Ed West

Tony Blair’s cultural revolution has won, at least in the Conservative Party

Tony Blair's cultural revolution has won, at least in the Conservative Party
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As Rod pointed out the other day, Arthur Scargill’s purchase of his council flat illustrated the triumph of Thatcherism over its opponents; like any winning ideology it created the conditions for its followers to flourish and increase in number, and so securing the revolution.

That’s one of many things that Tony Blair had in common with the Conservative leader; New Labour created the conditions, through an expanded and often highly-politicised public sector, for Blairites to flourish and therefore for Blairism to triumph, not just at the ballot box but culturally too. Look at London, where a generation ago one could expect wealthy areas to vote overwhelmingly Conservative; today the cultural influence of Kensington and Chelsea has stalled while that of Hampstead and Highgate has spread, and the result is a new liberal middle class consciously hostile to cultural conservatism.

A sure sign of this triumph is that many new Tory MPs sound and act like Blairites. I was thinking of Elizabeth Truss’s comment in today’s papers about a lack of suitable toys putting girls off maths and science. Without wishing to rake over this old argument again, there is actually no correlation between a country’s maths score gap and its general sexual equality, and on this front Britain, Denmark and Finland are beaten by those bastions of feminism UAE, Qatar and Jordan.

What’s striking though are her assumptions about the science behind sexual differences and the state’s role in children’s development; reading them you’d be hard pressed to guess she was a Conservative at all. Perhaps strangest of all is a Tory using ‘Victorian’ in a derogatory way in regards to teaching, when the Victorian period was one of huge progress in education, a lot of it independent of the state. (As I have remarked before, the Victorian age is the only one that is judged by the society it inherited, not the one it left behind. After all, would you rather have lived in 1837 or 1901?)

Then there was Anna Soubry and her attack on Nigel Farage, accusing him of ‘scaremongering’ and putting ‘fear in people’s hearts’. A lot of Tories would oppose Farage, but Soubry’s tone, that assumption that to disagree is not just mistaken but actually a sign of immorality, is very, very un-conservative.

When Tory MPs talk and think like this, it’s clear that Blair’s cultural revolution has been successful, at least in Westminster.

In fact so successful that it has become very difficult for small-c conservatives to create the conditions where they might win again. On the other side of the party some MPs have made the argument for stigma in encouraging couples to stay together or get married in the first place. Taking aside the issue of whether children are disadvantaged by their parents not marrying, the Conservative Party certainly is, since women who are married with children are more likely to vote Tory than unattached, divorced or single mothers.

The permissive society is also very costly, and without it much of the welfare infrastructure could be scaled down and the tax burden reduced, so that perhaps we might return to a pre-war situation whereby the median-earning breadwinner supporting a family paid no income tax at all (and therefore it would be easier for median earners to start families).

But that would be very Victorian, I suppose.