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The Tories can learn from the American Right Conservatives don't want to win the culture war

Welcome to the oligarchy (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)


December 8, 2021   7 mins

“Tonight the world’s eyes are on Washington,” declared Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis recently, referring to the abortion debate currently going through America’s Supreme Court. No doubt, in the dark forests of the Ituri, Twa hunters paused their age-old stalking of game to deliberate on Mississippi’s new legislation; in the glittering skyscrapers of Shanghai and Guangzhou, the Chinese economy ground to a halt as industrialists awaited Amy Coney Barrett’s contentious deliberation; high in the mountains of Bolivia, peasant farmers abandoned their timeless struggle with the frigid Andean soil, huddling in their villages to confer on what this could all mean for America’s women.

Obviously this is a fantasy, like most British political commentary. It is Britain’s political comment class alone who are so destructively enamoured of the political theatre of a distant foreign country that American news crowds out our own in the battle for attention. Yet this colonised mindset is only true of a specific shade of American politics: an identitarian left-liberal strand tailor-made for our mid-Atlantic Twitter class.

Londoners rioted in protest against policing in Minnesota, and our increasingly deranged discourse is directly cut-and-pasted from US models. But the twists and tangles of American conservative politics are more or less unknown territory in our own semi-digested imperial province.

A clear example of this dynamic can be found in the rise of what some term America’s New Right, well-documented in a critical but fair and accurate portrayal by the Left-wing New Republic’s Sam Adler-Bell. An uneasy alliance of state-capitalist National Conservatives, post-liberals and Catholic Integralists, the New Right “wants to see Republicans abandon their fealty to free-market dogmas, embrace traditional Christianity, and use the levers of state power to wage the culture war for keeps”.

Like younger conservatives in Britain, a young New Right writer quoted by Adler-Bell observes that “we have to think of ourselves as counter-revolutionaries or restorationists who are overthrowing the regime”, as the conservatism of their elders has simply failed in its essential task: “there’s not a lot left to conserve in the contemporary state of things. There are things that need to be destroyed and rebuilt.”

The parallels with Britain are clear. In America, the conservative establishment has “ossified into a decadent, self-dealing oligarchy” that has adopted “the moral heresies of so-called wokeness and [clings] to the rotted corpse of the Reaganite consensus”. The conservative old guard “‘just want to run the greatest hits of 1984 over and over again”.

Surveying our own Conservative scene, we see the same dismal picture: the potential challengers to Boris’s rapidly waning authority include Rishi Sunak, a free marketeer crippled under the weight of his Treasury Brain, and Liz Truss, gleefully capering around in one of the Army’s remaining tanks in homage to Thatcher, keeping alive a Tory cargo cult that should have died decades ago. The Tories possess the single electoral benefit of not being the Labour Party: but they have no coherent vision of the good, and offer little to any forward-thinking conservative.

Why is this the case, given the total Americanisation of British politics? Why do the intellectual currents revolutionising the American Right here remain a mere object of curiosity to an idiosyncratic minority of conservative thinkers?

It is hard not to think that Thatcherism has played a major role in the intellectual debilitation of the British Right: the ideas that most animate the party faithful are the same ones put into practice, overwhelmingly disastrously, forty years ago. The free-market think tanks which cluster around CCHQ are still trying to realise the fever-dreams of fin-de-siĂšcle Vienna intellectuals. The Tory party remains trapped in the long 20th century, weighed down by corporate boomers and their lobbyist hirelings. Indeed, the paucity of Conservative Party thought today is such that there is more value in adapting Marxist analysis to Tory ends than in reading anything excreted from the party ecosystem.

As a result, Conservative MPs whine about ‘wokeness’ on Twitter instead of using their parliamentary majority to repeal the raft of New Labour legislation that foisted a Blairite shadow government on the country; the dense web of state-funded quangos, NGOs and bureaucrats that sets the tone of British political discourse and frustrates Tory policy at every turn. No wonder Tories win elections and yet are amazed they can’t change Britain’s political culture: they waste their energy fighting the symptoms while subsidising the causes.

In Britain, the obvious target of an equivalent conservative counter-revolution would be against the destructive innovations of New Labour, whose zombie ideology, rejected by voters a decade ago, still commands the cultural heights. This is what the purported “culture war” means, at heart, which explains the horror expressed by every ageing broadsheet commentator who claims that revoking legislation brought in ten years ago is an assault on the venerable British Constitution comparable only to fascism.

A swift path to victory is possible, not least by halting the overproduction of downwardly mobile elites New Labour embedded into British society like a retreating army laying delayed-action bombs. Even Blair himself, rising flowing of mane and leathery of skin from his political tomb once again, recognises the problem of his own deranged political children, without accepting any of the blame.

But the Tories ultimately don’t want to win the culture war. Instead, they’ll keep it grinding on until the last boomer dies in the last nursing home, as long as it keeps the shires blue for another decade. A ruthlessly efficient machine for winning and holding power, the Conservative Party simply has no idea what to do with power once it has it, and thrusts it at its enemies like a hot brick.

The fundamental problem facing the Conservatives is this: largely as a result of its own policies it will soon run out of voters. Younger voters, millennials and zoomers, are not aliens with strange and inexplicable desires: they want their own homes, secure jobs, good pay and the ability to form families.

The Labour Party, at its best, offers much of this. But it also offers much else that is terrible, including an unhinged identity politics repellent to ordinary voters even in the America of its birth, let alone in the very different cultural and demographic context of an Early Modern kingdom in northwestern Europe. Given the choice between boring, effective socialism and American-imported identity politics, it will always choose the latter. There is simply no way forward with the Labour Party that currently exists; its front bench is effectively a mindless golem swayed by the Twitter fads of the moment.

Much of the energy of the young New Right, like that of the millennial socialist Left, derives from online debate on social media, which has radicalised politics away from an ailing and effectively dead centre. For both factions, it is an intra-elite competition, aiming to seize control of sclerotic party structures to win the support of the masses for their respective revolutionary projects. Like millennial socialism, the New Right represents the political battlegrounds of the near future: both share revolutionary dissatisfaction with the status quo, and both share the desire to win the coming ideological battle. The Nineties Third Way is dead, and whatever replaces it will shape the coming decades.

Whatever the angst about it from ageing commentators, in Britain, as in America, all younger conservatives are shaped and influenced by the discourse of the online Right, just as younger Leftists are shaped by the internecine squabbles and identity fundamentalism of the online Left. In Britain, however, our ruling Conservatives seek to quash the only intellectually interesting expression of youthful conservative thought through their campaign against online anonymity: they may be incapable of preventing Islamists stabbing MPs to death, but they’ll pull out all the stops to stop you complaining about it online.

As in Britain, in America the proponents of the new conservatism of the common good are largely Catholic, though they less often display the convert’s zeal that characterises their more pugnacious American equivalents. In Britain, this tendency largely adheres to Blue Labour rather than the Conservative party — a situation I have previously argued is not tenable. Theoretically, the division between the American New Right’s China-inflected state capitalism and Blue Labour’s socialist heritage is a point in favour of the British variant: we have, after all, a viable and only-recently destroyed tradition of nationalised industry and utilities, still popular with voters, that Americans do not. But alas, our post-liberals lack the killer instinct, meekly submitting their tweed-encircled necks to the culture war knife, merrily quoting Chesterton all the way to the scaffold block.

But the ultimate downfall of any Tory counter-revolution is the absence of any infrastructure for nurturing a new wave of conservative thought. In the US, as Adler-Bell notes, a lavishly-funded constellation of goodies are offered to young conservatives, from think tanks that ‘“identify, educate, and credential” a new generation of staffers and bureaucrats to the fellowships that “have long played a role in shaping the next generation of right-wing elites.” In effect, as he jokes, “all this conservative foundation money slushing around functions as a ‘welfare state’ for lacklustre writers and scholars”.

In Britain, this conservative infrastructure to bring in new blood and new ideas simply does not exist; they’d send our equivalents to Prevent. Indeed, the only money sloshed around by the Conservative apparatus is for huckster resellers of PCR tests and for a cultural and NGO blob which hates conservatism in all its forms.

The Tories profess to believe in the magic wisdom of the free market while subsidising their political enemies, and affecting perplexity at the results: their vision of the glorious past extends no further than the early 1980s. The British political Right still views the state with fear and loathing, with Tory MPs happier snuffling around for crumbs from boardroom tables than exerting the executive power granted to them by the public. The American New Right, by contrast, aims to use the power of the state, the most powerful tool available to any politician, to effect a conservative counter-revolution.

Ultimately, the Conservative party shrinks from the vast power the British constitution affords the executive, which can radically reshape Britain for the better and cement Tory rule for another generation. For all its many faults, the Labour Party does not. And when it eventually returns to government it will surely use the state’s power to bury Toryism for good, just as Blair and Brown managed to allow Tories to keep winning elections yet to keep failing at delivering the basic governance demanded by their voters.

The American New Right may well warrant some scepticism: whatever its populist leanings, its electoral manifestations are largely a project of Silicon Valley donors, after all, and the disbelief of the American Left that the country’s Right can ever be swayed from corporate capitalism may well be accurate. Yet it is surely correct about one thing: the party that learns to use the state effectively will be able to reshape the nation in its image. Perhaps we should be paying attention to America after all.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

“As a result, Conservative MPs whine about ‘wokeness’ on Twitter instead of using their parliamentary majority to repeal the raft of New Labour legislation that foisted a Blairite shadow government on the country; the dense web of state-funded quangos, NGOs and bureaucrats that sets the tone of British political discourse and frustrates Tory policy at every turn.”
I said something similar in comments on an other article published here today but not half as eloquently as this. Conservatives need to start dismantling the shadow woke state embedded in the state funded quangos and bureaucracy before the enthusiasm for change drains away because everyone has lost faith in the Conservative Party delivering it.
A splendid and pointed start to the article by Aris Roussinos.
The problem is that Margaret Thatcher knew what she wanted to achieve and had intellectual support within the party for such change, whereas Johnson doesn’t seem to know what to do. He is too much of a journalist, and lacks serious intellectual thinkers about him. Michael Gove clearly had his number when he torpedoed Johnson’s first run at the leadership. Who else is there that has the balls to take on the quangocrats?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Mr Roussinos is talking nonsense when he characterises Mrs Thatcher’s legacy as “disastrous”. It brought the first taste of authentic prosperity to Britain since the mid-sixties. It democratised the unions and spurred both commercial and industrial enterprise. It is one of the reasons our hight-tech sector is so well developed. Rail privatisation, the last echo of her philosophy in government and routinely trashed by the left, actually resulted in fewer accidents, improved rolling stock, better time keeping and profit. Instead of Leyland, we have a viable car industry – and so on. If only she had got round to health – there would have been a top flight, insurance driven health service, in place of the fly blown national and socialist dump we have today. This lazy opposition which Roussinos goes in for between nationalism and capitalism is wrong in itself and merely benefits the left. As others have observed before, gobalism is only a mistake if it includes the free flow of labour along with all other goods. It is the one point of weakness in capitalism, its Achilles heel. The left has exploited it – and now the likes of Mr Roussinos here, instead of patching up the heel want to throw out Achilles. It is a sorry nonsense. True Conservatism balances market against nation and does so by migration control. That is why Powell was at once as free trade as Mrs T and even more nationalist. As for quangos – yes – quite. They should be the target as the unions were some forty years ago.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Part of the explanation could be that he did not live through the 1970s. The comparison between the grey misery and disfunctional state of that decade and the UK at the end of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership is chalk and cheese.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

