by UnHerd Staff
Tuesday, 5
October 2021

Debate: are Conservatives doomed?

Peter Hitchens, Ed West, Miriam Cates and Matthew Goodwin joined UnHerd in Manchester
by UnHerd Staff

Are Conservatives doomed? Following a General Election that resulted in an 80-seat majority for the Conservative Party after 11 years of uninterrupted rule, this might seem like a rather strange question to ask.

But firstly, there may be long term challenges to the Tory coalition. By 2030, typically Left-leaning groups that tend to vote Labour — the young, renters, the childless, and the more urban people are not only growing in numbers but becoming increasingly liberal too.

More importantly, are the Tories even a Conservative party? Even if the British Tories have a talent for remaining in power, where does that leave true Conservatism?

At this week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester, UnHerd gathered together some of the country’s most optimistic  — and doomerist — conservative voices to get to the bottom of this question.

In the pessimist corner sat writer Ed West who recently published a book ‘Small Men on the Wrong side of History’ and columnist Peter Hitchens, who has been calling for the destruction of the Conservative Party since 2010.

In the more optimistic corner: Miriam Cates, a Conservative who was elected as MP for Penistone and Stockbridge as part of the feted ‘Red Wall’ intake in 2019; and Matthew Goodwin, a contributor at UnHerd and professor of politics at Kent. Watch the full debate above, with some key quotes below:

Most people do tend to start to imitate those who are more high status and then people will start to adopt these positions. That’s happened in every society; the high status people people follow the ideology and follow the religion. People say ‘Twitter isn’t Britain.’ But the nightmare vision for the future is that Twitter will be Britain in  2030, or latest 2040. And that’s going to be a hell of a place to be.
- Ed West
I was elected in 2019 as the first Conservative MP to represent a Sheffield seat in nearly 30 years. You cannot underestimate the significance of that shift. Voting Labour was a generational commitment for generation after generation after generation. And now that commitment has begun to be broken. Perhaps the Brexit party was the kind of gateway drug. But now that commitment has begun to be broken, who knows where it will end? And actually there’s been a social change in how socially acceptable it is to vote Conservative.
- Miriam Cates
We now see a country and a Conservative party in which the heir to Blair is one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He is the new Blair and his government is a Blairite cabinet. Everything that they do, although many of them are actually too thick and ill-educated to understand what it is that they’re doing. Almost everything is Blairite agenda promoted by Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, back in 1997.
- Peter Hitchens
What we’ve seen in particular since 2019 is the first serious pushback against a political consensus that has dominated this country since the era of Thatcher. I mean, things morphed and changed in different ways. I think the Conservatives introduced economic liberalism and Blair and New Labour introduced cultural liberalism. But for the first time we have a government that is serious about shifting the dial away from London and the graduate class. 
- Matthew Goodwin

Join the discussion

  • I guess this debate was a case of “define your terms”.

    Can the Tories keep winning elections ? Yes, of course. They are shapeshifting enough and Labour is terrible.

    But what does it profiteth a man that he gain the whole world but lose his soul ? And this is where Ed and Peter made a very compelling case against conservatism as opposed to conservatives.

    The lack of fight on trans, the lack of focus on repairing families, the silence on education after Gove and Cummings were seen off. All of these things and more are deeply depressing.

    Watch this to see absolutely no difference at all between the Tory and Labour MP on women in the workplace (minute 11 in particular was astonishing)

  • The problem with the left is that it’s inherently poisonous. It WILL kill itself, but the question is, how many of the rest of us will it take with it?

  • I do wish people would stop using Left and Liberal in the same sentence. The Left is no longer liberal, which is why I have drifted right.

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