bojo
© REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo
From culture to the economy, they're drifting ever leftwards
The prime minister lauding Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" this week is just the latest step along the Conservative Party's long road to leftism. He's not so much a "Brexity Hezza" as a wetter version of Ted Heath.

The Conservative Party appears to be increasingly in need of a name change. Devotees of the Guardian, New Statesman and lefty Twitter would have you believe that Boris Johnson's Tories are the "most right-wing government in 50 years." They act as if BoJo is Maggie Thatcher on amphetamines, about to deregulate everything, slash the top rate of income tax to about 15 percent, deport anyone who doesn't have a double-barrelled surname, and sell Wales to Best Western Hotels. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is virtually nothing about this government, nor the previous nine years of Tory-led rule in Britain, that can be construed as a "conservative" policy. Indeed, in many ways they have in fact been more left wing than any Labour government in history, particularly on cultural and social issues.

And now that Johnson is invoking the big-spending FDR as his new inspiration (he does have a fondness for WWII leaders) to get Britain out of the economic hole dug by his own coronavirus lockdown, the Tories look set to sail further left on the only aspect of their party that could still be considered remotely conservative.

Regardless of one's personal view of some of these issues, it is impossible to argue that the position taken by the Tory Party is a conservative one. Most recently, they passed yet further liberalization of the divorce laws allowing for "no fault divorces." Obviously, the prime minister's, and indeed many other Tory MPs', somewhat elastic view of fidelity is well documented, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is a distinctly un-conservative act.

Likewise, the establishment of gay marriage under David Cameron. Again, one's personal vieSee also:w of this issue is irrelevant, but it is by no stretch a "conservative" policy to introduce it. Even Barack Obama said marriage was "between a man and woman" when he was running for president in 2008, because the contrary view was viewed as too liberal and radical even for a Democrat.

Some will point to the Tories' scrapping of plans to allow people to change their legal gender by "self-identifying" as male or female as an indication of Boris' government being "reactionary." But these concepts were just the preserve of lunatic lefty lecturers half a decade ago, so resistance to them is more accurately described as moderate, rather than right-wing.

Moving away from social issues, the Tories' spending record isn't exactly a model of thrift and self-control. Even before the government started flinging around cash like a premier league footballer in Spearmint Rhino to cope with the lockdown, the party's most recent manifesto committed themselves to an enormous amount of spending.

For starters, there was £33.9 billion ($42.4 billion) more for the NHS by 2023-24 (this has obviously already been blown out of the water by coronavirus), with any notion of making savings or improving efficiency never coming into it, just a pledge to fling yet more money at our perpetually in-crisis healthcare system.


Comment: Over the past few decades governments of all stripes have been defunding and deforming the NHS in such a way so as to justify privatisation.


On infrastructure, they are committed to a variety of projects including transport upgrades such the HS2 high speed rail plan, Crossrail, the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Rail hub to the tune of billions; £350 million ($438.2 billion) to improve cycling infrastructure, as well as £2 billion ($2.5 billion) going just on filling in potholes.


Comment: All this and yet public transport has never been more expensive and unreliable; and again, the blame lies with both the Tories and Labour.


There was a time when a Conservative government would have given some of this over to local authorities, but not now. Boris Johnson, despite his reputation as a hard-line Tory, has, as they say, never seen a bridge he doesn't like the look of. And this was all before he invoked the memory of FDR this week and pledged to "build, build, build" Britain's way out of the downturn. John Maynard Keynes would be thrilled.

Even allowing for the Tory Party's fondness for spending, their priorities are interesting. The supposed party of law and order defunded the police budget by 18 percent, overseen by Theresa May back when she was home secretary, and yet people bafflingly viewed her as competent.

We are now living with the results of this, with widespread yobbery and hooliganism blighting our streets dressed up as protests. Knife crime has sky-rocketed, with London gaining international notoriety for being the stabbing capital of the world. Tories have been quick to blame London Mayor Sadiq Khan for this, and while he does bear a good share of the blame by abolishing "stop and search," the overall cuts instituted by the central government has played a part. This is ignoring the terrorist attacks that have become so frequent and unremarkable they pass out of the news cycle within days. Anyone remember Reading?


Likewise, their tax record doesn't read like a Randian dream. Yes, they cut the top rate of income tax when they came in from 50 percent to 45 percent, bringing the Tory Party's income tax policy in line with the Communist Party of China. They have constantly floated the idea of slashing corporation tax, but this always gets shelved for one reason or another. Then there was the increase in VAT from 17.5 percent to 20 percent in 2011. They have also long teased traditional Tory voters with abolishing inheritance tax, but that too somehow always falls by the wayside.

Some will argue that their commitment to Brexit is a right-wing position, but given that it was most widely supported in former Labour heartlands, that argument holds about as much water as a colander. Others may say their much vaunted "Australian style" points-based immigration system is right-wing, but again this seems nonsense.

Both moves could be described as "populist" or "anti-globalist" but does the left really want to completely cede the ground of controlling borders and national sovereignty to the right? There is also some data that suggests this "points system" won't actually reduce the levels of immigration into the UK anyway.

These CINOs - Conservatives In Name Only - have also completely drunk the Kool-Aid on climate change. A Conservative government is committed to a zero-carbon economy by 2050. A Conservative government is committed to forming a new Office for Environmental Protection. A Conservative government has pledged £800 million ($1 billion) on building a fully deployed carbon capture storage cluster (whatever the hell that is) by the mid-2020s. All the while just committing to the bare minimum defence spending, which we are bound to do as part of our membership of NATO.

And then we come to the icing on the cake, the lockdown. The supposed party of "personal responsibility," the party committed to "freedom of the individual," has destroyed freedoms that have been guaranteed to Englishmen since Magna Carta.

The party of business shut virtually all of them down. The party of liberty banned people from going to the pub and fined them for flouting social distancing rules while having a picnic in the park. The party of enterprise paid millions of people a state wage to stay at home.

Then, to add insult to injury, these new powers that were enforced with gusto when it was people sitting peacefully in the park or traveling to different parts of the country, were not implemented to stop left-wing riots.

The fact that the statue of Winston Churchill had to be boarded up while Boris Johnson, who constantly cites him as an inspiration, is in Number 10 is a perfect metaphor for the state of the party. Johnson apparently described himself as a "Brexity Hezza" earlier this year, referencing the liberal, pro-Europe opponent of Mrs Thatcher, Michael Heseltine. I fear he may actually be worse, and be more like Ted Heath, another CINO prime minister who is best remembered for overseeing the three-day working week and giving in to the unions in the 1970s.

The current Conservative Party may be many things, but conservative isn't one of them. I mean they can't even liberalize fox hunting rules with an 80-seat majority in even a nod to their traditional base. They're just social democrats in blue ties, nothing more.
Guy Birchall, British journalist covering current affairs, politics and free speech issues. Recently published in The Sun and Spiked Online. Follow him on Twitter @guybirchall