by Henry Hill
Wednesday, 6
October 2021
Reaction
14:18

The YMCA shows the way to fight a culture war

A humble pamphlet at the Tory conference contains a winning formula
by Henry Hill
The ‘Building Young Britannia’ pamphlet

What does ‘winning the culture war’ look like? To some, keeping statues up. To others, maintaining the definitional boundaries between men and women.

To me, I think it would look something like Building Young Britannia, the pamphlet the YMCA were handing out at this week’s Conservative Party Conference.

The content is exactly what you’d expect of a third-sector organisation focusing on young people. But the aesthetic is eye-catching. Even after a decade in power, it’s unusual for a charity to deign to work this hard to appeal to the Right-wing eye.

For the Tories, there is a lesson here. There is more to any battle over the culture than a handful of high-profile pitched battles with their committed opponents. The fight for the Union depends on winning innumerable small battles over small things that lend a British shape to national life; the same is true for the party’s other values.

Boris Johnson’s determination towards a higher-spending vision of Conservatism increases even further his opportunities to do so. The State casts a long shadow over civic society, and not just through law and regulation. Organisations hoping to avail themselves of public funds have to appeal to those who gatekeep those funds. That gives ministers huge soft power.

What seems to be missing is the will to wield it, or a vision of what a more Conservative state (as opposed to merely a smaller state) would actually look like. Faced with a vast, professionally-organised lobby in the third sector, the Tories seem to often go onto a sort of ideological autopilot.

Contrast this with the way Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalists conduct themselves. Since taking power at Holyrood in 2011, the SNP have ruthlessly wielded patronage to subvert civic Scotland, elevating complacent yes-men and women whilst stifling anti-independence voices.

Pushing back against this is one reason that the UK Internal Market Act (Ukima) was so important: the new powers for London ministers to spend money in Scotland give the Government an opportunity to set up a counter-current of British patronage and curtail the First Minister’s power to wield her control of public funds against unionists.

But the case also highlights what can be done. If the Government’s mission is to revive a common sense of British nationhood, why should charities and other organisations that want public funds not be co-opted into that effort?

‘One Nation’ Conservatism is not just liberalism in a blue rosette. Implicit is the idea that you can’t deliver its vision of a more harmonious and better-ordered society whilst neglecting the ‘nation’ that underpins it. From the other side, there are probably few better ways to sell social programmes to Tory activists than place them in the context of a broader project of national renewal.

Doubtless there will be plenty of people in the third sector who dislike this. But then conservatives very often dislike progressive speech codes. Winning the culture war is overcoming that resistance. Building Young Britannia is a start.

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Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
11 months ago

“The fight for the Union depends on winning innumerable small battles over small things that lend a British shape to national life”
This is exactly why I always make what may seem like a ridiculous fuss over nothing in response to the woke racist practice of capitalising “black” while not capitalising “white”.

Jim le Messurier
Jim le Messurier
11 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

I don’t think your comparison of Drahcir’s flagging up of the debasement of correct norms of writing with the stuff the ‘wokels’ do themselves when they go about butchering the language, is remotely justified.
The capitalisation of ‘Black’ but not ‘white’, in reference to race is an obvious case of altering the rules of grammar. It’s plain wrong.
Discarding ‘actress’ i.e. a female actor in favour of ‘actor’ is also wrong because our language distinguishes between sexes.
Standing up for correct grammar usage in the first example is not in any way equivalent to the deliberate expunging of a perfectly legitimate word from the lexicon, in the second example.

andrew harman
andrew harman
11 months ago

But the problems of history are not caused by the average man with the average views. It needs only two vigorous minorities confident in the righteousness of their cause, to split a country from top to bottom”
Historian Joel Hurstfield writing about the religious divisions of the C16th but his words can apply to our age too.

Last edited 11 months ago by andrew harman
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Good quote. There is definitely something very Cromwellian about the woke ideology being pushed upon us by our institutions.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Actually weren’t their much more extreme sub-groups of puritans that Cromwell suppressed ?
I think the diary of Pepys opens with one such extreme group being hunted down on Hampstead Heath

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Yes, a lot of them went to Amsterdam, but even the tolerant Dutch couldn’t tolerate them. After that they went to practice their Puritanism in North America. Now that Christianity is no longer the cultural bedrock of US society, much of that puritanical zeal is being channeled through wokeness.

J Bryant
J Bryant
11 months ago

At last Unherd publishes an article (albeit a very small one) about one strategy for resisting progressive ideologues. Well done. Maybe they’ll be emboldened to publish a full length article, or even two.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Well, that sounds a bit like ‘why don’t THEY do something…’! Unherd is a forum for the exchange of views and free speech, in particular prioritising heterodox views. As we know, contributors don’t all agree with each other. It is up to all of us who hate the ‘woke’ takeover to combat it, if so we desire.

J Bryant
J Bryant
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I agree that Unherd shouldn’t be the mouthpiece for any particular ideology or viewpoint but that doesn’t prevent it reporting on the important issues of the day.
Unherd has published numerous fine articles describing progressive ideology, its tactics and, in particular, the phenomenon called cancel culture. They’ve noted the destructive effect of this ideology on Western society. The obvious question is what, if anything, is being done to resist cancel culture? There’s nothing to prevent Unherd reporting on that question without taking sides or compromising their journalistic integrity.

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Well done J! First of many articles I hope

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
11 months ago

So what is the message of the pamphlet? I’d like to know. Have you read it, or is it just that it has a union flag on the cover?

Dolan dolan_cummings
Dolan dolan_cummings
11 months ago

Does this pamphlet exist online? The link is to a tweet with no content.

andrew harman
andrew harman
11 months ago

Pedantic point – should it be “compiasant” rather than “complacent”

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
11 months ago

Friends in Scotland have told me that even if the money comes from Westminster the people of Scotland are led to believe that it comes from Holyrood. This is not done by out right lying it is done in more subtle ways, but the reult is the same, one friend informed me that nearly everyone that she knew believed that the furlough payments wasScottish money.