Seeking to build a populist movement on libertarian economics is a fool's errand
Tories everywhere had better watch out: their old bête noire is on manoeuvres. Nigel Farage, brimming with fury at the abandonment of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget and subsequent takeover of the Conservative Party by “globalists” and “Remainers”, scents blood.
“This party is now dead, and it needs to be replaced,” railed Farage, before issuing a call to arms for “national household names” to help him build a new “centre-right movement” that will, among other things, fight globalism, stand up for the little man over the big corporations, and prioritise national resilience over just-in-time supply chains.
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It is undeniable that, when it comes to fomenting insurgency against the soggy liberal-centrist orthodoxy, Farage is the past master. But while his latest intervention may appeal to a certain cohort of Tory voter, it is doubtful that it will stir up a wider populist revolt.
For while the man himself has the ability to command popular support on such issues as the EU, immigration, wokery and free speech, neither his anger at the jettisoning of the mini-budget nor his broader libertarian economic philosophy — which ultimately serve as the main drivers for his recent intervention — are shared to any great extent by the masses. On the contrary, according to new research conducted by the Onward think-tank, tax cuts are currently popular in only 15% of parliamentary constituencies.
The same research shows every constituency to be majority conservative on social issues but majority Left-wing on economic issues. This single piece of data provides the key to understanding British politics. As some of us have been pointing out for years, most voters have little time for the hyper-liberal attitudes, social or economic, of our elites.
These voters value family, place and nation, and take a robust stance on issues such as law and order, borders and national security. Many would see Farage as an ally on these things. Simultaneously, however, they support greater government intervention designed to bring about a more just economy — higher wages, a smaller gap between rich and poor, a reduction in regional equalities, and so on. After years of deindustrialisation, austerity and low wage growth, there exists among the electorate little appetite for a return to a 1980s Thatcherite agenda that would see the rolling back of the frontiers of the state and a devil-take-the-hindmost attitude in matters economic.
That being the case, it is difficult to see how Farage’s small state, low tax, low regulation, Singapore-on-Thames vision for Britain would serve as any sort of launchpad for a new bid to break the political mould. In the past, his anger was the anger of millions; his cause their cause. His bitterness now at the rejection by the Tories of Trussonomics will not elicit their support in the same way. This time, he’s fighting a losing battle.