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August 02, 2017


Dave Timoney

Your statement "They had hoped that the defeat of trades unions, privatization, cuts to top taxes, deregulation and fiscal austerity would unleash a dynamic, productive economy" could equally be applied to liberals. One interpretation of post-1974 history is that progressive liberals deserted social democracy and threw in their lot with the Tories, providing much of the "reforming" impetus of the 80s and 90s.

Margaret Thatcher was an oddity within her own party because she was a conventional social Tory pushing a classical liberal line, which allowed the reactionary right to focus on the former while liberals focused on the latter, or more precisely on a managerialist liberalism that saw the state as a practical as much as an ideological market-maker (i.e. neoliberalism).

The Tories' current electoral prospects are dependent on motivating that tranche of social reactionaries who drifted away from voting after the mid-90s and returned for the EU referendum, but doing so will likely further alienate both liberals and the more pragmatic conservatives.

May's problem is not that her core support sees the 21st century as a refutation of their beliefs but that they consider it to have been the product of a conspiracy by liberal entryists into the Conservative Party (this idea was key to UKIP's growth). They want to actively reverse the liberal gains that the Tories oversaw, from the EU single market to gay marriage.

The Tories are at war with their recent history but, averse to dissing the Blessed Margaret, they are forced to imagine a fantasy land that predates her and the "liberal 60s". This explains why so many Tory reactionaries in their 60s and 70s valorise decades, the 40s and 50s, that few had any adult memory of.


«It’s become a cliché that the Tories want to return to the 1950s,»

That is the socialdemocratic left who wan to go back the Attlee government and MacMillan building hundreds of thousands of cheap good houses.

The Conservative whigs want to go back to the 1850s instead, not the 1950s, with unrestricted "manchesterism", sweatshops etc.

The Conservative tories instead want back the 1750s, not the 1950s, with the peasant bowing before the gentry and the peers, and easy lives of incomes from property rents for an "upstairs" minority.


«the EU is pretty much the only scapegoat they have left for the UK’s disappointing economic performance.»

That's the usual delusional projection of propaganda: as far as they are concerned the economic performance of the UK in the past 35 years and in particular in the past 7 has been excellent indeed: house prices and rents have zoomed up, business profits have been robust, share prices have booomed, taxes have been moderated, and wages and benefits like pensions have shrunk for most workers.

Indeed asset prices could have zoomed even faster, taxes could have been lower, the cost of labour could have been made even smaller, but over 35 years of continuous thatcherism have delivered enormous benefits to the people who matter, not a "disappointing economic performance".


"The Tories are at war with their own recent history"

Indeed. Thatcher was an architect of the Single Market, and thus of FoM and of all the regulations required to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers.


"Margaret Thatcher was an oddity within her own party because she was a conventional social Tory pushing a classical liberal line."

Thatcher thus managed to keep the Conservative Party together. Since she was removed, the cracks have been visible.


I'm not sure the Tories are one single amorphous party, I see an elite right wing teamed with some sort of alliance of shopkeepers. Rees-Mogg in the elite corner, Mrs May as shopkeeper. The shopkeepers could not deliver 'success' and now we doubt the elite can do it either. Labour suffers the same kind of problem, the Trots on the one hand and White Van persons on the other.

The question arises, can any credible government deliver 'success' and what does success look like. The main visions seem to be follow America or follow Germany.

As for 'success', this is bounded by housing and therefore the banking sector, the wealth of the rich and the sacred Green Belt. Jobs are bound up with a distain for vulgar industry, the education system, no industrial policy and the trend to globalisation. Service sector jobs are limited by the non exportability of all but the highest level service jobs. They are limited by the education system and the lack of large numbers of bright people, we have to buy them in. And so we go round and round.

For the elite we common people can follow America, but no chlorine chicken at the Atheneaum please. Social chaos, scrap the NHS and new trailer parks will be the path for the common people. Rees-Mogg, Boris and pals will of course be spared this unpleasant vision and have their noses firmly in the trough. The Daily Mail and DT would be delighted. This would certainly liven the UK up, if you did not claw your way to the upper reaches you would sink into an unpleasant morass. But most civilised people would tend to get on the Eurostar and leave. Success in this case looks like the rich getting richer and the middle and poor getting poorer.

