How should we assess the National Conservatism conference held recently in central London? With some difficulty, is the answer. Undoubtedly this was an important event, though what precisely it portends is harder to analyse.
It was important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it broke most of the woke taboos by addressing topics that the Conservative Party would shun like the plague, including Emma Webb’s frank admission that the recent coronation was inferior to its predecessors and that forces around the Prince of Wales are already planning for the next one to be worse.
Secondly, there was its sheer scale. Who, informed by the mainstream media, would have dreamed there were so many highly articulate conservative thinkers left on the planet? The list of speakers covered a comprehensive range of topics, responding to the innumerable areas in which the woke aggression is attacking our society.
Compare that gathering to the Conservative Party’s travesty annual conference: the banality of the speeches, the exclusion of dissenting thought, the audience enlarged by the drafting into the auditorium of the lobbyists and commercial interests manning the stalls outside for the leader’s “keynote” speech, invariably a litany of fatuities.
At the National Conservatism gathering there was not one poor speech and any one of those delivered would have provoked a sensation at a Conservative Party conference. This assembly confirmed what we already knew: that conservatism is alive and thriving, but not inside the Tory Party. Parliamentarians such as Suella Braverman, Lee Anderson and Jacob Rees-Mogg who addressed the conference knew that they did so with the disapproval of the Tory hierarchy.
Why was that? Because there is nothing that is more anathema to the Conservative establishment than authentic conservatism. This was epitomised by the reaction of Matt Hancock, until fairly recently part of that establishment as health secretary, to the speech by Danny Kruger, MP lauding traditional marriage as “the only possible basis for a safe and successful society”. Kruger said: “Marriage is not all about you. It’s not just a private arrangement. It’s a public act, by which you undertake to live for someone else, and for wider society; and wider society should recognise and reward this undertaking.”
Confronted with a clip of the speech in an interview with Jon Sopel, Hancock cowered with his face in his hands, wailing, “I don’t want to hear it again.” He looked like a Hammer film victim of a vampire, desperate to acquire a sprig of garlic. “Please can we stop talking about this,” he pleaded, “because it will put us out of power for a generation.”
The Tories are going out of power for a generation: he is right about that. But one of the causes is the metrosexual prejudice of the likes of Hancock, who left his wife, the mother of his three children, for his mistress, after being caught in a compromising position in his office, on CCTV. The current Tory Party’s contempt for marriage, unless it be of the same-sex variety, is reflected in the utterly discriminatory disadvantaging of married couples under the present tax regime.
Predictably, a spokesman for the Prime Minister distanced him from such dangerous sentiments as Kruger had voiced. The BBC reported that Sunak “does not agree with a Conservative MP’s claim about the role of conventional family values in society”.
The conference’s unfashionable admission that there are too few babies in Britain was a tipping point. Our missing population (10 million of them victims of abortion) is being replaced by immigrants. The difference is that babies are born into existing households, whereas adult immigrants require housing.
There was also, significantly, a discreet reappraisal of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, a suspicion of free markets where they are at variance with the national interest. Mrs Thatcher was a pragmatist: Britain had tilted too far into collectivism and state control, so she redressed the balance. Subsequently, those who espoused “Thatcherism” – there was no such phenomenon, it was a media invention – tilted the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary
This conference showed signs of acknowledging that economic considerations are not the chief concern of politics. The culture wars are the important struggles that must be won, if people are to be able to live in a civilised society. The trouble is that the Conservative Party has been hijacked by “socially liberal” crony capitalists who imagine Conservatism is about making money and nothing else.
The Tories have been dancing in the streets recently, on reports that the Labour polling lead has shrunk to “only” 12 points. “Can Rishi bring it off?” ask headlines generated by the same school of optimism as “Glorious news, mein Führer, Manstein’s tanks are half-way to Antwerp!” No, the dogs in the street know he cannot pull it off. Then it will be the high road to California, which he calls “home”, for Rishi; there will soon be enough royalty and discarded prime ministerial expertise in that state to create an alternative Britain.
The concentration of cerebral acumen at the National Conservatism conference demonstrated that both the legacy parties are now the “stupid party”. A reference to St Thomas Aquinas at either the Conservative (unless Rees-Mogg were speaking) or Labour conferences is beyond unlikely. In 2019, with the unlooked-for adherence of the Red Wall constituency, the Conservatives were given a large majority and the opportunity to refashion British political culture. Through lack of ideas and incomprehension of mainstream Britain they failed dismally.
As for Labour, it is painful to watch its pathetic focus-group/think-tank cut-and-paste efforts to devise a programme and then invent a philosophy to justify it. It hardly matters since, under a Labour government, Britain will be governed by Stonewall and a superfluity of woke quangos, along with the civil service Blob – exactly as at present, under a Conservative government.
Does National Conservatism hold out any hope of a recovery of national identity and a restoration of civilised society? It is possible: everything depends on where it goes from here. Some of the speakers were still embedded in the defunct Conservative Party. If they embrace the delusion that that rotten husk can somehow be rehabilitated, they will fail.
To the British electorate the Conservative Party stands for ever-increasing mass immigration; the consequent impossibility of home ownership or of ever seeing a GP; crippling taxation; the deliberate betrayal of Brexit; imposition of a weird quasi-religious cult around Net Zero that will bankrupt us all; the relentless ratcheting-up of suppression of free speech; discrimination against Christians, to the point of persecution; sexualisation and de facto abuse of children in schools without parental knowledge; politicised police forces that assist disruptors in blocking the public highway while handcuffing members of the public who attempt to remove them; and several more pages of charge sheets.