He’s running off to the hills to live like a pre-industrial-age peasant, so I put very little stock in this author’s analyses.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Yes, that is rather millennial-caricature, isn’t it.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

Correct well said. 1979 my first vote in a General Election. Someone like Aris, weaned on Thatcher bashing left wing historical revisionism can never, ever understand why Thatcher won, why she won another two elections ( nb quite a number of folk liked her policies!)… she saved Britain from a total socialist, no Marxist, apocalyptic end game. God if only we could resurrect her… handbag swinging at the woke and shallow !!!

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

You have confirmed what Aris has written.

Just as Labour is haunted by Attlee’s ghost, so the Tories are haunted by Thatcher’s.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Whos a clever d-ck then? !
For Aris i think it
s a bad ghost, a negative haunting, but for me she is a good ghost and her memory could be a positive electrode up the backside of jerks like Boris.
I don`t often agree with anything Aris writes, as his style turns every 100yd dash into an ultra marathon of over complexity. But I will say this, he is dead right about the self satisfied dopes in the Parliamentary Conservative Party who cannot or will not make good use of their massive majority.
Now, if that bunch only developed half the spine and selfless vision that the Iron Lady possessed we might stem the Woke tide that is drowning us in the putrid effluent of identity politics, climate change hysteria and trendy non-judgementalism.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Selfless vision ?

With regard to the IRA, yes, Mrs T was selfless and heroic. She had that side – the traditional British side – to her.

But she had another, rather American side to her. And in that persona, she – like her cronies – did very well out of the Thatcher Revolution.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

The UK at the end of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership ?

– global Capitalist and post-patriotic, thus internationalist and ready for migrant takeover, overheated and ripe for recession

Ready for the grey misery and dysfunctional state of the 1990’s.

And a civil war over the EU.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Thanks for that, I was going to weigh in on the same point myself.

The disastrousness referred to in the article isn’t specified but I suspect that what would come top of any list is the admittedly catastrophic effect that that Thatcher’s reforms had upon the post-industrial heartlands of the North and Midlands. It is impossible to deny these effects were real and serious, but what is typically missed in the argument is the question of whose fault they actually were. Thatcher did not arrive in power in 1979 and then take a hatchet to a bunch of well run, prosperity-generating industries; all she did was to remove their redistributionary life support system which was bleeding the rest of the economy dry.

Should Thatcher have done more for these regions after putting those industries out of everyone else’s misery? Certainly, with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to say yes, but this forgets the awkward question of whether the country could afford anything like that. The answer was no, it couldn’t, because even with the destructive economic causes fixed, the country had to embark upon a painful and hard-won ascent through modernisation of infrastructure, institutions and technological progress.

The rest of the article above is perceptive and very interesting, but it ignores an awkward fact about Thatcherism which is that irrespective of whether the Tory Party has a coherent vision of what to offer as a prospectus, the country as a whole needs another dose of the supply-side reform that Thatcher delivered to such great effect. You can argue about this all you want, but it’s going to happen one way or the other because the State is now a parasite on the economy to the point where it has to be stripped down. There is no avoiding this harsh fact, the only thing up for grabs is how the economic crisis arrives and which party wins an election with a mandate to fix it. And trust me that mandate will be given, as it was in 1979.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I wonder how the green spouting Left, had it been in power, would have resolved its desire to keep the coal mines open with its enthusiasm for Net Zero?

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The truth is that from 1985, Mrs Thatcher was merely blown along by the Reagan Boom and Finance Capitalism.

She had lost it. And failed to encourage the new industries Britain needed

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

“The state is now a parasite on the economy,” a point iterated by Roussinos in his article, but without proposing a clear remedy. No better example can be given than the blob’s ability, in tandem with MSM, to hold the nation in thrall to its control via fear of COVID, while it shows contempt for ailing small businesses. And Boris showed his support for that view when he declared infamously ” F**k business!”

James Watson
James Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

You could have stopped at “ Mr Roussinos is talking nonsense”

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  James Watson

Yes, because it is Simon Dennis who is talking nonsense, swept along by an enthusiasm for the 1980’s and thereby proving Aris correct.

BTW Capitalism is increasingly internationalist. It was already anti-martial, tending to make a country defenceless, as Adam Smith pointed out.

The Tories will be obliterated unless they resolve their problems.

Even more so if they insist on continuing living on Planet 1980’s.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Given that you don’t even bother to address yourself to the points in support of my argument – reduction in abusive trade union power, reduction of days lost in strikes, working car industry in place of loss making nationalised hulk and so on – how dare you even refer to nonsense? You rely on blustering dismissal – “living on planet 80s” – and nothing else. Until you can muster a due refutation or qualification of evidence offered, I suggest you take Attee’s advice and sustain a period of silence.

