What the reaction to the DUP tells us about modern Britain
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I am not, by nature, an optimist. And yet there is something, not about the coalition itself but the widespread reaction to it, which cheers me. It reveals just how total the Left’s victory in the ‘culture war’ has been. It reveals that there is no such thing, on the mainland at least, as a true conservative party. Ask yourselves this: in what sense is the modern Conservative Party conservative? I have often heard it said that Tory economic policy is conservative because of the way it privileges corporate interests and abandons the state. Yet this characterisation is a mistake built upon a mistake. Belief in a small but strong state, preserving key institutions, traditions and public mores is conservative; economics as a means to an end. The ends of Tory economic policy hasn’t been conservative since Margaret Thatcher abandoned Keynesian philosophy in favour of Hayekian monetarism; the theory that money should be borrowed and spent to meet social requirements and moral duties for the idea that social requirements and moral duties are only acceptable if they’re ‘affordable’. There is nothing at all conservative about the free market fundamentalism which has followed; the belief that the size and function and duties of the state should be determined not by government but by markets is a radical belief, not a conservative one. That is one of the ways by which we can differentiate between the likes of Enoch Powell, who was a true conservative – an advocate of free markets long before Thatcher but a passionate believer in a strong state and stable, coherent, strictly governed society – and someone like Tony Blair, who was at least as ‘conservative’ (in the modern sense) as Thatcher in his belief in the power and supremacy of unfettered markets. I don’t mean to suggest that this represents the goal and victory of the Left, though I do think of it as a symptom of the same. The divide between economics and social policy is a modern myth. Economics requires a philosophy it cannot generate for itself. Philosophy is the product of mind, and mind is largely the product of society; therefore what is deemed economic fact and necessity is invariably symptomatic of the values of a society. Of course, the transference is not one-way; economic prosperity feeds into social attitudes just as social attitudes feed into economics. But the social has, or at any rate had, supremacy.
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