Tuesday 4 June 2024

A double edged Farage


The primary instinct of most voters is moderation. If you have a reasonable job, live somewhere reasonably pleasant and can buy what you need while going on holiday somewhere warm once a year, why risk it?

Jeremy Corbyn promised us a socialist paradise. Alex Salmond promised us that everything would be better in an independent Scotland and also that everything would be the same. Both failed to overcome the scepticism of ordinary voters that just perhaps they were being overly optimistic and maybe things would be worse.

It is for this reason that Keir Starmer has been so determined to purge his party of the far left. It is much more likely that Labour will be elected if it is perceived as centrist rather than extreme.

But as was shown with the fuss about Diane Abbott standing, Labour in its heart remains a socialist party. No one joined the Labour Party to be a centrist, not even Keir Starmer. They might have concluded that socialism doesn’t work and that the best that can be done is social democracy, but they all wish that socialism did work and, in their dreams, they still hope for the socialist paradise that Abbot and Corbyn dream of also.

Voters too love the idea of socialism so long as it doesn’t involve them personally having to give up any of their privileges and any of their wealth. So, they will vote for Labour in the hope of some more free things paid for by other people’s taxes so long as their isn’t a socialist revolution that threatens their lifestyle and their holiday once a year.

For those of us on the right there is also a balance between not frightening the horses by being too extreme and actually getting something done. The difference is that while socialism doesn’t work and while even social democracy rarely works genuine right-wing economics does work.

Wherever it has been tried cutting the size of the state, cutting taxes, lowering public spending and increasing free markets and free trade there has been an increase of wealth. Capitalism works.

The problem is that the Conservative Party has become so centrist that it has become social democratic. It spends too much, it taxes too much and it merely manages British decline.

At this point there is a genuine dilemma for voters. Do I stick with moderation knowing that while for the moment I keep my pleasant lifestyle every year things get worse and two or three decades from now Britan ceases to be a genuine first world country or do I recognise that we have serious problems, and something must be done.

While Scotland rejected the SNP’s idea of revolution because the fundamentals never added up voters embraced it in 2016 by voting to leave the EU. It was a risky strategy. It would have been safer to have remained. But voters hoped for greater prosperity and for parliament to be sovereign and able to do what voters wished. The gamble has largely failed. Now we are being asked to gamble again.

Nigel Farage was certainly responsible for giving voters the referendum in 2016, but he also very nearly lost it by his lack of moderation. It required Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings to make the revolution of leaving appear less risky and more palatable.

This is the balance that is needed for the right. It needs to move away from the wet centre in order to have the revolution that Thatcher brought about in the 1980s, but it cannot become so extreme that it frightens the voters or else disgusts them by becoming too populist or by flirting with the far right.

This is the danger with Farage. He is I think a genuine Thatcherite, but he flirts with Trumpism, and this is dangerous for the right because that way lies madness.

Trump is not a free marketeer. He is a protectionist. If there is any ism that is worse than socialism it is protectionism. Worse despite the absurdities of Trump’s conviction, it is still not clear if Trump and his followers will accept legitimate defeat. So, it is not at all clear if either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party are either democrats or republicans. Flirting with either side is dangerous. The Democrats will jail you rather accept the result of democracy, the Republicans will be tempted to revolt.

In Britain we will all accept a Labour victory without question, and we should be grateful for that if nothing else. But we can hope for something better. The hope is for something that works and protects our country.

It could be that Farage may by destroying or taking over the Conservative Party be able to deliver a second Thatcherite revolution, which is able also to limit mass migration to around 100,000 a year rather than 700,000. There is no reason why this should not work.

Not every country relies on mass migration. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Poland and other Eastern European countries are managing quite well without high levels of migration. They recognise that the character of their countries depends on maintaining what is distinctive about its population.

The most important thing is for all British people of every background to agree that we must limit migration or else lose what makes Britain attractive to all of us. It doesn’t mean refusing all claims of asylum, nor does it mean stopping all work and study visas. It just means limiting migration to a level that can be absorbed and a level that does not risk changing the character of our country forever.

Economically and culturally, there is room for a new Thatcherite Conservative Party that is willing to do what it takes to benefit from Brexit and allow parliament to control our borders and our laws.

Perhaps Farage can help bring this about, but he can only do so if he keeps within the bounds of Thatcherism and does not flirt with Trumpism or worse.

The way forwards lies with the destruction of the Conservative Party and a new movement that is willing to actually improve the NHS, defence, the economy and control of our borders. If Farage is part of this, we may well be grateful to him again. But we must also recognise that Farage is as capable of losing the battle as winning it and is as likely to deter voters as attract them.

In Scotland our task is to do what is necessary to defeat the SNP. Neither voting for Reform nor Farage will help this. We must focus on our battle first. If we win it decisively, we can move on to arrest the managed decline that has been part of British politics since 1945 except for one brief Thatcherite interlude.

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