Daniel Evans

The UK’s Place in the World: Strategic Industries, China, and Sovereignty

This article was originally published on 17th November 2021.

The Brexit-leading Conservative government wants to back up the talk of the referendum campaign. Now that the UK has Brexited there’s a practical need to set a plan of action and follow it. A lot of intellectual work was taken care of by just following whatever the EU position was.

Global Britain, sovereignty, trade deals, etc., OK. What’s the plan? Some of that’s answered implicitly. Elizabeth Truss as Secretary of State for International Trade was busy doing trade deals. AUKUS speaks to diplomatic, defence, and geographical focus. COP26 – the UK is supposed to make its name on climate stuff. OK.

This is what the Prime Minister says the plan is. Some key points: greater engagement in the world, securing the UK’s status as a “Science and Tech Superpower by 2030,” and a “tilt to the Indo-Pacific.” This is still getting ahead of itself.

A recent announcement about an old deal, about an investigation into the Nvidia takeover of Arm (originally a British microchip design company, taken over by the Japanese SoftBank) is a good enough starting point for something to think about.

The Cameron and May governments were very permissive of a lot of foreign investments and takeovers e.g. Chinese nuclear power projects, Huawei and 5G, invitation into the Northern Powerhouse. A lot of people are still angry at the sale of state assets under Right to Buy to British people. Why does the sale of much, much larger British companies/assets to foreign interests provoke almost nothing? What about foreign ownership in the housing market, for that matter?

At least the Johnson government has revisited some of these blunders. It also hasn’t put a complete stop to a lot else which contradicts its strategic review. For example, the Chinese takeover of British Steel, the Chinese takeover of the UK’s largest microchip producer, and the Chinese takeover of a major UK graphene producer. Sort yourselves out!

Strategic Industries and China

Start with making a proper assessment of the UK’s assets. What are you working with?

The Johnson government is promising to do a lot of things differently to the Cameron and May governments. When William the Conqueror took over as CEO, he did an inventory check, right down to the kinds of cheese in England.

Napoleon was notoriously obsessed with information.

In the autumn of 1811, the peak of Napoleon’s empire (has France been as well-governed since?) the emperor visited 40 cities in 22 days. This is despite losing three and a half days of travel to gales and floods. He would prevent mayors from giving great speeches and instead ask them questions. Population, death, revenues, forestry, tolls, municipal rates, conscription, civil and criminal lawsuits. Even about how many sentences passed by mayors were annulled by the Court of Cassation, and whether mayors had found means to provide suitable lodgings for rectors.

Would Mayor Johnson have fared well under Napoleon’s questioning? Prime Minister Johnson? Sure, why not? The information Napoleon was looking for gave him clues about the state of the empire, its operational effectiveness, happiness of its citizens, its direction, its capabilities, and what he could draw on. What are the revealing questions you could ask today?

A country’s strategic industries are certainly different from the 1800s.

The pandemic alone should’ve taught the UK that the entire west relies heavily on China for production of a lot of basic medicines. That’s concerning. It certainly relies on China for a lot of manufacturing of basic but important medical equipment too. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta virtual/augmented reality news is also something to think about.

How comfortable is the UK with the idea of China controlling a lot of technology manufacturing, and easy access to intellectual secrets/innovations?

China is very good at controlling actual reality let alone a virtual one. The China-Taiwan tensions keep brewing. China’s been threatening Taiwan that its military won’t stand a chance if it invades. China is threatening that any outside interference will mean paying a price. Meanwhile, the world relies on Taiwan for semiconductors which go in everything. Xi promises that China and Taiwan will be reunited.

How is Hong Kong doing?

Strategic industries are no longer just about simpler things like coal and steel production for tanks and munitions. They’re also about the materials and methods of fourth and fifth generation warfare, like rare earth metals and this sort of thing.

