Left and Right must unite and fight, as Neil Clark so sagely puts it.
Britain’s Labour and Conservative traditions derives from a series of classically Christian critiques of Whiggery and Marxism, while Britain’s Liberal tradition derives largely from the Whigs’ acceptance of just such a series, although it has always wrestled with the rival tradition of Unitarianism, Radical Dissent, Utilitarianism, and so forth, all of which depend on the Whig (as also Jacobin and Marxist) fallacy of inevitable historical progress.
Each of the Labour and Conservative traditions, at least, therefore stands against the concept of “class war” by always including all social classes as a matter of principle, thus sparing this country the bloodshed and other problems experienced elsewhere. And each of them is wholly committed to the constitutional, democratic process, with the same happy effects.
Millions of Conservative, Labour and Liberal people are still like this, but there is now no way of voting for a party actually run by politicians in any of these closely related traditions. Yet we share those traditions, broadly speaking, with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as a counterweight, both to the thoroughly Whiggish liberal and conservative traditions in the US, and to European integration, with its underlying thought-systems either overtly Jacobin or Marxist or else accepting such a paradigm rather than critiquing it.
Instead, we are stuck with the doubly decadent, logically inevitable union of 1960s social libertinism and 1980s economic libertinism. The former is ridiculously presented as “left-wing, “liberal” or even “Socialist”, and the latter as “right-wing”, even “conservative”, and sometimes even “Tory”! A vulgarised combination of Whiggish and Marxian notions is simply presupposed. The Transcendent is refused, so that the whole is grounded in nothing, and therefore leads to nihilism. (One wonders what are now the situations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand?)
In economic (and thus also in social) matters, the Conservative Party adopted this approach under Margaret Thatcher. After the death of the old-style Christian Socialist John Smith, those who seized control of the Labour Party erased the fact that the combined Labour and SDP votes were larger than the Conservative vote both in 1983 and in 1987. Labour was always going to come back once the SDP was out of the way. And that was always going to happen once Trotskyist entryism had been purged, with the Conservative Party still controlled by the other of the alien extremes arising, ultimately, out of the unexpected Labour defeat in 1970.
Yet such people still deny outright that the opinion poll rating that was the 1997 result had not varied since Golden Wednesday in November 1992, with swings of 1997 proportions in the European Elections just after John Smith’s death, i.e., under the leadership of Margaret Beckett.
Instead, they would have us believe that the 1997 “victory” was all the work of their own frontman, the embodiment of those who did best, ostensibly, out of both the 1960s and the 1980s. Allegedly, only one such as he could have won, or could win, a General Election. The Conservative Party’s ruling faction has bought into this nonsense, while the Liberal Democrats never bought out of it.
Supply teaching confirmed my view that comprehensive schools have hardly been tried. They were supposed to bring the benefits of grammar schools to all children, and at the same time tackle the persistent English failure to take technical education seriously. This would have closed most commercial schools within a decade, and it still would do.
Thus would be ended the restriction by parental income of access to, for example, three separate sciences, certain modern foreign languages, Classics, the broad sweep of British and European history, the great books of English Literature, and perhaps even A-levels themselves in the near future. And this, in turn, would raise standards overall. All pupils would be taught by those whose daily business was the teaching of academically rigorous subjects right up to Advanced Level.
We Real Labourites are at one with Real Tories in wanting this real education. As, in fact, we are at one on rather a lot.
For, dear Tory reader, do you really believe, with deadly seriousness, in the late Michael Young’s satirical “meritocracy”? That those with wealth and paper qualifications may alone determine merit, on the basis of wealth and paper qualifications? If so, then you would have to be a n antimonarchist. And do you really aspire to “classlessness”, closing down the gentlemen’s clubs along with the workingmen’s clubs, and disbanding the chambers of commerce along with the trade unions? Hardly!
In a “free” market, there would no agriculture in this country. Is that what you want? Or do you see the economy as the servant of social, cultural and environmental goods, as were coal, steel and shipbuilding? The latter, if the Countryside March was anything to go by. (The arguments for banning foxhunting are as detestably New Labour or New Tory as they come; but of that, another time.)
Making the same point more broadly, do you really wish to see the unrestricted movement of goods, services and capital throughout the world? If so, then (as all the academic advocates of such things would tell you), you must logically also believe in the unrestricted movement of labour, of people: no immigration controls whatever. Furthermore, you must either renounce common humanity entirely, or else prepare to pay both social security benefits at home and aid abroad on a scale previously unimagined. Globalisation brings this dark day ever closer, as did Thatcher’s Single European Act. Is not sovereignty seriously eroded when hardly anything is either made in this country, or when almost nothing of any real importance is owned by our own citizens, resident here for tax purposes, and actually paying our taxes accordingly?
