Sunday, May 02, 2010

The hidden Conservative agenda

Perhaps it is because I haven't been monitoring the blogosphere too much recently (work, work!), but I have seen no comment on this piece at the Libertarian Alliance blog. It is Sean Gabb's summary—made as a diary entry on the same night in 2007—of a conversation with someone who "was at the time a person of some importance in the Conservative leadership".

Sean warns that this conversation is most certainly not verbatim—in reality, the discussion "went back on itself and over itself, and covered several other issues"—but Gabb assures us that the substance is entirely correct, and the conversation a reality. For what it is worth, Sean's reporting of his own words strikes me as being entirely authentic.

And a most interesting discussion it is. I urge you to go and read the whole post in full—for it outlines some of the circumstances concerning how the evening came about, as well as communicating some editorial notes—but I believe that the conversation is of sufficient importance that I should quote the meat of it, in full (lengthy though it is), below.

The Diary Entry

Meeting with XYZ, The Charing Cross Hotel, Monday the 5th March 2007.

[After some small talk irrelevant to this entry, XYZ moves to an explanation of the Conservative strategy]

XYZ—The central fact of this nation is that its political and media classes are rotten to the core. These classes are made up of ageing radicals who’ve spent the past 30 years marching through the institutions, and of younger apparatchiks who don’t fully believe, but who accept the framework within which they operate. And it’s worse than this. A fish rots from the head down, and the rot in this nation has spread deep into the body. Key parts of the electorate may not consciously have embraced the statist and green and politically correct ideologies of the Establishment. But they have been desensitised to them. They regard any alternative as eccentric or even alarming.

SIG—This is, of course, your fault. You did nothing when you were in office about the capture of ideological hegemony by these people. You have certainly been the only political force able to make any serious challenge to it since 1997. You have entirely failed to do this. We are now a couple of years from yet another election in which you will take part as outsiders.

XYZ—You may be right, but that doesn’t change things now. What matters is that a Conservative Party that talks openly about a conservative agenda will be ruined by the Establishment. It will also not be believed even by the uncorrupted parts of the electorate—these have been lied to too often. Our only option is to announce a superficial acceptance of the new order of things. We must become as politically correct as everyone else. We must embrace blacks and gays and the public sector. We must give the Establishment no excuse for destroying us. This has succeeded so far as the Conservatives are now accepted as the next Government.

SIG—And you suppose that lying your way into office will give you a mandate for radical change? If you run as “Blue Labour”, that is how everyone will expect you to behave in office. Besides, I’ve seen no evidence that your friends are as clever as you doubtless are. Very few people can consistently say one thing while believing something else. The problem with any hidden agenda is that it gets forgotten. I saw this with all those Tory Boy politicians who drifted through the libertarian movement in the 1980s. Perhaps they did believe all their early protestations of libertarian purity. Long before they’d crawled their way over broken glass into Parliament, they’d come to believe all the authoritarian platitudes that had been the price of success. I don’t believe what you are saying is a credible strategy for doing more than getting yourself and your friends back into office.

XYZ—I’m not talking about a political coup. The next Conservative Government may do some of the necessary work of restoration. It will do this by undoing much of the centralisation of the past quarter century. [He refers at this point to a deeply unpleasant argument we had over dinner in May 1989. He accepts the critique of the centralisation and constitutional vandalism of the Thatcher and Major Governments, but tries to justify all this as a failed but honourable Leninist strategy of trying to smash the left. He accepts that this strategy was a failure and that it needs to be reversed.]

XYZ—Giving control of police forces to locally elected chiefs will ensure that some parts of the country will escape the political correctness of central government. There will be no scaling back of the police state, but it might be used more for its alleged purpose of fighting what everyone regards as actual crime. This means that safe Labour areas will continue their descent into the gutter. But places like Kent and Surrey will be allowed to save themselves to some extent.

XYZ—Taxes will be cut—but only by a division of the fruits of economic growth with continued high spending on health and education.

XYZ—All else will be done by engineering circumstances in which radical action will seem to have been forced on an unwilling Conservative Government. For example, the European issue will be settled by a strategy that beings with all the Majorite “heart of Europe” rhetoric. Our Government will make solidly Europhile noises, and will give way on matters that cause outrage within the wider Movement. However, we will then engineer a crisis in Brussels, where we are bullied into accepting what we say is unacceptable. The crisis will proceed to the point where we announce we have no choice but to call a referendum on continued membership. And there will be unacceptable demands from Brussels—that is how these things work. We can portray ourselves as forced by circumstances into actions that we find unwelcome but also unavoidable.

