We woke up in England last Sunday morning to hear the good news from Down Under, pleased for our Australian kinsmen but despairing that we would never, it seemed, have the guts to do to what they had done: elect a proper conservative to rule our country.
The last time it happened here, after all, was 1987. I know we had a notionally Conservative government after 1992, when John Major received the endorsement of the electorate, but anyone who thinks he was a conservative clearly
hasn’t been paying attention. Since then, the sort of policies that got the juices of the Australian electorate flowing during the recent campaign have been considered unacceptable to discerning Pom voters.
Mind you, it is not the voters themselves that have ruled them out of court: it is the namby-pamby, effete, guilt-stricken leadership of the so-called Conservative party that has chosen to put an end, effectively, to British conservatism.
We British conservatives looked with envy and admiration at a conservative politician who talked of the urgency of reducing the size of the state and of the public payroll. George Osborne, our inadequate Chancellor of the Exchequer, will tell you that he has done this: but he has done it in a half-hearted way. Our local government in Britain is still packed with people doing jobs that simply do not need doing, and any consideration about sacking them is balanced with wondering what the Labour party here would say about it: for the British Conservative party is still reluctant to concede that public services should exist for the benefit of the public and not for the benefit of those who work in them.
We envied and admired, too, Mr Abbott’s repudiation of the notion that industry must be sabotaged by higher taxes and officious regulation in order to propitiate the obsessives who believe in man-made global warming. Last weekend British newspapers carried satellite pictures of the ice cap at the North Pole, which appeared to be considerably larger in size than it was a year ago. For the present Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, David Cameron, being keen on reducing our carbon emissions and propitiating the thermomaniacs is a crucial part of proving that the Conservatives are no longer what the present Home Secretary, Theresa may, once called ‘the nasty party’. It has failed to permeate Mr Cameron’s skull that those who are keenest on promoting the idea of man-made global warming are also those who are among society’s most militant anti-capitalists. These people wish business to be subjugated to the state and preferably, insofar as it is deemed necessary, nationalised: and until such times as it is nationalised, to be taxed as cripplingly as possible.
The tyranny of environmentalism in Britain — the carpeting of our countryside and coasts with wind-farms, the installation of solar panels in a country where the sun famously shines all too rarely, and the taxation of petrol and diesel to a point where travel or the transportation of goods becomes prohibitively expensive — has seriously undermined our economy. How wonderful for our Australian cousins that they are shortly to be free of such obstacles.
Then there is Mr Abbott’s dislike of high taxation. Our coalition government here has been reluctant to cut taxation, in case it means that more money ends up in the pockets of so-called rich people, some of whom might even be or have been investment bankers. This has not been a policy inflicted upon the Conservatives in the coalition by its Liberal Democrat partners, people who poses as centrists but who are in practice from the syndicalist Left; it was one embraced by the Conservative party before it went into coalition, in the interests, again, of not being perceived as ‘nasty’.
At the 2009 Conservative party conference — I stress, before the party went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats — the then shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, expressed his reluctance to cut taxes. He kept his word for three years, nibbling away at the top rate in April this year by cutting it from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. The overall burden of taxation is suffocating; and the government also fails to understand what happens when it cuts taxes for so-called ‘rich’ people. When ‘rich’ people have more disposable income they tend to spend it on goods or services produced or provided by poor people, thereby keeping them in employment.
Perhaps Mr Osborne, who is now our Chancellor of the Exchequer, will note how Australia fails to sink into the gutter when Mr Abbott gets around to cutting taxes; indeed, he may even note how it goes from economic strength to strength as he witnesses the reduction is the suffocating presence of the state.
But true conservatism is not just about economic matters. We in Britain have noticed how a man is able to be elected Prime Minister of Australia while being opposed to the idea of people of the same sex ‘marrying’ each other. Our own Prime Minister, David Cameron, proudly told a Conservative conference that it was precisely because he was a conservative that he believed in same-sex marriage so forcefully as he did. He brushed aside the objections of the deeply religious, who felt his definition of the concept made a mockery of the term. He also brushed aside the reservations of conservative atheists — there are such people, and I speak as one — who felt the very idea offended profoundly against logic. Again, to have persisted with the status quo would have been a conservative policy, but it would also have been a ‘nasty’ one.
Perhaps Australia was lucky. Between them, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard made such a disaster of their six years in office that perhaps even a fascist hyena would have won had it led the Liberal party. But then — hang on — David Cameron, when he fought the last British election, was up against Gordon Brown, who wrecked our economy and appeared to be bonkers. And he is now up against Ed Miliband, who is a national laughing-stock.
As Mr Cameron scrabbles around looking for a way of winning the next election, it is obvious he could do worse than seek to emulate Mr Abbott: for emulation would allow him to connect with that large swath of the British electorate revolted by leftism and political correctness. Or could it be, perhaps, that Mr Cameron is not quite so revolted by those things as they are?
Simon Heffer is political columnist of the Daily Mail in London and author of several books, including Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell.