Je suis Tory scum

The hysterical left will always call conservatives “Tory scum” and hate us with a blind, unthinking rage. It’s time to stop cowering at their attacks and apologising for our values. 

As 2015 draws to an end we still have four and a half more years of David Cameron’s wishy-washy, ideologically rootless, Conservativism, followed by a general election which will almost certainly deliver another five years of bland centrism.

For small government conservatives and libertarians, this continual betrayal of principle is bad enough. But as an added insult, it also means four more years of being spat on and called “Tory scum” by demented far-left types who view David Cameron and George Osborne’s half-hearted attempts to pare back the state as the modern-day equivalent of Nazi war crimes, and who have no reservations in publicly saying so.

That’s why the time has come for conservatives of all stripes to finally seize back the word “Tory” from the haters and reclaim it with pride, rather than meekly and apologetically crawling around and apologising for our values – values which saved this country from decline and irrelevance three decades ago, and can do so again if only we fully unleash them.

In that spirit, Tony Parsons’ article from earlier this year in GQ magazine – in which he “came out” as a reluctant member of the Tory Scum collective – is a great opening salvo in the fight back against the hysterical Left.

In his article, entitled “Why I’ve Become Tory Scum”, Tony Parsons calls out the Labour Party and other forces on the Left for the sanctimonious nature of their campaigning during the general election, and their utter inability to empathise with their opponents – or even entertain the thought that those who oppose them might be doing so from a position of legitimate, morally valid disagreement.

Parsons points out:

The general election was decided not by shy Tories but by us reluctant Conservatives. The millions like me who saw nothing but catastrophe in Labour’s addiction to high taxes and big spending, their loathing of success, the way they could use a word like “mansion” with a straight face and, above all, that endless pious prattle about the NHS – as though the British have no other identity but as a sickly, enfeebled, diseased people in need of having our bottoms wiped by the state from dawn till dusk.  

Sadly, Parsons may be right about the British as an enfeebled and dependent people in thrall to the NHS, judging by the current exercise in mass virtue-signalling underway to make this awful song Christmas no. 1 in the charts. But the truth is that David Cameron’s government is very much an unremarkable continuation of New Labour. Far from being a son of Thatcher, Cameron and his leadership team are very much the heirs to Blair, and would bear comparison with many centre-left governments around the world.

You would not think this about Cameron’s Conservatives, judging by the hysteria among many vocal parts of the Left, who present David Cameron’s steady-as-she-goes paternalism and tentative deficit reduction as some kind of outrageous economic shock treatment combined with “human rights” abuses worthy of the Nazis. But then the hysterical far left have always talked about conservatives thus, and they always will. 

Since the abuse will never end, clearly there is nothing to be gained from running from it any longer. Nor is there anything to be gained by continually apologising for core conservative principles – free individuals and strong families, fiscal conservatism and a prohibitive national defence – as the current Conservative leadership sadly continues to do.

What British conservatism and libertarianism really need is their own version of Jeremy Corbyn – someone who unapologetically sticks to their principles, refusing to water them down for political expediency, and who seeks to lead and persuade rather than conform to the results of the latest opinion poll or focus group.

Or to use a West Wing analogy, British conservatism needs a Matthew Santos-like figure, someone willing to proudly wear the “Tory” label just like Santos refused to apologise for being a liberal in the famous presidential debate episode. Speaking up for American liberalism in a way that one can only wish David Cameron or George Osborne would do for small government conservatism, Santos says to his Republican opponent:

What did liberals do that was so offensive to the liberal party? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created social security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act. What did conservatives do? They opposed every single one of those things. Every one.

So when you try to hurl that label at my feet – liberal – as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, Senator. Because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honour.

Of course it is almost unimaginable for a conservative to ever talk this way, with such passion, partly because we tend not to make such grand claims for ourselves in reshaping the world or forcibly changing human nature in pursuance of our goals. It is not in our nature to brag about our accomplishments, because the biggest accomplishment a conservative can aim for in government is to get out of the way and help remove obstacles from others so that they might reach their full potential.