It seems the Johnson government is at least a little but wiser to China.It’s hard to believe how cosy Cameron was prepared to get with Xi Jinping. They wanted to make Macclesfield (of all places!) the end point of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Have a look at this selfie. Cameron, soy-faced, submissively leaning in. Sergio Aguero’s having a great time, that’s fine. Xi looks like he’s holding his tongue. It’s not a meeting of peers. One has real power and the other doesn’t. This is a picture of the Emperor of China wondering how much longer he has to humour the Gap Yah guy. Is Cameron oblivious? If he is, he’s like that guy who thought he made friends with a wild Alaskan grizzly and got eaten. Does he understand what kind of animal he’s dealing with? Of course, Xi is a silly willy nilly old bear.

If Cameron wasn’t oblivious, was he just resigned to the idea of securing British comfort as a supplicant to China?

When did the west start calling Xi “President” and stop calling him “Chairman”? “Zhuxi” means “Chairman”. Xi is still “General Secretary” of the Chinese Communist Party, a title which originates with Stalin’s own role as General Secretary. That title has its own interesting history. Does “President” hide his shame? Why is the UK still sucking up to a communist by using a less embarrassing and false translation of his title?

Anyway, never mind China, what about everyone else?


The UK doesn’t need to pursue absolute autarky, but it will have to think about what its strategic industries are and how much control it wants over them for how much independence.

Alignment with the US-led order has been convenient for the UK’s comfort. Countries which don’t submit to the US (e.g., Russia, Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela), find themselves poorer and squeezed. They haven’t helped themselves either. The obvious exception is China. Is it too big? Did Nixon miscalculate? The US was supposed to be a military power, China an economic one. That unspoken deal doesn’t seem to be holding. That calculation is probably changing too for everyone else as the US becomes relatively weaker and China relatively stronger.

For now, easy prosperity clearly hasn’t been everything to every country. Not everyone follows the first rule of the Satanic bible. All hail GDP, the one true measure of successful government! Sovereignty means answering to nobody else, and that’s valuable too. It has also meant that these countries develop and control a lot of their own technology. Russia and China in particular. Though it’s also a US protectorate, Israel is notable too for its self-reliance and the level of independence that affords it, regionally, at least.

Can the UK become a “Science and Tech Superpower” by 2030? 

For everything it would need to achieve that, how much does it need to learn? How much of the basics does it need to relearn? Outsourced manufacturing and international, mobile academia are not a stable starting point. Knowledge fades with the people who have it, who today can move and work from anywhere.

What ties these people to the UK? What stops them from working for someone else?

The UK’s place in the world will be affected by how much it can bring under its own control.

What’s the plan?

Does anyone have any confidence that there’s any one person in the government who properly understands 1) the UK’s own state of affairs, 2) how that sits internationally, 3) what the reasonable goals are, 4) how to work toward them, and 5) has the power to make it happen?

Until the UK has that it is getting ahead of itself in any discussion about what its place in the world should be.

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Watch Out for The New Labour Playbook

Yes, Labour is still the party of identity fetishists, true-believer yet Dad’s Army-esque revolutionaries, end of times Gaia environmentalists, and public transport strike supporters, groomers, and much else, but so was New Labour. They just knew how to keep the lunacy contained, repackaged, and were desperate enough to try Blair.

Fortunately, Blair did a lot of damage to his own side, not just the country. Blair’s incrementalism didn’t manifest their objectives  quickly enough. They were willing to grumble and tolerate it until the Iraq War. From that point on, it became impossible to contain the lunacy; spiralling down through more and more left-wing figures, from Brown to Miliband and then to Corbyn. Consequently, they have tuckered themselves out.

The loss of monolithic public news and broadcasting will also make it much harder, New Labour’s ilk will try to come back. You can still see them. They haven’t gone anyway. They won’t just come from the party, they’ll come from all the people and organisations on their side. Blair himself is still knocking around. The advice comes regularly to ditch the overt progressive evangelism e.g. November last year, May this year.

There’s been a slow trickle of pieces which say things like “Labour need a big personality to take on the Tories”. They’re trying their best to manufacture this. Have you seen the attempts to make Wes Streeting out as if he’s interesting and not just another factory pipeline student union politician, in career background and mindset? Good grief. Progressives used to rob banks, fight guerrilla wars, and write their defiance in their own blood. Sure, threats should be taken seriously, and it’s unpleasant, but Wes, what are you doing sending limp tweets to old ladies?

Anyway, it’s good news! As it stands, the two go-getting types of the progressives are (at least, temporarily) inhibited: the energised, violent, “true believers”, are somewhat withered, and the “professional” sorts have a monumental amount of work to do. They are rebuilding, though, so keep an eye out.

If they can become credible on the following, they’ll be doing well: 1) Tough on Crime, 2) Pro Business, 3) Strong on Foreign Policy, 4) Strong on Defence, and 5) Solid on Our Public Services. It’s going to be difficult. A lot of Labour supporters don’t want to engage on those policy areas at all in the first place, let alone have workable answers to them.

The thing to watch out for is Blair’s two main tricks, which are closely related 1) talking out of both sides of their mouths and 2) presenting progressive solutions in their opponents’ terms.

Regarding the first trick, let’s use immigration as an example: one of the big progressive no-nos, a big right-wing concern, but which they really need to answer.

Just look at the headlines, which tell their own story. Blair admits he didn’t realise how many migrants would come to the UK after EU expansion. OK, but then he also says that immigration is good for the UK economy. Finally, he said that if you want to stay in the EU you have to curb immigration.

None of this is about lowering immigration based on principle or reflects right-wing concerns, or even the general popular reasons why people want it lowered. It’s about tactical necessity, in service of bigger picture goals – staying in the EU and reinforcing hegemony at home. Blair doesn’t admit he was wrong or that mass immigration has been damaging – he is talking out of both sides of his mouth! This helps him to try to flank his political opponents with positions which superficially appear to speak to right-wing concerns.

The reason he does this is very simple and not at all an original observation. In democratic politics it’s (sometimes) a viable strategy to go for (what you think is) the “centre ground”. Labour leaders who won – Ramsay MacDonald, Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson, and Tony Blair, all toned down the crazy in pursuit of the “sensible” and “moderate” centre ground.

Not that it seems to matter – progressives run all the main institutions and the nominal Conservative Party acquiesces and even adopts their agenda and aesthetic – but the key realisation of Blairism is that you must have power to do anything. Public support certainly helps reinforce the perception of complete hegemonic power and the justification for it.

Until Labour gets this by winning an election, the Conservative Party might just safely trundle along. God have mercy on you, Conservative Party. Govern! Or if you must insist on such dull imbecility, get out of the way. Go, all of you, retire to the House of Lords or wherever else you think gives you a veil of dignity, and whatever place can use the content, unaware, and immobile.

Anyway, if Labour doesn’t learn the lessons of Blairism, it risks being confined to 1) old style tax and spend and state power economics, 2) foreign policy which is anti-UK in one way or another, 3) marginal identity fetishism, and 4) screeching denunciation of anyone that dissents. This is because 1) misreads the lessons of the financial crisis, 2) misreads the proper responses to 9/11 and the Iraq War, 3) sees the progressives stuck in the tar-baby of the Culture War (which I am certain it will lose), and 4) just shows them to be unstable, and therefore as unfit to rule.

All of this would be a bit clapped out, but it would be safe and familiar for them, and do they even have the vision to see beyond? Reality and the general zeitgeist have moved on. Conservatives would do well to keep them stuck here.

There are ways out, and Labour seems to be doing a few of these things, though it’s hard to know if they really get it, half get it at someone else’s instruction, or if it’s accidental or coincidental. It’s also unclear how much any of the following will help them.

First, they seem to be hinting at a new progressive coalition i.e. Lib Dems, Greens, etc. tactical voting, selective standing of candidates, to avoid splitting the progressive vote. Will this work? Many use these parties as protest votes and you’d be surprised how many Conservative voters, for example, vote Green or Lib Dem at different elections, for all sorts of reasons, but who would never do it at a general election.

Second, watch out for Labour updating its policy agenda. Safe on this one so far. If they’re sensible it would stop being economically illiterate and suspicious of technology. It would also mean the progressives fully realising that corporations can be used and are willing to side with them if the conditions are right, no matter how temporary. The capitalists really will sell you the rope with which they’ll be hanged. It’s quite something!