SIG—And suppose the people do not vote for withdrawal?

XYZ—Then we face facts. If we can’t engineer a vote for withdrawal—not even in our own carefully chosen circumstances—we’ve lost.

XYZ—We will tackle illegal immigration in the same way. Already, there are calls from within the Establishment for an amnesty of all the illegals. If granted, this will add at least ten million Labour voters to the electorate, and we shall be lost forever. In office, we will do nothing to check these calls. At last, we will give way to them—but only after calling a referendum. We will announce that a measure so bold and so unpredictable in its effect must be put to the people, not decided within the Establishment. We will then produce a ballot paper with a range of options. One of these will be for a complete amnesty. Another will be the rounding up and expulsion of all the illegals. Our Government will insist of having these options included on the ballot paper, and will then be scrupulously neutral during the campaign. We are sure that 80 per cent of the electorate will vote for expulsion. This will give the necessary mandate for getting them out. There will be room for exceptions so that the Establishment is not able to seize on the usual hard cases and discredit the whole policy. But that is our real policy on immigration.

XYZ—Again, we expect something like an 80 per cent vote for expulsion. That will give us the mandate to force the bureaucracy into ruthless action. It also gives us the excuse for ruthless action when the lefty complaints begin.

SIG—Even supposing I wanted any of this, I don’t believe a word you are saying. You forget everything Chris Tame and I were told in the 1980s about how the State could be scaled back by taking advantages of its own inner contradictions. All we got was a more efficient state. Why should I take any of what you are saying as more than self-delusion to lubricate a Tory sell-out to the ideological hegemony of the left?

XYZ—Look, it may fail. If, however, the next Conservative Government does nothing good, that still moves the argument forward. At the moment, most of our people are anaesthetised by a decade of prosperity and by the vague belief that all problems created by Labour can be sorted out by voting Conservative next time, or by voting UKIP. A Conservative failure will be a shot of cold water in the face. It will force people to make serious choices they don’t presently think are necessary.

SIG—The purpose of voting UKIP is mostly to put pressure on a Conservative leadership that understands no other argument than measuring the haemorrhage of its core vote. Indeed, it shows no sign of having understood that argument.

XYZ—Sean, UKIP has imploded. [He refers to an expenses dispute with the Electoral Commission that appeared set to bankrupt the UK Independence Party: this conversation took place two years before the UKIP victories in the 2009 European elections.] This attack was not wholly an outside job. The Electoral Commission bent over backwards to avoid taking the action it did. The problem is that the UKIP leadership is generally arrogant and shambolic. The party is not a serious alternative to the Tories—we never lose large numbers of votes to it in any election that matters. But the impending collapse of UKIP is to be welcomed in terms of short term electoral advantage. Our loss of votes to it is not critical, but is annoying. More importantly, that—plus your anticipated Tory failure in government—clears the way for what may be the next step in British politics.

SIG—This being another two decades of useless Conservative Governments?

XYZ—No. The UKIP collapse is good in the long term so far as it allows the BNP to move further into the political running. UKIP is a useful safety valve. But its leaders are too stupid—or too controlled—to present any serious threat to the Establishment. The [British National Party] is different. It can’t be smashed. The Establishment has tried and failed. Its leaders have known each other for decades, and are used to working together in ways the UKIP leadership and activists could never manage. It cannot advance far at the moment because the Conservatives stand in its way. If the next Conservative Government is the sort of failure you believe it will be, we shall be pushed aside, and the path will be clear for the BNP.

SIG—So that’s your argument. We keep our mouths shut while your people lie their way into office. If they mess up, the way is cleared for the BNP to do the job for you?

I do suggest that you read Sean's Comment, in which he expresses many of the misgivings that I also have—both about the desirability or the effectiveness of the strategy being espoused.

Sean and I do not see eye-to-eye on everything (although we probably share more than he might realise) but I think it is difficult to argue with his final conclusion.
All I can say now is that the Conservative leadership has spent the past three years of relentlessly accepting the present order of things. I think this conversation was before David Cameron’s embrace of Polly Toynbee. It was certainly before his announcements of – so far unrequited – love for the BBC and the National Health Service. This might really be the Conservative hidden agenda.

