Picture Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Dr Whitehall

Or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the Blob

Artillery Row

Mutuals had a gay old time on the platform formerly known as X last week, dragging Stephen Kinnock MP for believing that the country formerly known as “Great” Britain had separation of powers, as he asserted the Rwanda Bill was “an affront to the separation of powers” in a statement to the House.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes called for “A complete and total ban on Westminster being allowed to consume The West Wing or any of its derivatives until it is driven through their heads that the UK does not have a separation of powers and that parliament is supreme.” I must admit that Sam had me at “a complete and total ban on Westminster” but lost me after that.

I’ve written about this before but where American politics leads, British politics inevitably follows; 

Our common language and America’s power bedevils our politics; Westminster likes to think of itself as Washington-on-Thames, and regards events on the continent as little more than an opportunity to providence evidence of your pre-existing ideas. 

But it might not all be bad. There has been much talk out of America of ‘taking back the institutions’, prompted largely by Christopher Rufo’s “Manifesto for the Counterrevolution” (The New Right Activism).

If you are even vaguely ‘of the right’ I recommend you read Rufo’s piece, because it concerns what the right has been desperately short of since the Great Awokening made us realise that progressives had managed almost total institutional capture; anti-woke governing strategy. In his piece, Rufo writes that re-asserting control of the institutions is essential:

The activist must begin with status quo reality: the institutions which today shape public and private life will exist for the foreseeable future. The only question is who will lead them and by which set of values. The New Right must summon the self-confidence to say, “We will, and by our values.”

Conservatives can no longer be content to serve as the caretakers of their enemies’ institutions, or as gadflies who adopt the posture of the “heterodox” while signalling to their left-wing counterparts that they have no desire to disrupt the established hegemony. Rather, the New Right needs to move from the politics of pamphlets to the governance of the institutions. 

This piece — not so much a manifesto as a blueprint, not so much a blueprint as a call to arms — promised much and has set many minds racing, but some perspective is important. Rufo has, after all, only taken one scalp — although, with the help of Chris Brunet — the mightily impressive one of Claudine Gay, (former) President of Harvard. But that is one more than the British right has taken in the last decade; in fact, during the last 13 years of Tory government, we have seen a great exodus of conservatives from public life, and conservative scalpings have been much more frequent; Sir Roger Scruton, Katharine Birbalsingh and Toby Young are just a few examples of high-profile conservatives who have been forced to withdraw from public appointments. 

If Rufo’s New Right Activism is to be transposed into the UK and the right is finally planning to “move from the politics of pamphlets to the governance of the institutions”, then it must add an extra step to Rufo’s game plan, right at the very outset of the process; identification. 

Britain has seen a gradual shift of power and money away from the political control of Ministers as a result of civil service reforms (and the decline of mass participation in politics, but I have not written about this yet), and the growing influence of what it refers to as “civil society”, the almost entirely astroturfed agglomeration of charities, institutions and NGOs that we know and despise as “the Blob”.

Conservatives have wasted 13 years in power allowing institutions to be weaponised against them without being prepared to dig in and defend

The Blob is an amorphous concept. There are some who claim it doesn’t exist, that it is “a right-wing cope, a more respectable version of the American right-wing paranoia about a ‘deep state,’ & its function is to obscure their own side’s inadequacies in actually governing the country, rather than illuminating anything insightful.” This latter point is certainly true — it increasingly being used as shorthand for Civil Service opposition — but the en masse capture of institutions by progressives and progressive ideology is so widespread as to be undeniable by an honest interlocutor. As a result the Blob is a much larger and more diverse ecosystem than just the Civil Service; they are not only the government but the government’s stakeholders, and are firmly established as the interface between the state and “civil society.”

In his speech to the Civil Society Summit recently, Keir Starmer set out his vision for engagement with the charity sector. His offer, as Freddy Hayward put it, was; “help us deliver the national missions and we won’t pester you about your latest exhibition on the slave trade.” Judging by his speech, Starmer plans to pay no attention to the notional neutrality of our institutions, and will give the Blob free reign whilst using the power of the state to entrench the progressive woke ideology it promulgates. Starmer does not need to offer the Blob more money or power; after all, after 13 years of Tory failure, it has already won. All he has to do is actualise the free hand it already has. 

The problem of the last 13 years, as Rufo puts it, has been that “the radical Left ruthlessly advances through the institutions, and the Right meekly ratifies each encroachment under the rubric of “neutrality.” Conservatives have wasted 13 years in power allowing institutions to be weaponised against them without being prepared to dig in and defend — other than via a segment on Talk TV, if the issue is high-profile enough. 

If conservatives are to make any headway in the War on Woke then we need structural analysis of the Blob (and fast) so we can be ready to roll back its frontiers when the time comes. Then — as they should have done for the last 13 years — deceptive, duplicitous and dishonest appeals to political neutrality must fall on deaf ears. Nature abhors a vacuum; power, being won, must be wielded. If we choose not to use it to our advantage, we must presume someone else will use it to theirs.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover