Sean Gabb on Tony Blair and David Cameron

Sean Gabb

Several people have asked me to comment on the ConDem Coalition and on Mr Blair’s memoirs. Bearing in mind that Mr Blair approves so strongly of the present Ministry, you may find this article from five years ago worth looking at again. I think I rumbled these people pretty well!

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 142
14th December 2005

David Cameron and the Conservative Party:
A Farewell to the Quisling Right?
by Sean Gabb


Half a dozen times this year, I have promised myself I would not write again about the Conservative Party. I have nothing left to say about it. What I can say I have said perhaps too often. This being so, my Dear Readers, I write for my amusement, not yours, and I feel drawn to comment on the election of David Cameron as Leader of the Conservative Party.

I will say at once that I unreservedly welcome his election. Given our current political circumstances, it is about the most encouraging development which anyone of good will might desire.

In part, I say this without irony. Tony Blair is not merely a bad Prime Minister – he is also a profoundly bad man. He is driven by a hatred of England and its people. He is a liar, a traitor, a war monger. He has the blood of thousands on his hands. Not since the time of James II have we had a government directed so plainly to the abolition of our liberties. At no time in our history has an attack on these liberties been so sustained or so successful. So far as he opposes the continual forward drive of the Blair Government, and so far as he might be able to replace it, I welcome the election of Mr Cameron. This is not saying much. Let it be granted that they might combine, and that they might also be able to beat Mr Blair, I should probably welcome a coalition of George Galloway, Abu Hamza and Nick Griffin. The most important short term objective of anyone who cares about England must be to pull down Tony Blair and to execrate his memory.

The main part of my welcome, though, must be ironic. By his election, Mr Cameron has shown beyond reasonable doubt that the Conservative Party cannot be regarded as either actually or prospectively a party of conservatives.

Yes, he has announced his intention to withdraw Conservative Members from the European People’s Party in the European Parliament. This is regarded as a further hardening of the Conservative position on our membership of the European Union, and has gathered condemnation from all the usual suspects.

However, while it remains a threat, the European Union is no longer the most active threat to our personal liberties and national independence. Indeed, the standard Eurosceptic view of the European Union has never been correct. There has been no real conflict between an imperial project led by the French and Germans and our own matchlessly perfect system of government. From the beginning, our membership of the European Union has been mainly an enabling device for our own ruling class to evade the restraints of the old Constitution. From the money laundering laws to compulsory metrication to the relaxation of procedural safeguards in criminal cases, British Governments have used the machinery of the European Union to achieve ends that would have been at least much harder had it been necessary to argue for them as original legislation in a sovereign Parliament.

Today—and I always grant it remains a threat in the sense described—the European Union has outlived much of its usefulness as an enabler of despotism. As conceived by the other big member states, the European project lacks economic rationality. And for the avoidance of doubt, I will say that this is not the same as the system of voluntary exchange that is at the heart of liberalism: it is a set of heavily regulated markets within which state-privileged trading bodies compete for profit and market share. But if this is not what the liberal economists mean by a free market, it is far too “neo-liberal” for most political elites in Europe. And the costs of their opposition are beginning to outweigh the procedural benefits of membership. Besides, in the “war on terror”, our ruling class has discovered another enabling device to which continued membership of the European Union is increasingly a hindrance.

For this reason, Conservative withdrawal from a federalist grouping in the European Parliament—even a further hardening of opposition to British adoption of the Euro—cannot at the end of 2005 be taken as the victory we might have proclaimed at the end of 1999. Politics are not a tug of war, in which our allies and enemies are a constant, and success is measured in terms of feet gained or lost. Politics its instead a complex dance. For us, its successful conclusion may be fixed—this being our restoration as the free citizens of an independent country. But its progress requires a continual change of partners and of incidental direction. In such a view of politics, to be given now what once we dearly wanted is not necessarily to be given what we need now.

And against this one concession, we have the acceptance by the new leadership of virtually the whole of the New Labour settlement. Will a Cameron Government repeal the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Civil Contingencies Act, and all the lesser abolitions of procedural safeguards? Will it abolish any of the regulatory agencies that tell us what to say and read and eat and drink, and whom to employ and what to pay them? Will it argue against the fixed view that, while taxes may be undesirable, government spending is a good? Will it allow us to throw away the biometric identity cards with which the Blair Government is trying to festoon us? Will it lift the hand of political correctness form our lives? Will it end the racial and sexual balkanisation of the country? I think not. Based on what has been said, and on what I know of the people saying it, the Conservative leadership has not the slightest intention of undoing the revolution of the past eight years.

