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Artillery Row

What the Conservatives should learn from Keir Starmer

The only way to reform the Tories is to purge

Last week’s MRP poll was not just calamitous for the Conservative Party, it was calamitous for everybody seeking to gain and hold power from the Right of British politics.

A rump Conservative Party on 66 seats, utterly overawed by Keir Starmer’s 302 seat majority, would still (just about) be the largest second party, thus able to form the official opposition. With access to legacy donors and broadcast media coverage, they will be able to bed-block against new right-wing challenger parties which seek to replace them. While much of continental Europe, and of course, the United States begins to turn decisively to the Right, Keir Starmer will have the ability to rig the Constitutional arrangements of the country permanently in favour of the Blob, virtually unopposed, with the left of his own party mutilated by deselections. In 2029 he will face a Right divided between a zombie Conservative Party, Matthew Goodwin’s political formation, Dominic Cummings’s Startup Party and whatever remains of Reform. 

It is a well worn trope of British politics that the left of the Labour Party is well meaning but completely unelectable — but this is also true of the left, or the “one nation” wing of the Conservative Party. After thirteen years of New Labour, David Cameron’s blend of fiscal conservatism and “big society” communitarianism was only able to achieve a Hung Parliament.

The historical record is clear; “One-Nation” Conservatism is an unelectable platform

His re-election in 2015 was made possible, in part, due to his offering of the Brexit Referendum, which held with it the implicit chance to end mass immigration. Theresa May’s Government, which amongst other things severely curtailed stop and search and implemented mandatory gender pay gap data recording, almost lost to Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. 2019 saw the largest Tory majority since 1987, delivered by a Prime Minister who deselected Remainer MPs in his own party to show the electorate he was willing to fight institutions tooth and nail to deliver Brexit. Sunak’s brand of insipid centrism, spurred on by former Cameroons and new “centre-right” organisations like the Onward think-tank is leading the Conservative party to near extinction with a winning political formula of conscription and quadruple locked pensions.

The historical record is clear; “One-Nation” Conservatism is an unelectable platform. It is completely toxic, politically. The existence of challenger parties on the Right is possible only because the Conservative Party is still under the malign influence of individuals who believe that vast legal immigration is an unmixed economic good which creates “concerns” which must be addressed by listening. Who think that “trans” and “woke” are just culture war distractions from the next bold investment in Britain’s ever nascent life sciences industry. Who think that we must be a “Net Zero superpower” if we want to maintain our “soft power” abroad. There is no political constituency in Britain for these people. They are kept in Parliament because of tribal Tory voters and the fact that the alternative is usually worse.

It is a matter of life and death for the Right that such individuals are expelled from the Parliamentary Conservative Party, as much as it was for the Labour Party after the fall of Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. Only a reformed Conservative Party will be able to re absorb voters who have been let down by fourteen years of mass immigration and spiralling violent crime, who are now considering voting for Reform, or could be swept up by Matt Goodwin or Dominic Cummings while in opposition.

The last time that the Conservative Party was led to a crushing defeat by a centrist Prime Minister was in 1997; after which, the constitution of the Party was created in 1998 to determine governance. Whoever emerges as leader of the Party from the ashes of 2024 will be presented with a similar mandate to re-engineer the institution with a view to shifting it decisively to the Right. Greg Hands, then Chairman of the Conservative Party, began the process of reviewing the Constitution in August of 2023 by re-establishing the Constitutional Review Committee. But a new leader would be wise to take an active role in this process.

Starmer’s campaign of purging which began in 2020 provides a blueprint for how the Conservative Party could be wrested into being an electable party. CCHQ, after a significant change in personnel, must be given the same powers as Labour’s NEC to impose candidates on to selections, and a more prominent role in setting direction for policy making to ensure ideological coherence. A more formalised disciplinary structure within CCHQ for MPs could also provide the means for sanctioning MPs who break with important party lines while in opposition. The Constitution could provide the means for formalising the ideology of the Conservative Party, similar to the famous clauses in the original Labour Party Rule Book, marking a formal, radical departure from the tired adage that Conservatism is “a disposition”.

This is an opportunity to identify politically toxic views like belief in the Net Zero Agenda or continued mass immigration or EDI, and to permanently filter them from the party’s bloodstream. If the Conservative Party wants to regain power it will have to treat voiced support of radical gender ideology à la Alicia Kearns in the same way that Keir Starmer’s Labour has treated voiced opposition to NATO. 

the vast majority of “One-Nation” MPs are simply interested in being in power for its own sake

Unlike the left of the Labour Party, comprised of sincere ideologues, the vast majority of “One-Nation” MPs are simply interested in being in power for its own sake. Once it is clear that they will have to take divisive stances to remain formally part of the Right, many will either defect from the Party or simply leave politics altogether. Any attempt to form a distinct centre-right political party is likely to go the way of John Stevens’s 1999 “Pro-Euro Conservative Party” — absolutely nowhere. 

The principle concern of these individuals is how they are received socially in London, and how easily they will be able to transition i to a professional career once their spell in Parliament is over. They are the biggest deadweight in British politics, one that serves Keir Starmer well, and the country very poorly. No matter your opinion, as someone on the Right, of the Conservative Party and its record in government, it is in your direct political, and indeed, material interests, to see them ousted from the Conservative Party deliberately and methodically.

Whingeing about the Conservative Party is easy. Changing it into a useful vehicle for radical change is not. That was the challenge that the monetarists adjacent to the Conservative Party faced in the 1970s. A cool reckoning with the fundamental facts of power is what this historical moment demands of people alive to the destruction of this country by egalitarian ideology and moral cowardice.

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