But more than this, British conservatives since Margaret Thatcher have had precious little to brag about. Locked out of office under thirteen years of New Labour, the Conservative Party which emerged under David Cameron has made so many compromises with triangulating, Blairite centrism that there are almost no genuinely conservative policy victories or changes in the country which we can claim.

What are we supposed to brag about? Remember when the Tories stood up to the growing climate of intolerance toward freedom of expression, and formally codified a British citizen’s right to free speech? We can’t say that because it didn’t happen.

Indeed, under Theresa May Britain is becoming an even more authoritarian police state than it was before, with human beings languishing in our prisons simply for saying, singing, or tweeting the “wrong” thing.

Remember when George Osborne struck a blow for fiscal conservatism, rallied the country with his argument that it was morally obscene for government to spend more on debt repayments than education or the military, and achieved a real budget surplus in order to finally begin paying down the national debt?  

We can’t say that either, because although Osborne is happy for the public and lazy journalists to believe that the Tories are “paying down Britain’s debts”, in reality the government is doing no such thing. 

Conservative supporters truly have the worst of both worlds at present. We are attacked by the furious Left for an ideologically-motivated attack on the state and its poorest dependants, while in reality almost zero real conservative reform is being enacted. We are stuck with the leftist abuse, but have absolutely nothing positive to show for it.

No real conservative should be happy with what they see right now. Assuming that the political pendulum will at some point swing back in favour of the Labour Party, we conservatives have almost nothing to show after five years of David Cameron other than a half-finished job clearing the budget deficit. We have a reanimated Ted Heath sitting in Downing Street, not a worthy heir to Margaret Thatcher.

But just as the American Tea Party lay conspicuously dormant for the many years of fiscal profligacy and budget-busting spending under the George W. Bush administration only to miraculously awaken when a man named Barack Hussein Obama won the presidency, so the hysterical British Left are now shrieking bloody murder over a set of very pedestrian, middle-of-the-road centrist policies being enacted by the Conservative Party after having airily ignored the very same governing philosophy when the now-hated Blairites were in charge.

As conservatives, we realise there is no point in launching a futile battle against human nature or the instinct of many on the Left to demonise that which they do not or cannot understand. They will continue to call us “Tory Scum” and we have no control over that.

But we do have the power to take back ownership of the label “Tory” and refuse to see it as an insult.

We do have the power to point out that there is nothing virtuous or compassionate about throwing more money at unreformed healthcare and welfare systems, or spreading the wealth around so much that wealth creation is destroyed or driven overseas.

We do have the power to proclaim the importance of fiscal conservatism, not out of some wonkish obsession with balancing the books but because running up further government debt today is a blatant act of intergenerational theft, living at the expense of our children and grandchildren. And because as we have seen with other countries, excessive national debt can become a foreign policy and national security issue too.

We do have the power to point out to anyone who will listen that the modern Left love to parade their virtue and ideological purity but have apparently given up on coming up with alternative policies of their own, and to demand that Labour produce some costed tax and spending plans rather than simply railing against the inhumanity of the evil Tories.

We do have the power to point out the many ways in which David Cameron’s Conservative government ignores real conservative values, and to declare “not in my name”.

We do have the power to say “Oui, Je Suis Tory Scum – and I wish that our prime minister was a real conservative too, rather than a reheated Blairite with an ominous, socialist plan for “every stage of our lives”.

The Left are not going to change, so we had better get used to the spitting, the vandalism, and the overwrought, emotional and short-termist way in which they discuss public policy.

But we can change. We can stop lying down and taking it every time a virtue-signalling lefty pontificates on welfare without offering a plan of their own, or seeks to win an argument on healthcare by stoking the public’s idolatry of the NHS. We can stop fighting on the Left’s terms.

Who knows, if small government conservatives and libertarians actually succeed in getting off the back foot for the first time since Margaret Thatcher left 10 Downing Street, we might even manage to salvage something from Cameronism.

Samuel Hooper is a journalist and blogger. He is passionate about politics, free markets and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter here.

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty