Europe, Politics, Top Stories, United Kingdom

The British Conservative Party Should Stop Cancelling Conservatives

Two weeks ago, the Edmund Burke Foundation convened a conference on national conservatism in Rome. The conference committee, of which both of us were members, brought together hundreds of academics, politicians, students, and journalists from across Europe and the US to discuss the most important political development of our time—the revival of the idea of the independent national state. 

In the two weeks since the conference, the organizers and certain participants have been subjected to a torrent of smears from UK media and political sources. It’s no surprise that the Guardian and Buzzfeed took the lead in condemning a conference of conservatives as an anti-Semitic event “packed full of racists, homophobes, and Islamophobes.” These have become familiar tropes of the anti-intellectual Left. 

But one aspect of the attacks should trouble anyone who regards himself or herself as a conservative: The reaction of the UK Conservative Party to criticism of one of its own MPs, Daniel Kawczynski, who attended the conference to give a talk on Brexit. Not only did the Tories fail to come to Kawczynski’s defence when the media mob descended on him and his party. They joined the mob and threw him under the bus. A party spokesman announced that Kawczynski had been “formally warned that his attendance at this event was not acceptable, particularly in light of the views of some of those in attendance, which we utterly condemn, and that he is expected to hold himself to higher standards.”

Read those words carefully: The Conservative Party has “formally warned” an elected Member of Parliament for attending a public conference, and “utterly condemned” the views of some others in attendance—without even deigning to say whose views or which views it deems worthy of condemnation. This about a conference of elected officials and respected public intellectuals from across Europe.

The sad truth is that, faced with a few fake media accusations, the Tories panicked. They made no effort to check the facts. They didn’t contact any of the conference organizers, including prominent mainstream figures who have served for decades at the forefront of Anglo-American conservatism—not to mention two conference committee members who are Jewish, and might have had a thing or two to say about this supposedly anti-Semitic event.

Instead, the Conservative Party repeated its ignominious condemnation of Sir Roger Scruton in 2019, for which it later apologized. The Tories accepted a version of events put forward by news organizations that they know quite well detest conservatives. They ran frightened before the attack by their opponents and ending up saying just what the Left wanted them to say. 

What would the Tories have learned if they had picked up the phone and called the organizers? Or read up about national conservatism on our website or in the non-Left media?

They would have discovered that the Rome conference is part of a series of national conservatism conferences, begun in London and Washington in 2019, featuring a range of well-known conservatives including John Bolton, Tucker Carlson, Patrick Deneen, Mary Eberstadt, Daniel Hannan, Josh Hawley, Ryszard Legutko, Douglas Murray, John O’Sullivan, R.R. Reno, Roger Scruton, Amity Shlaes, Peter Thiel, and many others of stature and accomplishment.

The purpose of these conferences is to explore and debate the proposition that the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation and the principle of national independence. Our conferences are precisely, emphatically opposed to the racialism and tribalism that have become obsessions on the Left and the source of their evidence-free attacks: We believe that reviving national traditions, loyalties, and aspirations is essential to binding together constituent peoples and communities, to protecting their freedoms and promoting their prosperity. 

In this spirit, the Rome National Conservatism Conference was entitled “God, Honor, Country: President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and the Freedom of Nations.” At the conference, we commemorated John Paul II’s centennial year, revisiting his historic alliance with Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—an alliance that defeated communism and re-established national independence, self-determination, and religious freedom in Eastern Europe after 1989. Naturally, much of the discussion—coming on the first business day of Britain’s post-Brexit independence—concerned the UK’s momentous step and its implications for politics and prosperity on both sides of the Channel.

The conference also paid tribute to Sir Roger Scruton, our friend, teacher, and collaborator who passed away on January 12th, having been exonerated of the Tories’ condemnation of him in the last year of his life. 

It is disturbing indeed that a legitimate public conference, convened to discuss the history, political philosophy, and current relevance of the idea of the nation state, can be twisted into a weapon for “cancelling” British conservatives who participated in good faith—thereby shutting down the possibility of respectful discussion of these topics in the UK.

Of course, the Conservative Party claimed that it was taking this action “in light of the views of some of those in attendance.” And it is certainly true that there are bad actors on the European and American right.

As conference organizers, it is our job to ensure that our growing movement of national conservatives is not hijacked by political racialists and anti-Semites or by anti-democratic agitators. That is our policy and practice, which we have pursued aggressively. As is evident from a simple Google search, the Edmund Burke Foundation and its conferences have been repeatedly and viciously attacked by alt-Right publications and figures for excluding racialists and anti-Semites from our events.  

Does this mean that we have excluded everyone that the Guardian and Buzzfeed would have liked? Obviously not. But we are unwilling give the leftist media, which despises conservatives, a veto over who gets to speak at our conferences. 

Instead, we have done our own research and exercised our own judgment. 

What have we found? Among other things, we agree with Douglas Murray, in his report from the Rome conference, that in British public discourse, “governments and parties are being called ‘far-right’ when they are not, and whole countries and movements are being anathemised when they will—must, in fact—be partners in the years ahead.” 

And take a look at “Among the National Conservatives,” a moving essay by the celebrated American conservative intellectual Rod Dreher, which describes his two days of meeting European conservatives in Rome. Dreher, too, found that the conference participants were simply “normal” conservatives—a picture diametrically opposed to the one presented in the UK media and adopted by the Tories. 

The Conservative Party’s dependence on the leftist media to decide for them who is a legitimate conservative—and who is a racialist or an anti-Semite—must come to an end. The Tories are now governing an independent country. Independent Britain will need friends and admirers and allies in other countries. It cannot afford to discard these friends and allies every time the Guardian decides to say that someone is “far Right” or “anti-Semitic.” 

In the coming years, one of the best opportunities for meeting pro-British conservatives from other countries will be at the Burke Foundation’s National Conservatism Conferences. The next one will be in Washington, D.C. on June 21st — 23rd. 

The June conference presents the UK Conservative Party with a test: We intend to invite a robust delegation of British Conservatives to exchange ideas with us, and the leftist British media will certainly roll out its standard attacks and attempt to block their participation. 

Will the Tories again cower in fear, offering comfort to their opponents while recklessly smearing their friends? Or will they have the character to stand up to the relentless hatred that is directed at everything conservative, and to send delegates to the National Conservatism Conference in Washington? 

Will British Tories, so admired and emulated by national conservatives throughout the democratic world, have the fortitude to take their rightful place among the legitimate national conservatives of all other democratic countries? 

 

Christopher DeMuth, a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington and former president of the American Enterprise Institute, is chairman of the National Conservatism Conference.

Yoram Hazony, president of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, is chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @yhazony

Feature image: Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham Daniel Kawczynski, London, United Kingdom, 16 Jan 2019 Credit: Wheatley/WENN

Comments

  1. To the Left, what has long been a “normal conservative” IS a bigot. With friends like the British Conservatives, who needs enemies?

  2. This sure sounds like the national Republican, Romney goes to the Washington Post to print his condemnation of Trump, the same WaPo that was busy burying a hatchet in his own backside only a few years earlier. It has also been very informative watching the news organizations reporting on the Democrat primaries. To see them unable to disguise their activism in support or opposition to various Democrat candidates is quite revealing.

    Whether it be CNN flacking for Warren in her obvious lie about Sanders saying a woman couldn’t be elected, or Google’s hatcheting Tulsi’s Youtube channel after the first debate. It was quite hilarious when a noted Democrat complained that CNN lost their credibility in their handling the Sanders/Warren debate. They had credibility?

    Regulars of both parties should understand much of their leadership are in bed with media and largely removed from the rank and file.

  3. Sorry to quickly add another comment, this article reflects that Britain suffers from the same ruling class groupthink. In the US and in Britain there appears to be a set of acceptable but unwritten beliefs that both sides adhere to. If for example you are conservative it is best to hide it lest you not be invited into polite company, same for liberals such as Bernie who has likely discovered it.

    While some Bernie supporters are on the crazed left, I find it interesting that more than a few have sat down and had conversations with conservatives. The resulting dialog was surprisingly sane and fruitful and exposed some common values, a common ingredient being an idea that something is wrong and not being addressed and a loathing of the press that appears clueless.