Last edited 2 years ago by Simon Denis
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

If you had confined yourself to criticising Aris’s use of “disastrous” to describe Mrs T legacy, I would partly agree with you.

She achieved some good things, like taming the unions. But her programme inevitably Americanised Britain as well as globalising it, so her legacy has much bad in it, as well as good.

But like a Labour Leftist mesmerised by 1945, clearly you are living on Planet 1980’s, which is precisely Aris’s point. That was another century, another time, with other problems.

Capitalism has many weak points, which is why it’s often been criticised by people who are anything but socialists or welfarists. After all, it’s only one form of market economics and is built on Protestantism and the (admittedly limited) Protestant virtues. Which is why Capitalism – as opposed to cronyism and banking – is floundering in countries like here and the USA, where the national culture has gradually ceased to be Protestant since 1960, even since 1990.

Two final points
– as I said in another post, the Conservative policy of “Trade and the Flag” is much more difficult to achieve now
– the sophisticated Capitalist Britain of 1989 couldn’t possibly have fought the Falklands War, as the naive, semi-capitalist Britain of1982 managed. As Adam Smith pointed out, Capitalism is the enemy of the martial virtues.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Aris Roussinos in great form. Even he stops short, though, from making any kind of prediction about where this war of the young Left and the young Right will end. What will be the dominant ideology in the UK in the year 2030?
Probably the most depressing observation in this article is “in Britain, as in America, all younger conservatives are shaped and influenced by the discourse of the online Right, just as younger Leftists are shaped by the internecine squabbles and identity fundamentalism of the online Left.” If those are the sources of their thinking, what good can possibly come out of this struggle for ideological dominance?
This comment will doubtless earn me plenty of downclicks, but, from a US perspective, I’m not sure the Brits take the culture wars as seriously as Americans. I’m not sure you truly view it as a war. In America the culture wars are no longer the obsession of bored intellectuals who spend their lives on the internet. There is a sense throughout society that America is about to split apart, that the ‘war’ is real and must be fought. Do you really have that sense in the UK? As has been noted on Unherd many times, the Brits seem to have imported much of this ideological conflict from the US to the extent people are ‘taking the knee’ for a racial history that is not theirs. There’s almost a sense of play acting.
Perhaps one day a wizard will wave his wand and give over-educated, under-employed Brits what, as the author notes, they really want: a chance at a home, a family and a future. Maybe fifteen years from now there will be house parties in Kensington where all the well-paid sociology and gender studies graduates laugh over that time when dear old Rupert took the knee at Lords (silly old sausage!). Maybe. Maybe not.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“house parties in Kensington where all the well-paid sociology and gender studies graduates laugh over” I do not quite think even the best paid gender studies graduates have house parties in Kensington, maybe Watford or Slough.

“There is a sense throughout society that America is about to split apart, that the ‘war’ is real and must be fought.”

I do not get this feel here in the Deep South USA. I do not get any feel of strife, people seem to get along, even if they are not politically aligned. I wonder if that is a West Coast thing. (are you West Coast)

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

It’s a city-dweller thing.

Michael Loudon
Michael Loudon
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

roughly speaking, people in the US own guns. People in the UK don’t. Thus our cultural wars are different.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“Maybe fifteen years from now there will be house parties in Kensington where all the well-paid sociology and gender studies graduates laugh over that time when dear old Rupert took the knee at Lords (silly old sausage!). Maybe. Maybe not.”

Not. We haven’t always had publicly-funded degrees in silly subjects, but we have always had enough of a meritocracy to ensure that the sort of people intellectually capable to only such modest level end up out-competed in the real world by the doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs who have houses in Kensington.

That doesn’t mean that these people have no shot at the good life of course, because a great many people incapable of getting a good degree are nonetheless extremely capable in the real world of working hard, saving properly and in many cases setting up successful businesses. What gets in the way of that happening is being handed a government cheque to spend three years learning something useless instead of hitting reality head-on at 19 years old and spending their youthful energies working out what the world actually wants instead of what they think it ought to want.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

So well-paid City spivs with good houses, are more valuable to society than care assistants living in poor housing ?

What the world WANTS (the Rich especially) is sex and drugs.

What the world NEEDS is compassion and goodness.

Entrepreneurs make their money by squeezing it out of others. And I pity anyone with a doctor or lawyer living in a house in Kensington.

As for calling Greed the Good Life, while society destroys itself in a competitive war of all-against-all…

– that’s where 70 years of Capitalist devil-worship (since Capitalism and State Socialism are both satanic) gets the West

– on the Eve of Destruction by its enemies.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago

I think it was Douglas Murray who asked, quite recently, why Conservative governments always disappoint their supporters. This article goes some way to providing an answer.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Conservative governments don’t disappoint their REAL supporters.

That is, the Super-Greedy who finance them.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Seems to me there was a great opportunity straight after the election to say “the last few years have shown that the views of the majority are not represented in the institutions and this needs to urgently corrected”. Then a consistent programme of appointing brexiteers to top positions could have taken place. Your view of Brexit is, I think, a great proxy for many other opinions widely held about immigration, crime, family, wokeness and so on. By now we could have been two years in. Alas Covid, and as Aris says, cowardice meant the opportunity was missed.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Toby Bray
Toby Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Absolutely. I was (naively, it turns out) hopeful that the red wall Labour voters switching to the Conservatives would (a) make the Labour Party come to its senses, and (b) usher in a more One Nation, confident Conservative party, that wouldn’t be reticent about dealing with the progressive blob. If they could confront the EU on Brexit, why stop there?

