First, a note from the outgoing editor…
The Mallard is precisely one year old today. Happy birthday to us, and all that jazz.
What a tremendous year it’s been, in politics. We’ve had Trump, we’ve had Article 50, and we’ve had the ill-fated general election. It’s been an absolute privilege to read and publish the many articles I’ve been sent on these and many other topics. I only wish I had had the time to publish more!
I was apprehensive last summer, when I first decided to launch a website for conservative students. I had no experience of web design, no experience of editing, and no money to pay someone more experienced to do either (or both!) for me. A year hence, however, I am delighted with what we have achieved. We have reached tens of thousands of people with our content, and given a platform to a ream of students who might not otherwise have had one. It has been a tremendous hoot, and it is not without a modicum of sadness that I pass on the reins.
I chose Jake to be my successor because of his singular dedication, and conscientious work ethic. I feel certain that, whatever we’ve achieved in the last twelve months, it will be eclipsed by what is achieved in the twelve to come, under Jake’s strong (and stable, per chance?) leadership.
Jake Scott, The Mallard’s new editor:
It’s a strange time to be a conservative.
Despite winning the largest share of votes in a general election since 1983, the party was returned to government as a minority, yet ploughs ahead regardless. This confused sense of bittersweet victory has left the party with an identity crisis: do we return to the Thatcherite mantra of small government, market forces, rugged individualism and Victorian values; or do we forge ahead with May’s “belief in the good government can do”, reigning in the excess of big business, a rejection of “selfish individualism” yet modernising the party almost beyond recognition with Justine Greening’s irksome capitulation to identitarianism? Or do we reject both and look to traditionalism, embodied in the figure of Jacob Rees-Mogg who, though he may be a staunch loyalist to the leadership, inevitably has a bright and promising future ahead of him? The party seems lost on what it stands for, and is failing to reconcile the neoliberalism unleashed thirty years ago with the desire to protect the fragile organism of civil society at a time when it seems most ready to fall apart.
Then of course there is Europe: since the 1980s it has bitterly divided the party; even Mrs. Thatcher was a Europhile, when it was the European Economic Community, before becoming convinced of its “weak” and “feeble” nature. Some of us hoped the event of Brexit would put the issue to bed, but if anything it has woken up sleeping enmities, and at a time when the party needs to present unity, backbenchers are – as ever – taking what potshots they can.
All this against a background conversation surrounding Mrs. May: will she go; won’t she; who could replace her; has she positively or negatively impacted the party? And so on. The desperate need for unity seems to only be inflaming divisions ever more, as factions dig in their heels and insist theirs is the true Toryism to convince voters back to the camp. It doesn’t help that the grassroots are insistent on stoking up the issue of a leadership contest, despite their clear favourite repeatedly ruling out challenging the Prime Minister.
The past year can be characterised as a period of internal division. Factions, ideologies and individuals are tugging the Party back and forth in an attempt to resolve the existential crisis it has been plunged into. Eighteen months ago, when the big political question was “will Labour split in two?” I don’t think anyone expected us to be where we are now.
And yet, the future is not as dim as it may seem. Many newspapers have indicated this generation is “the most conservative yet” – whether it is wishful thinking, hyperbole or the truth is debatable – and if the Party could make the positive case for capitalism, the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth could be turned into votes quite swiftly.
As well, activists are constantly trying to revive youth conservatism. CCHQ seems to be listening, and Ellie King – an energetic and passionate conservative activist – has announced a youth conservative conference in early 2018, backed by CCHQ.
Culture seems to be turning, too: a revival of interest in classical architecture and traditional art seems to be underway, perhaps begun by the realisation that we are not at home in our modern cities, surrounded by oppressive steel and glass and encouraged to look down, rather than up at the beauty of classical buildings. And a refusal to bow to the censorious virtue-signalling left is animating a renewed interest in classical liberal politics, turning many fence-sitters to the virtues of Natural Law Liberalism and limited government. Slowly, people are waking up to the fact that a bloated, overreaching state will only harm society, not empower it: similarly, a refusal to feel shame and embarrassment has sparked hope for a recognition of British and English values once again. For so long, the globalist, cosmopolitan establishment suppressed our cultural heritage but now, even though we may not quite have recovered it yet, the importance of cultural history is being recognised once again.
Amid this whirlwind of political excitement, conservative students are finding it difficult to have their voices heard. Student unions are more left-leaning than ever, and until CCHQ truly recognises the importance of the youth and it’s young activists, the Party seems to be deaf to their demands. This is where I believe the Mallard can step in: in just a year we have grown quite rapidly, and continue to do so, offering a clear and wide-ranging voice for young conservative students. This is due to the efforts of both the talent of our writers, and our founder Will, who is sadly passing on the torch.
I hope the next year offers some clarity and chances for unity for the Party, and as many opportunities for growth for the Mallard as the last.
I urge any students who are interested in writing for us to contact us, via Facebook, Twitter or email.