We have instead, a championing of the fashionable lies about anthropogenic global warming—a mass of self-interested falsehoods besides which the holocaust revisionism for which David Irving is about to be martyred seems almost common sense. Since I have in the past received funding form his relatives, and hope for more in the future, I am reluctant to say anything unpleasant about Zachary Goldsmith. But I can have no faith in any party that asks him to advise on environmental policy.

Above all, we have the promise of a Conservative Party that is “less white and less male”. Now, it cannot be denied that most present Conservative candidates for Parliament would be disbelieved if shown as a parodic sketch at the Edinburgh Festival. The best of them are corrupt liars. The others are incompetent, lustful sheep. They all look as if they fell from the womb with a pinstripe afterbirth. There can be no objection in principle to widening the search for candidates. There can be no objection in principle to widening the search for candidates beyond the white, middle class males who now get selected. I have black students whose opinions on every issue from Europe to hanging, by way of immigration and the importance of family life, would get them a standing ovation in any meeting of conservative activists. I have homosexual friends who would like to see Tony Blair swinging from a lamp post.

But let us be honest. What the Conservative leadership really wants is not a system of selection that would get such people into Parliament. It is instead a scheme to attract people who look diverse, but who are not. The new candidates will come out with the same ritualised utterances about freedom and the English way as we get at present. Their only contribution will be to add a fashionable obsession with “sexism”, “racism”, “homophobia”, and the need to counter these with a still more enlarged and active state.

And all this is to be welcomed. It is to be welcomed in the sense that a man in financial difficulties should pay more attention to his bank statements than to fantasising about the next lottery draw. What we shall have under Mr Cameron is a change not of direction but of rhetoric. The Conservative Party has never in my lifetime been a party of conservatives. It has at best been a party of corporatist privilege that spoke a vaguely conservative language. It has been the party of the Quisling Right—of men who implied promises of action without making them, or who made promises without any intention of keeping them. Time and again, they have been believed, only to disappoint. When was the last Conservative Government to leave office with a significantly lower burden of tax and regulation than it inherited? When was there one that expanded the sphere of personal freedom? Not in my lifetime. Not in yours. Not, I can think, in the past hundred years.

Had David Davis been elected Leader of the Party, I have no doubt he would have continued the Quisling Right tradition. He had all the right credentials to reach out to conservative opinion in the country, and to neutralise it by pretending to champion it. David Cameron has no such advantage. He will, I have no doubt, sound conservative on increasingly marginal issues such as Europe. But his main strategy seems to be an attempt to replace Tony Blair in every sense.

During the past few years, a vacancy has been emerging within the Establishment. This is a loose coalition of bureaucratic, big business, media and educational interests, and is held together by an agenda of economic rationality and gross authoritarianism. It emerged in the early 1980s and attached itself to the Thatcher Government. In the middle 1990s, it abandoned the Major Government, attaching itself instead to New Labour. Though never much constrained in practice by them, the Conservatives still contained social and ideological interests hostile to the new order of things; and there was a residual social conservatism about the leaders that held them from a public sharing of the regulated, politically correct hedonism of the new Establishment lifestyle. Tony Blair had smashed the true believers in his own party, and was socially and ideologically at one with the new order, and had a most useful charm when it came to reaching out to the masses.

It seemed for a long time that the preferred Establishment model for our politics was a one-party state. New Labour was to rule forever, and only enough opposition was to be tolerated to keep up the basic pretence of democracy. Since the disaster of the Iraq War, however, Mr Blair has lost the confidence of the Establishment. He has plainly gone mad in office. More important than that, his charm has worn too thin to sustain him in office by any reasonable help from the Establishment. His most likely successor, Gordon Brown, lacks any charm at all, and seems too close to the remaining core of true believers in the Labour Party. Certainly, his endless interventions and taxes have come close to damaging the prosperity on which our whole system of government now relies for legitimacy. With him as Prime Minister, there might be some return to an older and less profitable kind of statism. Even if he has himself forgotten the socialism he used to preach, he must give something to his natural supporter. The “Orange Book” tendency in the Liberal Democrat Party are making the right noises, but are hampered by an electoral base that may take several more electoral cycles to expand into credibility.

That leaves the Conservative Party. Its conservative and libertarian elements have already been purged by time and active malevolence to the outer limits of influence. Given a leadership that fully embraces the new order of things, it can be allowed—even encouraged—to recover. And this is what has happened.

If the Conservatives are recovering in the polls, this is only because it is permitted by an Establishment that once did all to keep the Party weak. Just notice how much money is now flowing towards them—and not money from lone eccentrics like Paul Sykes, but money from solidly Establishment corporatists. If Mr Cameron can only continue his so far relentless sucking up to the Establishment, he stands every chance of winning the next election.