If, however, it is the hidden agenda, it is not working. As said, its principals may already have gone native: they may have come to believe their own propaganda. And it does seem that, even otherwise, it has failed. The proposed victims of the strategy have not been sufficiently lulled into acceptance of a Conservative victory; and the Conservative core vote has not held up in the manner required. The Conservatives are just over a week away from an election that they should win more convincingly than the Liberals won in 1906, and there is a serious chance that they will lose.

Why am I publishing this now? It may explain what the Conservatives are really about. Otherwise, though, the conversation did take place. XYZ was at the time a person of some importance in the Conservative leadership. This makes the conversation of some historical importance. I am not fully aware of the arguments that took place within the Conservative leadership before David Cameron had made himself entirely supreme. But, even if I cannot say anything of who was putting it or of its weight, what I recorded in 2007 may have been one of those arguments. Oh – and it may get me a footnote in one of the more scholarly histories of our age.

Indeed. If nothing else, it is an interesting insight into how some Tories might think—and, I must confess, some of its deviousness does appeal. In some ways, I would rather that events within our political Establishment were more akin to House of Cards than Yes, Minister, that the political class might have the conviction to attempt to manipulate the entire population rather than—as Matthew Parrish asserts is the casekowtow before it.

At the same time, I am only too aware that such manipulation has—where one might have suspected it to have happened in the past—often been to the detriment of the British people. It is not something that I would condone, but there is always something rather splendid about a truly audacious plan—especially when it works.

Still. Ultimately, only time will tell whether any of Sean's conversation with XYZ is still relevant: if it is, it might make the political landscape more interesting—or (and, possibly, "and") more terrifying—than it has been in a long time...


Gareth said...

Politicians talk crap. Why believe any of this is anything other than a daydreaming Conservative trying to talk tough?

Interesting figure on the immigration amnesty - that it would bring 10 million Labour votes. There was an article some time ago in the Independent repeating the comments from two business people, one in the supermarket industry and the other escapes me, both of whom reckoned there were at least 10 million more mouths being fed than the official figures suggest.

I put it down to lardy people and tourists but perhaps there is some truth in it afterall. However, 10 million is surely a gross exaggeration. The Home Office can't have been that crap, can they?

Labour got in by promising to stick to Conservative plans whilst not being the Conservatives. They stayed in by the Conservatives not being electable. Now the Tories are electable through sounding a lot like Labour. That's all. No magic. No plan beyond reducing the entire election campaign down to deciding whether to stick with the socialists we have or let another bunch at the wheel.

The key will be what happens afterwards - stick with the touchy feely rhetoric or get on with clearing out the statism?

Is Dave still talking about his Big Society and army of community organisers? Not that I've noticed. The relatively radical fiscal decentralisation and schools plans seem to have been accepted as not that bad an idea. Perhaps the media set took a bit of flak from viewers and readers over their blatant electioneering against it.

Maybe Calamity Brown and the 'I agree with Nick' factor has made Dave actually want to win this.

However, I do believe they are being utterly disingenuous over Europe. They want to be in it.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe a word of this. It is pure fantasy/conspiracy theory/nonsense.

Ian E said...

This reads like the wet dream of one of the Tory activists on ConHome telling anyone who still passionately believes that the country needs a Conservative (as opposed to a RedTory) government that they should 'hold their noses' and vote Tory (and not of course UKIP) - and 'you will find that after the election the true Tory inside Cameron will be revealed'. If there is any truth in the existence of the above discussion, I can't help wondering if XYZ was the trougher Andrew Mackay, one of the few that Cameron 'reluctantly' got rid of over expenses-gate: a lesson, perhaps, that Cameron knows what to do with those who oppose his stated beliefs.

Anonymous said...

I believe it .
Especially the fact that the Conservatives are the only thing standing in the way of the BNP.
Simply because with ufettered immigration it always leads to the right wing gaining more control.
I suspect we may see the consequences of that in Holland soon.

Anonymous said...

I bloody well hope this is true.

Tapestry said...

This strategy was started in 2005, I believe. I have been trying to say that this is happening ever since on my blog, but UKIPPERS don't believe it.

I met up with a Cameron adviser as he took over and suspected that this was the strategy. It is the only way the game can be played.