But no. It turns out that the Conservatives have no positive vision at all, but just recycle tired mantras of Thatcherism & the free market. And it’s obvious that Boris Johnson is bereft of any political principle, aside from preserving himself in power. (His wife seems to have stronger political convictions than he does).

What a pathetic mess.

Last edited 2 years ago by Toby Bray
Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

We’re at a stage where the relationship between public institutions and the public has started to detach – badly in some places. Traditionally, the role of politicians on both sides was to get into power to be a part of and direct those institutions – he or she will steer the boat on a slightly different course, but part of the job of the Home Secretary is to stand up and defend the Home Office as an administration body.
Brexit had signs of this break-up, as European law started to take precedence over laws created in Parliament. Financial bailouts were another. Immigration rules another. Education going anti-British another. And Covid another – hospitals dictating the health of their patients.
The reality is that there is no clear path as to how to improve the situation. The administrative classes demand the status quo of rules, regulations, paperwork and technocratic management by experts. It’s logical and orderly and they can’t understand why there’s such resentment. The populus is looking for something different – they want to stop the busybodies telling them what to do – they want agency to challenge bad rules and stupid regulations and officialdom – and mostly they want to be left alone without hassle of paperwork. And this is international, not just British – Gilet Jaunes across the west.
So the current generation of politicians don’t know how to react. They’ve been brought up in the administrative world through systems, like university and law, that train them into an administration view. Expertise sits in the institutions, so clearing out the institutions threatens chaos for them. It’s the politicians with backgrounds outside the administrative system that have made waves. This is likely to continue as new generations react to the current politics. However, the administrative state will and does push back – there’s never something that another piece of paperwork won’t fix, or another rule, regulation, investigative committee or judgement to limit opposing voices.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Great comment.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

“The current generation of politicians” all smoked dope in their younger days.

Hence have no mental capacity left.

As for everyone else from the admin classes, their brains have been destroyed by screen time.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

The colonisation of BBC News with American content really got going around 2010 when it became obsessed with its own use of Facebook and Twitter (at the same time becoming the biggest advertisers for those companies)
Only if/when the BBC unplugs itself from the “Twitter teat” is there any hope of the BBC beginning to re-adopt the role of a providing a British public service.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

But the twists and tangles of American conservative politics are more or less unknown territory in our own semi-digested imperial province.

That’s a great turn of phrase, but it could be applied to Unherd as well as the BBC. There’s more American content every week, here too.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

There are some truly brilliant quotes in this piece.

“Yet this colonised mindset is only true of a specific shade of American politics: an identitarian left-liberal strand tailor-made for our mid-Atlantic Twitter class.”

“Our increasingly deranged discourse is cut and paste from American models.”

“ the conservative establishment has “ossified into a decadent, self-dealing oligarchy”

UNHERD fix the link thing before somebody completely rewrites this brilliant piece.

On a more practical level, I was sufficiently impressed by the plea for an intellectual, positive conservative vision (rather than just being anti woke) that I’ve brought it to the attention of Toby Young at the Free Speech Union and Esther Mcvey at Britain Uncancelled.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yes! The soundbites in this article were just brilliant – they just kept on coming. Really fired me up for the day.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago

“No wonder Tories win elections and yet are amazed they can’t change Britain’s political culture: they waste their energy fighting the symptoms while subsidising the causes.”
This is true in spades for what many true conservatives in America think of the Republican establishment, or as some would say, the Republican half of the “Uniparty.” After decades of hearing GOP careerists prate on about how they will undo the administrative Leviathan, ask for support and money to win elections, and then watch their fecklessness when they hold power, one can only conclude that they’re mostly grifters.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
2 years ago

Another excellent article by Aris, the 10th, 11th & 12th paragraphs are absolutely spot on.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Raiment
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

UnHerd, are you aware that attempting to click the hyperlinks seems to make the whole page editable? Time to have a stiff word with your lackadaisical IT department perhaps.

Last edited 2 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Prash – I just went in and changed the spelling of a random word in the article….it was cool, although I returned and put it back, if younger I would have run amok, opportunities like that come once in a lifetime – It is sad to see how age makes one so sober…:(

The link I tried was the one to the ‘New Republic’, which takes you to the editorial situation, then by left clicking, and opening in a new tab I got there. I try to read links as they are germane – although many writers here just have links which lead to paywalls….

Anyway, I read the New Republic link article and it read about like the above, and I hate to admit it as I like to think I can handle complex paragraphs and obscure analogies and vague similes, and unusual political references, but I could not make any sense of either one,. Although the writing is good as always, maybe I just did not focus enough.

What I wanted to say to you is I really liked a Bret Weinstein youtube with an absolutely Top expert epidemiologist and Doctor, and thought of you – (I think you are a pro vax) because they spent an hour, Very Convincing, explaining how utterly wrong the vaccination campaign is – how much horrible harm it is/will do, and how the covid response is either madness, or some terrible conspiracy – it is excellent, it is Really important to watch, and utterly absorbing, and confirmed everything I have ever said here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zg1j7Zquoc

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

could you re-post the last paragraph on the Omicron article? I might feel inclined to reply/add, but not on this thread.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I saw this and didn’t watch it because I assumed the man was a mainstream suit and I did not have 1.5 hours to give to him. Maybe I should have a listen.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

You see, back in the early 1980s, there were only three TV channels. Um, in the UK. The people turned the TV on, tuned in, and all dropped down laughing at the comedy, and then the next day the talk at work or school had been on the previous night’s telly; or they watched together the latest hits, a culture club that even the desperate newcomers to Maggie’s shores might have found was a nice relief, even a pleasant surprise. Nobody wagging a finger at each other too much back then. I mean people flaunted their newspapers of choice on the train or bus. There was a much greater acceptance of the rights to hold opposing opinions, publicly. Perhaps that allowed the creative mind to flourish, the arts and entertainments to rumble on. What with all the channels today, the light entertainment crux of Western civilisation (which had played a not insignificant role in bringing down the Iron Curtain vis-a-vis the rock music and what East Germans absorbed on West German television) is now only a sliver of the internet and what goes on today. You have politicised pop music screeching now in its own struggle to be heard above the chatter and to mean anything to anyone, for example. Something has gone terribly wrong when even the good old The Muppet Show is in the 2020s deemed problematic.

The Muppet Show back in the day must have given refugees from the Iranian Revolution much-needed solace and novel amusement as they sat in their mouldy bedsits waiting for a mini-turnaround in their personal circumstances in a dank and wintry London of 1979-81. Say! Just once a week, crikey, mind you. It’s not so much a culture war now as a nutty screens war. For our stupid attention. The upshot of all that progress, as they call it, is that our sense of wonder has been damaged. A cold curiosity has taken over in our technology age.

And the Americans have much to blame for that! They invented the internet and spread the channels like wildfire. Moreover, the ridiculously tiny tyrannical screens are a pandemic in our hand. It used to be the grander the screen, the grander the entertainment. America, where did it all go wrong? Oh we have choice. But it’s no longer light entertainment, it’s blight entertainment. Trump became the biggest pop star of the lot among left-inclined European youth. Day in and day out. Meanwhile, nobody knows who or what Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were. Or will know, at the rate things are moving. Sad, sad, sad.

Our sorrowful state of decadence and over-indulgence will be all swept away by a one-world government if we’re not all careful. If we don’t get back to basics. The basics being a place of good governance and good cheer. This one-world government will frown upon cheer. Period. Already with the identity politics crowd, you can see its distaste for all-things-American and the past. Trump’s roll call of American heroes under Mount Rushmore in 2020 must have been laughed at by the woke. Even the Muppets are old hat in their eyes.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

God this is so spot on. Some of us have been saying it since 1979.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

This article has kind of made me think that we are probably living through a double dissolution, of both the extant left and the extant right globally (notwithstanding the UK Tories’ ability to win election after election), and we don’t even realise it (yet).

If this thesis is true, the interesting thing is, what rough beast slouches towards us to be born?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Well, just at the moment, Mr Putin does.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Vlad I suspect has died and reborn many times over already.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Great article – a pleasure to read.
The Conservatives need to stop trying to conserve and start applying common sense. That’s what the “c” needs to stand for in the coming years.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

The Tories possess the single electoral benefit of not being the Labour Party: but they have no coherent vision of the good, and offer little to any forward-thinking conservative.
This. In my view, there is no coherent political action that demonstrates to me a “vision of the good”. For that is a moral vision. I was taken by a comment beneath a New Culture Forum YouTube video of the recent Smith lecture
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8NTHyucXwc
The comment came across as a plea for why Johnson couldn’t espouse a conservative moral vision like that in the lecture. It is not so much hiding behind legislation and hoping that does the trick, but that a lack of robust response to a moral-political, ideological and undemocratic, tyranny, that makes it a necessity for those terrorised individuals who have the fortitude – employees, students, general public commenters etc – to have to seek out organisations such as Counterweight or The Free Speech Union to perhaps protect them from the tyranny of oppression. Those less fortunate must suffer the lack of freedom.
That such undemocratic ideological tyranny against citizens is able to be actioned in plain sight in public and private institutions – the Police, hospitals, prisons, public facilities, media, galleries, Universities and schools etc – is, IMO, a testament to the abject vacuum of a “coherent vision of the good”.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
James H Johnson
James H Johnson
2 years ago

This is not complicated.
American conservatives, mostly but not all Republicans can be many things; Constitutionalists, Right to Work, Pro Military, Pro Life, States Rights, Balanced Budget, Pro Police to name a few. But at the heart of their philosophy is just one thing
 a strong opposition to all things embraced by the Democratic Party.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago

Indeed.

There are huge numbers of Republicans who want jobs for the working classes.

There are huge numbers of Republicans who want to see people of all ethnicities treated as equals.

There are huge numbers of Republicans who want to introduce sensible and pragmatic measures to help the environment.

There are huge numbers of Republicans who see LGB folks as just ordinary folk and are happy to see them enjoy the same freedoms as ‘ordinary folk’.

There are huge numbers of Republicans who believe in supporting those in genuine need of help.

There are huge numbers of Republicans who are happy to welcome immigrants and asylum seekers as long as they are 100% genuine and go through the appropriate process and that thr levels are manageable and controlled.

So you are absolutely right James.

There is a strong opposition to all things embraced by the Democratic Party, as the things above seem to have been largely forgotten by the Democrats, and been replaced with virtue signalling, self righteousness, control over people’s lives, and a desire to impose draconian rules on people that actually have no benefits and no chance of achieving the socialist utopia they secretly (or not so secretly) crave.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Well said.

