direction of stronger controls over entry, but an utter repudiation of anything suggestive of a racial policy. Prepare, if this ever came to pass, for a yet louder plea that we must integrate the ethnic minorities and make them more 'British'!
No rightward swing likely
But all this is assuming that the Tories would ever move that far rightwards. All present evidence suggests that they will not. Quite apart from the huge influence of the inner establishment of which I have spoken, the argument would be that such a move would split the party down the middle; and that argument would almost certainly be correct. British Conservatism is too deeply rotted for there to be any other consequence; and British Conservatives, with just a few admirable exceptions, are simply not made of the fibre for them to take the risk.
The papers in the past few weeks have been focusing, not unexpectedly, on the Tory succession; and some have published a portrait gallery, complete with photographs, of the main contenders. With each of them has been a little personal history and some guesses at leanings. So and so is on the 'inclusive' left of the party, while Whatshisname is thought to be a shade right of centre. What does all this tell us? Not much. I tend myself more towards ad-hominem studies as a guide to how people are likely to turn out. Looking at the facial features of those on the leadership shortlist, I could not see a single one which indicated any real force of character. And indeed this could be said of just about every Conservative (and Labour) leader for the past 50 years! It seems a depressing symptom of our modern democracy that it elevates weak (and not infrequently corrupt) people to the top of national affairs.
The men (and perhaps women) who will come to the fore in the Tory camp in the coming period will be the very kind spotlighted earlier in this article. Too stupid to recognise that the Tories have no long-term future, and anyway too preoccupied with career opportunities of the here and now, they will jostle for position rather as would half-wits fighting over chairs on the Titanic, as it was listing to stern. And the party still constitutes a vested interest, though a diminished one. There will be any number of aspiring apparatchiks in search of jobs, but there will be no crusading saviours. What is there anyway that is worth saving?
All of this tends to confirm Mr. Hitchens' contention that the Tory Party is finished. It will not produce the leaders and it will not embrace the policies essential for its survival, let alone its resurgence. And this is entirely necessary and desirable for the future of Britain. I was saying some fifteen years ago, and others have been saying more recently, that the demise of the Tory Party is an essential prerequisite for the emergence of a new political force able to salvage this country.
The demise of the Tory Party will take care of itself: there is nothing we need to do or indeed can do at present to hasten it. The emergence of the new force is the thing on which our minds and our energies should be focused. This brings us to Nationalism and the BNP.
In the debris resulting from last month's general election the opportunities here are greater than they have ever been. Elsewhere in this issue there will be some attention given to the British National Party's election campaign and its results. In the campaign itself there were a number of errors which, had they been avoided, could have made the results better. But in the event these results certainly leave room for a great deal of encouragement and optimism. The way is wide open now for the emergence of the kind of political movement to which we have always aspired and for which we have long worked. We must ensure that a party is built that can exploit these opportunities to the full.
I believe that that party should be and can still be the British National Party, though much needs to be done to improve it in the numerous aspects in which, at present, it is failing. We must make the BNP a 'broad church' for nationalists. It must become capable of uniting under a single banner all those who, excluding a small number of misfits and undesirables, at present embrace the ideals of nationalism. At the moment it is not doing so. Such an aim calls for intelligent politics, as well as a decidedly 'bigger' attitude and outlook than is presently evident in the upper circles of the party, where the spirit seems to be one devoted to alienation and exclusion, and where the result is a tragic wastage of resources, dedication and talent that should harnessed to the party's cause. In two articles in our April and May issues I firmly opposed the idea of an alternative party being set up which would act as a rival to the BNP, but we should nevertheless recognise the factors that have led to many people demanding this. If Nationalism in Britain is not to be tragically and perhaps irretrievably split (a development which would delight our enemies and towards which undoubtedly they are working and scheming as these words are written), there must be changes in the BNP.
One factor in the election which has worked in our favour has been the thorough thrashing given to the phoney and half-baked 'nationalists' of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Just a year ago, UKIP seemed to have everything going for it, with 12 Euro MPs elected and its national profile raised in spectacular fashion. Subsequent events have shown just how much can change in less than 12 months. In the vast majority of seats which UKIP contested last month along with the BNP, the latter far outperformed it. Political power in Britain does not lie with those who can do well in Euro elections. Some prestige may be attached to such performances, but unless these are backed up by the demonstration of solid support in parliamentary and local government polls in this country any gains thereby registered will soon be lost.
Many UKIP members and supporters are more BNP-inclined than they are towards their own party, but they have stayed in UKIP because they have seen more chances of political progress there. What happened on May 5th will have made a huge dent in this hope. These people are ripe for picking by the BNP.
But we should not imagine that the way to attract them is to water down BNP policies and principles. The weak-kneed approach has not served UKIP and it will not serve us. What needs to be done is to make the BNP attractive by its demonstration of firmness in its principles and overall competence and professionalism in its organisation. With present divisive tendencies, and the resulting wastage of first-class personnel, this is not going to happen.
May 5th has made clear that there is currently no meaningful opposition in British politics. A spirit of magnanimity, combined with mature political judgement, can create that opposition and mould it to the specifications of nationalism. It is up to us!