The shopkeepers would not have wanted Brexit so let us assume they wriggle out of it somehow. What are they likely to do? Well, they will be stuck between a rosy vision of American go getting success and the attractions of a sleek German industrial future but recoil at the cost in land, infrastructure and education. The Rees-Moggs will whine furiously as Windsor Great park is bulldozed for a Giga Factory. So they will end up doing nothing much. The problem is that they are every bit as lost as the Brexit lot are deluded. That is the Tory problem, lost or deluded and Labour is no better.

The big question is 'is it even possible to make Britain great?'. I don't think it is, I think the idea is an illusion, so long as we keep up with France that is about all that can be expected.


«the Tories are one single amorphous party,»

Both major UK parties are fractious coalitions held together by the inescapable logic of FPTP.

Both major parties have a substantial "whig" component, plus the civil service is mostly whig too; as Wilson once lamented, whoever is in government the whigs are in power.

«I see an elite right wing teamed with some sort of alliance of shopkeepers. Rees-Mogg in the elite corner, Mrs May as shopkeeper.»

I have a different perception: the common theme of the Conservatives is "property", and they have 2 major faction, the "tory" wing that is about boosting land property, and the "whig" wing that is about boosting finance profits; the two major factions are united by the aim of boosting finance profits by boosting leverage land speculation.

The Conservative party also has two minor factions, that were once dominant, a "shopkeeper" business wing of the whigs, and a "one nation" wing of the tories.

I reckon that Mrs. Thatcher was in the "shopkeeper" business wing of the whigs, but her backers were mostly finance whigs.

It seems to me that Mrs. May is in the "one nation" wing of the tories, consider what she said in a speech as Conservative party chairman in 2002:

«There's a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party. I know that's unfair. ... We need to reach out to all areas of our society. I want us to be the party that represents the whole of Britain and not merely some mythical place called "Middle England", but the truth is that as our country has become more diverse, our party has remained the same.»


«The main visions seem to be follow America or follow Germany.»

The "follow Germany" vision is that of the Labour wing of the Labour party, of Corbyn: he and friends have stated many times that their dream is for the UK to be a normal socialdemocratic economy like Germany.

The Conservative party visions are for "follow America" and "follow Dubai", with a minority vision perhaps for "follow Switzerland".

The Conservative visions are all Edwardian-age like, for a minority of rich and very rich masters and a majority of hard working powerless servants, nothing like the german "far left trot" consensus for a "social economy" "ordoliberalism" with an institutional role for the trade unions.


«with a minority vision perhaps for "follow Switzerland".»

I think that there is a minority that is for "follow Brazil", a less socialist variant of "follow America".

Ralph Musgrave

Tut tut. Criticism of Tories by Labour supporters (and vice versa) is not allowed because it might "divide our communities".

More lessons in dick-head leftie logic coming up shortly.


«The Conservative visions are all Edwardian-age like,»

As to that MacMillan wrote in his diary:

“As a kind of tranquiliser I am taking a course of Henry James! What a world – how quiet and peaceful and happy it was for the “upper and upper-middle classes”. Now it’s a nightmare. Happily, it’s a much better world for the masses, as has been brought home to me most forcibly in writing the history of the inter-war years.”

That vision can indeed exit in either a tory version (rent from land property, "estates") or a whig version (rent from financial property, "funds").


If someone put a gun to my head and said "define a tory" I'd probably say something about property rights. As in they are very much for it and very much about property as the key glue that holds society together. This understanding has evolved to include virtual property - investment portfolios and such. They don't even seem averse to people acquiring property and joining the sainted and protected property holders. ("we're the party of opportunity!")

I suspect the fact that there are now financial entities beholden to no one buying up vast swathes of that sweet, sweet prestige giving property means they may have a crisis about it all sooner or later. Maybe.

But it seems to be their default. No matter what else, we'll have our property...and our village fetes.


«"define a tory" I'd probably say something about property rights.»

I think that is too generic: reckon it is "property rents" for "medium and large proprietors".
But then my definition of right-wing politics is more general and it is "protection of the interests of incumbents", and currently the most important form of incumbency is that in land and financial property (and secondarily business property) in England.

«As in they are very much for it and very much about property as the key glue that holds society together.»

Conservatives will tell you that there is no such thing as "society" :-); only families that live well of property rents through the generations. That's also why inheritance taxes are abhorred by Conservatives. And most Conservatives don't really care about the property rights of small owners, or social/group property rights either.

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