You’d be hard pressed to be overly optimistic about the state of conservative politics in the developed English-speaking world right now. Leave Australia to one side for a moment and look around the rest of the Anglosphere. In my native Canada the Tories lost office in late 2015. Stephen Harper had been Prime Minister from 2006 till November 2015 when the Conservatives were routed. The left-of-centre Liberal Party won a thumping majority under the leadership of the son of a former Liberal Prime Minister. While Trudeau Snr was a really smart economic lefty, the son is an economic lefty minus his old man’s brains. Whether that’s a less bad option for conservatives I leave for others to decide. But as Justin is photogenic, has a good looking wife and kids, and spouts every imaginable PC nostrum going, he’s loved on social media and in the left-leaning mainstream media. The same CBC that hated Harper loves ‘Justin’. Barring severe economic straits it will be a good while before the Tories retake office there.
As for the United States, the Republicans are imploding. In the Westminster world it is much harder for the peasants to revolt than it is in the US’s State-by-State primary presidential system. And my Lord have the Republican-leaning peasants revolted. They are sick and tired of a Republican establishment that appears not to play to win. They control both Houses of Congress against President Obama but haven’t the nerve to block his big spending budgets. They resort to trickery to reauthorise the ExIm Bank. They put virtually no Bills on the President’s desk that he would be forced to veto. And so they get Mr Trump, a vulgar, vain, wholly unlikeable egotist. But the left-leaning media takes that and tries to paint him as a deranged, malevolent, creepy fool. He’s not. And notice the media bias here. Compare Trump to Ted Kennedy and ask who is the deranged, malevolent creep – the one who got a free pass from the press after leaving a woman to drown or the buffoon with the weird hair? Ditto with Bill Clinton. Or LBJ? And how many of the Hollywood stars right now mouthing their virtue-signalling bumper sticker moralising condemnations could themselves withstand the release of all of their own phone conversations going back 30 years? My money would not be on many of them. Sanctimonious hypocrites is what most are. So are many of the left-leaning media people.
Still, the Republicans are in big trouble. When top party figures explicitly disavow the person chosen by the vote of the party members over months and months, however dumb that choice, they ensure that strong Trump supporters will want retribution against future Republican candidates. All political parties in countries with majoritarian voting systems are basically broad church or big tent coalitions whose differing factions struggle for dominance. Part of the deal is that if another stream has the numbers it gets its chance. This unspoken deal is now toast in the US and it’s hard to see how the core Trump supporters, without whom the Republicans will never win, can be won back in the near future. Not by condescension and patronising them.
Then there’s here in Australia. The Liberal Party is trying the experiment of being led by the most left-leaning, inner city values-sharing leader in its history. Basically you have an ABC Ultimo man leading a supposedly right wing party. So a pro-Republic, queasy about stopping the boats, carbon tax loving, personally prefers a conscience vote to a plebiscite, not obviously opposed to Big Government guy is trying to drive a party whose core supporters probably disagree with him on, well, most big ticket things. (Think too Aboriginal Recognition in the Constitution; the merits of same-sex marriage; cutting back funding of the ABC; the list goes on and on.) The problems with this became abundantly plain at the last election and my bet is that things will only get worse. The Libs are now in the position that they cannot even bring themselves to openly and loudly defend cartoonist Bill Leak and attack the disgraceful abomination of 18C. No, too busy on that front Malcolm tells us. So all the Libs can boast about is the increased tax – sorry, budget ‘saving’ – on those with defined contribution super plans (the über generous defined benefit ones of top civil servants and ex-pollies remaining). I don’t think that’ll do it for the base.
Which brings us to the UK. Yes, across the Tasman in New Zealand Prime Minister Key keeps winning elections on a David Cameron-like agenda. But if your focus is restricted to jurisdictions of more than 4 million people then it’s only in the UK that things look even moderately rosy and bright for the right side of politics. With Jeremy Corbyn entrenched as Britain’s Labour leader it’s hard to imagine what could stop the Tories from winning the next election. And within the Conservative Party itself the Brexit vote (and as someone who strongly dislikes the democracy enervating aspects of the EU behemoth this was the best vote of my lifetime) has all but squashed for the foreseeable future the Labour-lite or Cameron/Osborne wing of the party. But even in Britain there are worries. Yes, Theresa May looks good on free trade. And thus far she is standing up to the mafia-like threats from the EU. Yet Mrs May also likes to make very unThatcher-like noises about ‘society’ and the role of an interventionist, force-for-good government.
For those of us on the small government, strong borders, Hobbesian right side of the political spectrum things are downright bleak at the moment when it comes to the US, Canada or even here in Australia. New Zealand and Britain offer the only grounds for some optimism, and even in those two places it is far from unvarnished.
“There is an argument that a free-enterprise magazine, opposed to excessive Statism and wary of socialism, should not accept tax-payers’ money.
“However, the counter to that is that leftist literary magazines like Meanjin, Overland and the rest receive grants now well in access of six figures, and are also supported by various Universities, despite their low circulation and often unreadable content, just as the politically-correct seem to have little trouble gaining grants for often ludicrous research projects.
“There can only be one end to this blatantly unfair situation unless we act: the last mkajor forum for conservative and liberal-democratic creative writers will be closed down. Overland, incidentally, has given notice that it will refuse to publish poetry by anyone who has appeared in Quadrant.”
It was a good night. Many of those who came either made new friendships or renewed old ones, and we agreed to form a “Friends of Quadrant” to repeat the exercise.