National Conservatism voices all these grievances, but can it redress them? The important thing is that it has already elevated public discourse to a higher intellectual level. That is terrifying to “progressives”. Generations ago, the verbal currency of “progressives” was the pretentious vocabulary of Marxism, designed to impart to a moronic creed that defied human nature the spurious intellectual cachet of “scientific socialism”. Its true methods of persuasion were the torture chamber, the execution yard and the Gulag.
Since then, it has been downhill all the way. Social democracy’s apologists are a feeble lot. Labour’s last mainstream intellectual was Anthony Crosland and his work looks naïf today. Contemporary radical vocabulary is a jumble of woke neologisms confected in the “gender studies” departments of American universities, attaching meaningless prefixes such as “cis” to words to distort their meaning. The woke are incapable of defending their lunatic claims, e.g. that there are 73 sexes, that “gender” (a purely grammatical term) trumps biological sex, and so on.
This means they cannot afford to engage in a debate, since two minutes’ cross-examination would expose the insanity of their claims. Instead, therefore, they seek, like the climate alarmists before them, to shut down all debate by “de-platforming”, intimidation, violence and noisy disruption. They have so far succeeded because, with the cause of Conservatism nominally in the hands of the Vichy Tories, they have met with no resistance.
National Conservatism could change that. Its intellectual approach is already striking a chord among the pockets of surviving integrity in academe, which have finally begun to speak out against the destruction of academic values by woke totalitarians. The question is, with its debt to Edmund Burke and its historicist approach to contemporary problems, will this new movement go back far enough in tracing the roots of the crisis of Western civilisation?
It would be a tragic waste if this unique opportunity to reappraise our culture went only half way. Edmund Burke was nominally a Whig, though his instincts were demonstrably Tory. Why did he produce “Reflections on the Revolution in France?” To oppose a reasoned rebuttal to that monstrous upheaval, obviously. But what had caused that upheaval? Burke supplied the answer in his cutting reference to “the age of sophisters, economists and calculators”.
We must then ask: what was the soil in which that dishonest crew had been implanted and flourished? The answer, incontrovertibly, is the Pseudo-Enlightenment. Today, still, we hear Brussels apparatchiks, scandalised by some EU member state retaining a vestige of consideration for Christian and family interests, denouncing such backwardness as incompatible with “Enlightenment values”, frequently endorsed as “European values”.
The Pseudo-Enlightenment was a great narcissistic spasm in which egotists and charlatans such as Voltaire and Rousseau persuaded Europe to abandon the wisdom of centuries of coherent social stability, based on divine revelation, and to substitute for it an unfounded reverence for the undisciplined thoughts of individuals, disconnected from a chain of intellectual tradition that began with Aristotle.
Today, our schools are run according to the principles of Rousseau, the charlatan who became regarded as the greatest expert in Europe on the education of the young, though he had thrown his own children into an orphanage so that he could pursue his career in fashionable salons unburdened by them. “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains,” was the audacious, sentimental lie that raised the chimera of Equality, dissolved the European social order and paved the way to the cruelties of the French Revolution and, ultimately, Auschwitz and the Gulag.
It is perverse, cowardly and dishonest to condemn all those barbarities without also denouncing the seed-bed from which they arose: the so-called Enlightenment. The Pseudo-Enlightenment cast light on nothing: it brought darkness, as it snuffed out the light and grace of Christianity. Hume’s arid empiricism straitjacketed the Western mind, depriving it of the oxygen of imagination, religion and, eventually, the metaphysical.
The meanest peasant in the 12th century believed in eternal life, which not only gave him a motivation to moral behaviour, but the self-esteem of knowing himself to be made in God’s image and partly eternal; a modern regius professor believes himself to be doomed to die like a cat or dog, with no further existence. That diminished self-perception is a fertile breeding ground for the self-hatred that is intrinsic to Marxist woke ideology.
We need from conservatives, if they truly aspire to retrace their steps to where we went wrong in the past, an unapologetic repudiation of the Pseudo-Enlightenment. That, of course, would open up further logical lines of inquiry that they might well hesitate to follow. What paved the way for the Pseudo-Enlightenment? The Reformation; and that is not a totem that an English conservative marinated in the mythology of 1688 might dare to confront.
The reality is that Conservatism, a term confected by John Wilson Croker (satirised as Rigby, in Disraeli’s novel “Coningsby”), from French origins, in 1830, was never a satisfactory or coherent concept. In 19th-century Spain, where political science was more intellectually disciplined than in Britain, a distinction was made between Conservatives, who alternated corruptly in power with the Liberals, and the true inheritors of the culture, known as Traditionalists.
Donoso Cortés, for example, was a Conservative who accepted the usurpation of the throne by Ferdinand VII’s daughter, while the unbending Juan Vázquez de Mella was a Traditionalist. Traditionalism comes from the soil, the faith, the history, the folk practices of a nation. Toryism used to be like that; now it is like Matt Hancock. The word “tradition” was frequently on the lips of speakers at the National Conservativism conference. They need not only to talk about it, but to embrace and practise it. With courage, a restoration of Britain is possible, if the people can be persuaded to resume their national identity.
Write to us with your comments to be considered for publication at email@example.com