  4. I imagine the Tories are indulging in a particularly craven from of submission with News Stories that engage negatively with the public imagination. A good example of this relates to sentencing disparities for minorities within the UK court system. Teresa May’s Government knew full well that the overwhelming amount of these disparities were caused by the fact that many BAME individuals didn’t trust their lawyers when they recommended that they plead guilty, in order to receive lighter sentences. The situation could have been cheaply fixed by the simple provision of Community Liaison Officers, possibly even achieving a saving for the taxpayer, with saved court expenses and the more targetted use of prison facilities.

    But instead the UK courts were told that they would have to ‘shape up’, automatically conceding to the narrative that Britain is an endemically racist country, with the Conservative Party equally willing to champion the fight against racism as the Labour Party. Obviously, it is easier to roll over and through your own people under the bus, instead of engaging in countless media cycles trying to correct flawed narratives. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that in the UK, there is no Conservative Broadcast Media, with the Conservative viewpoint confined to The Telegraph and a few tabloids.

    Unfortunately, it is also a strategy that is likely to allow the Conservatives to retain power for the foreseeable future, given the current state of the Opposition:

    The danger, over the long run, is that this strategy concedes ground in the Culture War, allowing for the insidious encroachment of new norms, in our civil discourse.

  5. In the U.S. there are some alleged conservative leaders who are simply embarrassed by conservative voters. They use to fly under the moniker “Country Club Republicans”. Today they travel under the banner “Never Trump”. To these politicians being a conservative is only about them. Once it is no longer about them or the voters rebuke them, they lose interest in the brand. Loyalty is not their hallmark. Of course conservative voters refer to these snobs as RINOs.

  6. I think that there are two forces at work here in the apparently pusillanimous behaviour of the Conservative Party.

    First, the Humanist Ascendancy from postmodernist universitiland is a very powerful hegemonic force throughout the system of social administration. And while its Guardian mouthpiece is one of its most aggressive top feeders, its larger writ runs with various effect throughout the architecture of social discourse.

    Running afoul of The Guardian’s ideological wrath will have damaging and endlessly repeating echoes banging all around the place for ages unless met with rapid mea culpas. Arguing the toss simply gets the victim into deeper doo doos, as it provides leverage for further ‘questioning’ of its moral credentials. Better to ‘own up’, abandon ship and move on…

    As the Humanist Ascendancy becomes increasingly threatened by events it cannot control, like say Brexit, or the awful Mr Trump, where a secret ballot makes it much more difficult to ‘point the bone’ at meaningful targets, it is becoming much less libertarian and more like a conventional dogma encrusted clerical Orthodoxy, with the same aversion to even the smell of heresy as its Church predecessor. Its oracular declarations are not up for debate and dissidence is not tolerated.

    A conventional ‘middle of the road’ party like the British Conservative Party hasn’t got prayer against that sort of protagonist, other than to conform to its dicta.

    The effect of this is to push the politics of non conformity into a much tougher space and more aggressive posture…that starts to go after the regime (rather than just arguing with it) with a view to destroying it in what will eventually become the sort of wars of toleration that characterized the beginnings of the modern world…which of course is not going to be your small ‘c’ conservatism, but something much more ‘out there’.

    Poor old Edmund would turn in his grave.

    Second, and following from the first, notions of ‘progress’ and ‘traditionalism’, ‘left’ and ‘right’, ‘conservative’ and ‘radical’ are breaking up in the same way that the ideological consensus that emerged out of World War 2 is breaking up…in the same way that the modern period itself is starting to break up, as both the Humanist and Corporate Ascendancies of Indulgence Capitalism (where a culture of limited, rational and disciplined needs and wants is subsumed by indulgent deregulation, disinhibition, moral and institutional privatization, and fantasizing-going-on-delusionality, that wrecks all the governance and infrastructure it is supposed to be stewarding) go into chronic denial about how ecologically, economically, socially and existentially damaging, corrupted and unsustainable they have both become; each accusing the other of its own deregulatory crimes against the commons, in ever increasingly frantic efforts to shift blame off themselves and away from the larger regime, in a game of mutual finger pointing…

    Thus institutions like the Tory Party cease to have a coherent centre or systematic policy locus or reason for being, other than being and staying in power for as long as the electorate will tolerate them. Ditto for the other side.

    I imagine that if Edmund Bourke came back today, he’d have to have the Tories pointed out to him.