David Bowker
David Bowker
2 years ago

If the Tories want to stay in power they have to abandon Thatcherism. I think Boris (and Gove) gets this.
Yes, Thatcher created economic growth and we caught up with France. But all the wealth shifted to London whilst the north, midlands and Scotland stagnated. We were told in the north that entrepreneurs would appear to replace the jobs lost in factories, mines, docks and steelworks. 40 years later we are still waiting. The UK average went up – but cities outside London like Manchester, Sheffield or Newcastle are still poor by north-west European standards. Brexit was a rebellion against this with the Scots so disillusioned they simply wanted to flee the union.
The consequence of Thatcherism was that the Tories were out of power for 13 years and when they came back it was a very weak majority under Cameron. In the north where I live until recently you would have had more friends if you announced you were HIV-positive than confessing you were a Tory. Boris changed that and re-set the clock, getting the first decent Tory majority in 30 years.
The Tories have some big advantages. There is a post-Covid economic boom coming. Closing offices and converting them to housing/apartments will help more young people get on the property ladder. Increasing life expectancy simply means that young people abandon their radicalism at a later date than 40 years ago because they inherit mummy & daddy’s wealth later, but they will still change their opinions when they do. We read this morning that all the new tech start-ups are in the UK which is leaving Europe behind.
To me levelling-up will happen naturally rather than through government diktat. Working from home will increase as the screen technology improves, so why hang around in congested and polluted London if you can get out?
I can see the Tories being in power for many years. Labour only get elected when people feel there is money to redistribute – social-democracy depends on a thriving economy so the irony is that Labour need a successful Brexit. Labour has to become Brexitised to win the 80 seats it needs in the Brexit-land Red Wall just like New Labour had to become Blaircherised (and adopt Thatcherism) in order to win. It just takes the quasi-religious ideologues at Labour a long time to figure out what they need to do to win. So the Borisian Tories could be in power for another 10-15 years.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

The government making up 30-50% of gdp is a 70 year experiment in the massive expansion in peacetime government never seen in history before. Even when pre-Tamworth Tories ruled. There is nothing conservative about it.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

Aris, wallowing in his favoured though often largely undefined ‘post-liberalism’ is clever, always interesting, and makes some apposite points. But he is also a rather exasperating writer, sometimes even a bit of a twit! His articles drip with jargon, he sounds like a Marxist! He disparages leaders like Thatcher who made radical changes for the better in the UK, and rather surprisingly and inconsistently seems to play down cultural context.
And as for the extolling the State, it is somewhat bizarre that Aris is so fixated by his ‘post-liberal’ obsessions, that he hardly ever refers to, let along comments on, the biggest power grab we have seen by states ever, only excepting Communist and Nazi totalitarians. Most states have NOT demonstrably displayed their competence at dealing with the covid pandemic, some East Asian ones perhaps excepting. As as the example of Sweden, Florida and others has shown, while acting in an ever increasingly tyrannical manner they probably achieved very little at reducing deaths from covid while hugely increasing economic, social and other health costs in the process. In the UK more parochially, we can of course look to our state-run health system, one of the poorest performing in Europe, now without the resources excuse.
The reintroduction of nationalised industries here, which were an almost universal disaster in the 1970s?! Well, if you broke the power of an overweening and bullying trades union movement first, then perhaps..

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The “overweening and bullying trades union movement” still seems to work well in the de-nationalised transport system, and worked very well in the private car-making sector, so I don’t think it’s just being state-owned that is problematic when it comes to abuse of union power; it’s just straight-forward I have the power and I will use it – much like corporate power.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

You are quite right regarding the railways, whose privatisation model seemed rather not to decrease the power of the unions. Competition has been very limited indeed on the privatised system, and we have a pattern of more or less regional monopolies. But in general monolithic state run industries are much more susceptible to this power than competitive and dispersed industries, and this is the main reason, even above trade union legislation why their power to hold the country to ransom has been much reduced.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

He also seem deeply ungrateful. I have been following him on twitter and notice this pattern of bashing boomers whenever he can.
Now, for context I am 35 so a millenial I suppose by some definitions. Yet, I recognise that my parents started off with a great deal less than me, and had to work hard to get where they did in the world. Moreover they were not blinkered ‘bugpeople’ focused on careers but people trying to survive and raise children in a tough world. Many of these articles reek of someone who has spent his life writing academic articles or edgy journalism on Vice rather than a person who has had to earn a living with a real job or run a business. He reminds me of a lot of people who live in the world of ideas – if people like him actually had to run a government it would be a disaster, as every revolution led by starry eyed intellectuals has been.
My impression is that he has a lot of resentment for the economic straits of people in his position. And yet I posit this: I will soon have a child, I have a house, I have a well-paid job. Did I set out to make a living off journalism or social work? No. If I were Aris I’d be a lot more grateful for the generation that came before him, gave him a good education and options (whether he took advantage of them or not) and created the world we have now where he can scrape a living as a jobbing polemicist. A lot of these people and these brilliant new old ideas both from the very online left and very online right seem to be coming from young people who have never done a real days work or have any conceptions of how running a business is.
Did I come from a well-off family? No. Did I have to do unpaid internships? No. I looked at what the world actually needs, and trained myself up in that for the jobs that were out there, doing Computer Science and not Antropology like Aris. Now, I could easily have ended up trapped in the precariat too, but it was never an option for me, coming from a lower middle-class family whilst my parents would support me where I could it was also clear I’d need to support myself and earn my living. I came out of uni with a useless degree and no prospects. I trained up as a bookkeeper and did that for a while whilst studying in the evenings for an actually useful job as a software engineer. Now I am doing fine.
Now I have some sympathy for those who come from working class areas and are manual labourers from families of that without much intellectual ability. They have been screwed over by a rigged trade arrangement that looked like free trade that wasn’t. I have far less sympathy for the kind of bobo bourgeois types like Aris, regardless of whether they are socially conservative or not. Many of these people, like him, have been to public schools and had plenty of options but made decisions that put themselves in the position they are in. My question is, is it really ‘conservative’ for the state to subsidise such people and their decisions to ensure they have a job and a home and a family? Where does personal responsibility come into this? Is it a good thing for society if all of these things are regarded as owned to us by the government? To take money away from people like me who have made sacrifices to get where I am into to do this?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper
2 years ago

