If the Conservative party were your refrigerator, all your food would go bad. If it were your car or bicycle, you would be stranded by the side of the road. If it were your accountant, you would be bankrupt. If it were your lawyer, you would be in prison. No commercial organisation or product so completely fails to fulfil the claims made on its packaging.
The Conservative party claims to stand for national independence, tradition, law and order, rigorous education, low taxation and light regulation, strong armed forces, the family and marriage. Its very name commits it to the defence of the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Under the leadership of David Cameron the party claims to be both rejuvenated and to have discovered a new form of conservatism somehow acceptable to modern Britain. But open the tin, and what do we find?
Let us take national independence. This is the party which enthusiastically took Britain into the Common Market, campaigned for it to stay in the Common Market, negotiated the Single Market and the Single European Act and the Treaty of Maastricht, repeatedly giving away chunks of independence. It is the party which, after two years posing as ‘sceptical’ and dishonestly promising a referendum on the issue, last November accepted the European Constitution as a fait accompli. Any alert observer had known for years that the promise could not be kept without a fundamental challenge to Britain’s membership of the EU. It is hard to believe that Mr Cameron did not know this, or that he did not know his promises of safeguards against further EU advances were meaningless and politically illiterate. As for tradition, the Tories have failed utterly to defend the House of Lords against Labour efforts to abolish the hereditary peerage and replace the House of Lords with a chamber of whipped party placemen. Last November, David Cameron gave decisive support to a would-be parliamentary candidate, Elizabeth Truss, who was until recently an openly anti-monarchist member of the Liberal Democrat party. Mr Cameron even led his MPs in a standing ovation for the departing Prime Minister, Anthony Blair, so (amongst other things) helping to destroy the immemorial convention that members of parliament do not applaud in the chamber. As for education, the Tory party has entirely embraced the egalitarian programme put forward by Anthony Crosland, who believed that comprehensive education would be a far more effective route to a socialist society than the nationalisation of industry. Mr Cameron committed the Conservative party formally to laws banning the creation of new grammar schools, except to ease overcrowding in the few areas where they already exist.
It is very difficult to tell from Mr Cameron’s published words what his actual policy is on crime and disorder. He has spoken in favour of ‘toughness’, but also of ‘understanding’, which suggests that he will continue with his party’s long-standing policy of punitive-seeming gimmicks, concealing a sociological approach to crime, dismissing the views of Conservative supporters as reactionary and barbaric.
Another interesting episode in Mr Cameron’s leadership illustrates the way in which he has mopped up the last-remaining puddles of moral, social and cultural conservatism in his party. On 21 June 2006, Mr Cameron journeyed to a meeting of the National Family and Parenting Institute. While covering his right flank by promising symbolic tax breaks for married couples, he swiftly covered his left flank again by making clear that this would also include homosexual civil partners. Would that the radical left had been so coy, and so restrained.
But they are not. In all that they do they work with diligence and determination, never abandoning their goals, never accepting a defeat, always seeking to secure the victory of their ideas. And then moving — when they have office — to introduce the changes they have sought. And fighting like tigers if anyone even dreams of undoing their ‘progressive’ and ‘modernising’ reforms. Their only fault is that on almost every issue they are damagingly wrong.
There has never been a better time for a self-confident, intellectually coherent challenge to the left, on the grounds that it has failed. But the modern Conservative party offers no such challenge. It seeks only to manage the Fabian, Social Democratic state more efficiently and at a lower cost. It does not know what is wrong with multiculturalism. It chooses not to understand the nature of the European Union’s seizure of our sovereignty, or the political importance of mass immigration without any attempt at integration. It does not realise that a system which is not prepared to punish wrongdoing will get more wrongdoing, and a government which subsidises idleness will get more idleness. It does not see that proper education is a conservative activity requiring authority and an accepted canon of knowledge. It does not understand that marriage, the mighty archway around which the cathedral of the family is built, must be privileged far above all other relationships if it to survive. Its enemies understand which pillars to smash to bring down our conservative society. It is time they were opposed.
The Tory party has made it clear, time without number, that it has no stomach for any such fight. It should make way for someone who does.
This is an abridged extract from The Cameron Delusion by Peter Hitchens, published this week by Continuum Books. Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.