    While the Tories tend to represent the interests of the Corporate oligarchic ‘Crown’, they have to pay enough lip service to the Humanist ‘Church’ not to provoke and ecclesiastical pulpit backlash sufficient to tip them out of power come next election. And of course, the same applies the opposite way around with the Labour Party, in order to avoid a marketing and sales led corporate assault.

    Both the Humanist and Corporate Ascendancies are arms of Indulgence Capitalism. Both represent exactly the same fundamental regime values and practices. Neither of them are benign. And both are likely to go down at the same time, along with their agenda, as their co-dependant ecological, economic, social and existential governance implodes and collapses, in possibly the not very distant future.

    The system is about as unstable as the imperial status quo was in 1914, which will be a warm up act by comparison. And The Guardian being told to go and screw itself will be the least of its problems.

  7. Modern culture is unfortunately one of intolerance, exclusion and guilt by association.

    I am not a conservative and I think the xenophobic, transactional, reductionist nationalism tipified by the Brexit campaign which tarred everyone who disagreed as traitors and treasonous quislings is part of the same phenomenon but we must defend freedom of thought and respect for those we disagree with.

    The most damaging aspect of this is the guilt by association, that attending the same event as someone means you share or approve of their views. Total nonsense and deeply polarising making any compromise or resolution of disagreements almost impossible as those with differing views are afraid to meet. The second issue is the rush to condemn and assumption of gilt from an accusation, something that should be frightening to everyone and seems to have even spread to the police and CPS at least for accusations by women against men. Lastly has been a narrowing of opinions that can be discussed, frequently far narrower than those held by the bulk of the population. The classic example is anything to do with trans gender.

    We must try to defend the right to hold unpopular opinions and to do so for those we disagree with. It requires a lot of bravery for any public figure at the moment.

  8. The left has found a winning formula: accuse anyone who wrong-thinks of racism or something+phobia, and that person, and anyone who doesn’t immediately and explicitly disown him/her, is canceled, de-platformed, done. This is not necessarily new (Salem, the French Revolution, McCarthyism), but it’s far more toxic because of social media.

    Although like all social panics, this too shall pass, much damage will be done in the interim. So for now possible solutions include: rising above it, not playing their game and never apologizing OR going on the attack., with a particular eye towards divide and conquer.

  9. The current ideological straight jacket also benefits large numbers of people . If it did not it would not have such a grip on the west . It provides well paid employment as opposed to an average salary together with a status that many would not otherwise have.

    Think of how much easier it is to get a job, be it at a university or otherwise , on the basis of a degree in grievance studies of some sort as opposed to say a course of study that involves genuine intellectual engagement and reading.

    Emotionally, as well , many people benefit from seeing the world through the prism of grievance as it provides a warm fuzzy feeling of being on the right side of history or alternatively a justification for failure . It also makes people think that they are highly educated .

    I always find the the witch-hunt analogies inaccurate. Witches did not exist at the time. Although of course they now exist In large numbers in gender studies departments throughout the West. Other historical scares such as communists and counter revolutionaries are based on phenomena that actually did exist.

  10. As Poland and the rest of the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) continue to stifle their yawns about the EU’s official sanction, later this year, for their refusal to accept illegal migrants, it might pay the EU to consider that their position might have something to do with this:

    "According to a June official report for the French National Assembly, as of May, there were 21,039 individuals registered in the Signal Processing File for the Prevention of Terrorist Radicalization (FSPRT). At the beginning of 2019, 12,809 cards were said to be “active,” that is to say, monitored by the services. Nearly 30% of those people converted to Islam"

  11. It’s not just happening in Britain. The federal conservative party bureaucracy in Canada is also more than willing to throw fellow non-aligned conservatives under the bus. There are many examples of this within the mainstream party but the most glaring current example of this is starkly revealed with a recent split in the party’s ranks.
    After the last conservative party leadership convention, which included all the typical shenanigans by the party kingmakers, the “moderate” was put in place. The second runner, who upheld the more classical conservative ideals, then split away from the mainstream party and formed a separate national conservative party.
    Then the federal election happened, and the mainstream party happily joined with the left-wing parties (for political expediency) to viciously dog pile on their fellow conservatives.
    Policy disagreements fell by the wayside while many of the typical slanders from the left’s playbook were used, including most of trope accusations of this-ism and of being that-ist.
    It was a sad act to witness.

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