Unusually for this writer, this is a rather confusing piece. I’m not sure what he’s saying the “right” in Britain should do except exploit state power. I think he needs a rest…do some gardening

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
2 years ago

This article should be shown on a national Newspaper to shame the Tories. They still believe in the free market as can be seen by American private equity sharks gorging themselves on high tech start ups amongst others. I take offence at Liz Truss posing in a Tank Thatcher style whilst complaining about the Woke Civil Service interfering in Tory policy Perhaps they should all stay off the party poppers, get a clear head and get a grip before they are shipped off to oblivion.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

Look, the “American Right,” whatever that is, is trying to find a way to represent the ordinary middle class against the educated ruling class and their subordinate clients in the lower orders.
A similar thing is going on in Britain with the demolition of Labour’s Red Wall.
But everyone, from the educated to the middle class to the lower class, wants her gubmint bennies.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

Correction: everyone wants them, but no one wants to personally pay for them.

I can’t help but feel what this article describes are economically illiterate leftwing arts grads discovering social conservatism without bothering (or being unable to) to learn about economics along the way.

I guess they’ll have to find out the hard way.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago

More original thought from Aris Roussinos.
Thank you.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julie Blinde
Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
2 years ago

“…the destructive innovations of New Labour, whose zombie ideology, rejected by voters a decade ago, still commands the cultural heights.”
In the threats of vaccine mandates and exclusion of the ‘unvaccinated’ against covid with the, clearly, ultimate aim of imposing universal bio-metric information passports are we seeing just how desperate and vulnerable the remnant Blair/New Labour hegemony – and Clinton/Democrat – had been made to feel by the the election of Trump and the Brexit referendum result?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago

Liberalism is the insistence on treating things that are different as though they were the same, I heard today on Alex Kaschuta’s Subversive podcast.
Indian Bronson and her were talking about men and women, and how we would do better to recognise the differences and not to assume them away. But the argument extends to all the distinctions one could make. One size does not fit all.
That is the cultural conservative voice that dare not yet be heard.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
2 years ago

This is one of the best articles I’ve read for ages.
I really appreciate the (non-paywalled) links for further reading.
I also suspect Aris maybe on a Damascene conversion travelling left to right given his writing over last couple of years I’ve been on Unherd.

G A
G A
2 years ago

Great article.

rick stubbs
rick stubbs
2 years ago

The author, Adler-Bell, is neither a serious nor well known journalist. The publication it appears in is a third tier lefty vanity project. His new right intellectuals are a thin crew known, if at all, to politically obsessed twitter addicts. One wonders how this US fringe bears any lessons for the Tory party which has a large majority- other than permitting Rouss to claim it had stimulated some advice he already wished to impart to them.

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

I think in my quick read that this is a very fair and astute assessment – i’m a person born into ‘1948’s’ Australia and have almost always been a conservative generally. There is so much in the ‘present’ that has such great history and meaning and i treasure that. How it is curated is what bothers me but there is so much good ‘stuff’ by younger people than i that i have seen on YouTube podcasts that i am impressed by even though they may be interviewing we ‘oldies’. Heavens to Betsy, i don’t feel 73.

Melanie Mabey
Melanie Mabey
2 years ago

‘Yet it is surely correct about one thing: the party that learns to use the state effectively will be able to reshape the nation in its image. Perhaps we should be paying attention to America after all.’ not sure that’s entirely true, Cromwell secured the levers of power in his day but had to get the military to force people into the type of church services and ways of thinking he favoured – all to no avail he and his crew struggled with legitimacy and were roundly rejected in the next 40 years.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Thank you, Aris, for this report.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

Who cares about a coercive consumer culture which is applauded on all sides of the house? Hardly anyone in parliament gives a toss that we are daily destroying our eco-systems. The writer is oblivious along with the majority of our politicians. Woke is joke! There is no-one awake here as we pursue our tragic trajectory. Admiration for the USA – how sad is that as their democracy is set to crumble! Democracy will not fix climate and ecological collapse until we have a party that offers rapid, ethical IPAT Degrowth. #ImPAcT = Population * Affluence * Technology. Beware the Jevons paradox. Pandemics and migration and financial collapse will be the order of the day until we wake up to reality.  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/humans-are-doomed-to-go-extinct/?

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago

The UK and America have bigger problems than ecological collapse.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

If you have ecological collapse then the other problems disappear.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago

That was sorta the joke, Linda.