Do you really despise the public services and everyone who works in them? Both front benches seem to have a pathological hatred of public sector workers, and no concept of them as voters and taxpayers in this country. But even now, vastly more people vote Conservative than have commercial health insurance, or send their children to commercial schools.
And do you genuinely support slavish adherence to the American neoconservative agenda in foreign policy? Is it Tory that a foreign country, simply by virtue of being that particular foreign country, might change the government of any other country in the world? Apparently not, since the ninety per cent public opposition to the Iraq War must, by definition, have included the majority of Conservative supporters.
Real Labourites are not soft on crime. Its effects are felt disproportionately by the poor, who come banging on the doors of their Labour councillors, begging to be re-housed. (Incidentally, for now, Real Tories do not share either the New Labour or the New Tory loathing of social housing or local government, or indeed of public transport.)
Real Labourites are not soft on Europe, either. We did not struggle so hard and for so long to get into power, only to hand over that power to people entirely beyond our control. Or rather, what little power was left after Heath’s Treaty of Rome (opposed by Labour), Thatcher’s Single European Act (opposed by Labour) and Major’s Maastricht Treaty (opposed by far more Labour MPs than Tories). Now there really is a whole other article in this. Suffice to say here, that the only Eurosceptical hope in contemporary British politics is the increasingly elusive prospect of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.
Likewise, Real Labourites are Unionists. We see the United Kingdom as the means of bringing the benefits of social democracy to as many people as possible, the EU being far too large for this. We are sent periodical material by the Labour Party, listing the Government’s achievements, many of which are considerable. At the end, however, there are always extra bits on the far greater achievements in Scotland and Wales, the former without using its fiscal powers, the latter without even having any. This is playing straight into the hands of an English nationalism as nasty as that of the anti-English and anti-“Green” in Scotland, or of the anti-English and language-fascist in Wales.
The Union also safeguards Northern Ireland’s participation in a social democracy that simply could not be built on the sands of EU farm subsidies and film-making. The Callaghan Government was so pro-Union that it was brought down by two Irish Nationalist abstentions, even though two Ulster Unionists voted to save it.
And the Commonwealth is the extension of the Union’s inherent generosity of spirit. It has been scandalously under-used for decades in preference for a subservience to America and, accordingly, for Europe, the White Man’s Club. This is understandable, since the Commonwealth, with the Union from which it is inseparable, is one of the strongest monarchist arguments, to the horror of the “meritocratic” New Labour and New Tories.
Nor do Real Labourites welcome the torrent of filth in much of the media, still less the even more pernicious “dumbing down”, and the exaltation of rubbish as art. Just as the Labour Movement’s roots are in the sort of academic formation outlined above, so those roots are also in real art.
And no such scholarship or art could happen if the poor and the young were stoned out of their skulls. That is why the middle-class, middle-aged cannabis lobby wants what it wants, which also extends to the deregulation of alcohol, gambling, prostitution and pornography, and to the eventual legalisation of heroin and cocaine. The Fabian and Christian Socialist pioneers must be spinning in their graves.
Substantial differences still exist, of course. Unlike every Labour Leader ever, many Real Labourites are anti-monarchists. But this can be held in check by the more pressing economic and social needs, and by the “meritocratic” arguments usually advanced by professional anti-monarchists.
And most Real Tories are in favour of capital punishment, which almost all Real Labourites find abhorrent, as well as likely to have no impact whatever on the underlying problems.
Most Real Labourites find morally repugnant the ultimate violence that is the splitting of the very atom for belligerent purposes. And we all know that nuclear power was used as an excuse for the ostensibly economic, but in fact purely political, destruction of the coal industry and of the civilised communities, working-class in the true sense, thus sustained. But no other form of energy is hated because it might have an evil alternative use, even if no such use could be so evil as nuclear weapons. And nuclear power does in fact offer the possibility of recreating working-class communities, as cannot be said of, for example, wind farms.
Furthermore, nuclear power offers independence from the ghastly dynasty that bankrolls both the Bushes and bin Laden, as well as from the affairs of the Middle East tout court. The desire to remain so dependent is about as conservative as … well, as invading another country purely in order to change its government, as the end in itself.
Finally, Real Labour approves of ceremony. Like the Real Tories, we recognise that the dignity of the proceedings is the dignity of the electorate. We wanted the court service and the Legal Aid budget brought under a Cabinet Minister accountable to the elected house. But instead, we got the botched half-abolition of the position of Lord Chancellor, just because he wears a wig and tights, and sits on a woolsack. There is no more accountability than ever for the major front-line public service that is the court service, nor for the large annual sum of public money that is the Legal Aid budget.
One could go on. Clearly, the ideology of those who have now been running the country continuously for a generation has nothing to do with either the Tory or the Labour tradition. Nor has it anything to do with the views of any significant body of people in the country at large. Left and Right must indeed unite and fight.
Thursday, 20 April 2006
Left and Right must unite and fight
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