But if there is to be another Conservative Government, this will not, even in form, be a government of conservatives. We shall be presented with a political system in which the two main parties differ from each other in the way that Pepsi differs from Coke. The next election, I am sure, will not be a contest between two parties, one of which might still frighten the Establishment by its need to deceive a dwindling core of conservative activists. It will instead be nakedly a contest between the two wings of a single Establishment Party. Those activists will then be like the unfortunates at the end of George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Some of these, I have no doubt, will creep back to their stalls to await the next set of lies to jolly them along. Others, I hope, will go away and think what to do next.

So, thank you, Mr Cameron. Your honesty will be much appreciated.

10 responses to “Sean Gabb on Tony Blair and David Cameron

  1. So the first thing dear David did was not call a referendum on the EU.
    It does indeed seem that whoever is “up there” the policies taken on board and the actions taken are always such that they never seriously divert the ship of state from its course to a unified, centralised system of organisation and control.

  2. No one has mentioned the abolition of certain quangos and the increased transparency in public spending.

    These aren’t nothing.

  3. @C.H. Ingoldby – of Course they are nothing to these people – I have read this twice with mounting confusion – illogical, manipulative and very special pleading.

    I am left with the increasing belief that people like Mr Gabb would have much preferred another four years of the Labour disaster foisted upon the long suffering public than have his bette noir David Cameron elected to office. For that I don’t think I could forgive him.

  4. It will be interesting to see where things go but it seems that “tokenism” and simple window dressing will be the order of the day.
    Sure, one must respect every move that is made in the right direction but the measures so far are nothing that seriously affect the “controlist” structure of the state.
    A referendum of the EU would have been rather more substantial.

  5. I think too many Libertarians find it too easy to direct there fire on Conservatives for being insufficently Libertarian and ideologically pure than they do on the Socialists who are not so much misguided but the actual deliberate apostales of Collectivist/Communitarian ideas.

    Here’s a radical idea, how about praising the Conservatives as loudly when they do something good as criticising them when they do things that are bad.

    Cameron isn’t a Libertarian, but he has scapped ID cards, made public spending more transparent (which is a BIG weapon) and some serious Quangoes have been closed. As for the near future, very severe spending cuts are on the way.

    So, we could sit back and carp about the missing EU referendum and dismiss everything as ‘tokenism’ or we could contrast what is happening now with the Labour/LibDem alternative.

  6. Hi CH,

    [[carp 1 (kärp)
    To find fault in a disagreeable way; complain fretfully.
    A fretful complaint.

    See Synonyms at quibble.
    quib·ble (kwbl)
    1. To evade the truth or importance of an issue by raising trivial distinctions and objections.
    2. To find fault or criticize for petty reasons; cavil.
    1. A petty distinction or an irrelevant objection.
    2. Archaic A pun. ]]

    I don’t think any of the above applies to my view on things. Using the word carp is an ad hominen and also a straw man insofar as it is a misrepresentation of my position.
    I don’t mind, but in the minefield of deception through which we have to think, I think it is essential to stay as accurate as possible.
    You prefer a more “hands on” approach?
    Okay. That is your preference but ultimately it must diverge from the way of freedom.

    Cameron’s government has gone some way in the direction of freedom. All strength to his arm in that respect and may he go much further!

  7. John B, the fact is that a lot of Libertarians do spend a lot of time carping at conservative type politicians for being insufficently Libertarian while completely ignoring all and any good, freedom advancing actions they take.

    To point that out is most certainly not an ad hominen or a strawman, it is a simply matter of fact.

    So, Libertarians can stay in the customary mode of carping from the sidelines or they can engage more constructively, praising when the government acts positively and criticising when it acts negatively. It would have much more effect than just carping.

  8. “As for the near future, very severe spending cuts are on the way.”

    That’s nothing to rejoice at. The poor are further impoverished while the well-connected rich get richer. Since impoverishment means reduced freedom, it can hardly be libertarian; and those made poorer are — to flirt with understatement — hardly likely to enthuse when you present Social Darwinism in libertarian guise.


  9. Tony Hollick, Government spending does not mean freedom and it does not ultimately help the poor. Government spending stifles the economy and the culture. It traps the poor in a morass of poverty they can not escape from.

    To seriously try to argue that government spending should be supported from a Libertarian point of view is absurd. It is the Libertarian point of view that the State and its spending should shrink dramatically, precisely because this will increase peoples freedom and liberty. To equate that with ‘social darwinism’ is completely false and mistaken.

  10. Male time 2:04:25Female time 2:25:52