Third, watch out for Labour re-discovering the mentality of government. The right needs to do this too, it must be said. The task is to amass power and to assume that (of course) it should be you governing. To do this the left will need some more self-discipline and less self-indulgence. The Labour Party’s sins are pride (how fitting!), envy, wrath, and gluttony. The Conservative Party’s sins are pride and sloth. This tactical swallowing of (some of) their pride doesn’t burden them to pursue policies people actually want. They’ll continue to insist that what voters want aligns with what the Labour Party wants, albeit overlaid with a veneer of sincerity and concern made possible with a more “moderate” leadership. New Labour was subtler still.

New Labour worked because people knew that Blair was prepared to discipline and channel the more insane parts of the Labour Party. Superficially, denial and discipline look very similar. It gave Labour the appearance of normality, reassured enough extra voters, and afforded them the cover of public acceptance to proceed with full-on nation-mutilating progressivism.

Watch out for the New Labour playbook. It will start with Labour controlling its incontinence. It’d be great if the Conservative Party got ahead of the problem by governing. Keep them busy responding to you, keep them too busy to get out of where they’re stuck.

Photo Credit.

Time To Stop Being Conservatives

‘Conservative’, big and small ‘c’, is blah. Blah party, policies, politicians, polls, prospects, and that’s just the ‘p’ words.

Let’s deal with ‘party’ first. Perhaps you’ve already stopped being a Conservative. There’s plenty of debate among the duckies about leaving, destroying, destroying and rebuilding, long marching through, etc. the Conservative Party. Whatever, sure, broadly, one way or another, there should be a proper political force which reflects ducky views. More on this later.

The real question is this: should you even be a conservative, let alone a Conservative, any more? What is the virtue of being a ‘conservative’? It’s a small tactical mistake, with large consequences, but easily tweaked and fixed. The Conservative Party may present itself as conservative and full of people who are not. How has that worked out?

Policies. What on a practical political level has ‘being a (C/c)onservative’ got you for the last decade, or more? What is it getting you now? What does it look like it’s going to get you in the next decade…or more?

Politicians. Ultimately, it’s these guys to blame for the blah policies. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the Conservative Party has blah policies though. Just look at its politicians. I’ve written at length (see the May 2022 magazine) about how, basically, the Conservative Party doesn’t select for competence, it selects for loyalty, and how changing its composition is unrealistic. You’re just going to have to be stuck with a ministerial cadre which belly flops, marries pensioners, plays hide and seek, and gobbles knobs for public entertainment. Is it even accurate to say that these people present as ‘conservative’ while failing to govern as conservatives? In any case, why are you surprised that they’re failures, and why would you care to keep associating with them? It’s time to stop being conservatives.

Polls. When the presentation of ‘conservative’ is so beyond saving, all that’s left is the reverse. Be conservative, act conservative, but don’t care to present as a conservative. Keep all the principles, attract the people who have them, those who like to pretend they don’t because it’s not fashionable, and those who are merely superficially put off. It costs you nothing but, what, comfiness, pride, what? To ditch a label which gets you nothing practically or aesthetically?

Jake Scott is right. Conservatives aren’t cool. Isn’t it incredibly telling that I’m by far the coolest person he knows and I’m not a conservative? It’s why I’m telling you not to be too. It’s not just the young fogeys, Thatcher throbbers, port & policy chortlers, MP-selfie-profile-pictures – does that cover it? – it’s the concept itself.

Prospects. Alright, this is a bit flimsy, and I’m done with this ‘p’ gimmick. ‘Conservative’ keep you trapped in a progressive paradigm, limiting your prospects. You are conservative relative to their progress. Sure, they’re progressive relative to what you want to conserve, but is that really how it’s taken in the zeitgeist? It doesn’t work the other way around. ‘Conservative’ doesn’t sound like you want to keep what’s what. It sounds like there’s one of two broad choices you can be, left/right, Conservative/Labour. What is it to present as the ones who just want to stick where you are and do nothing? “But there’s plenty I want to build and fix and do to make the UK excellent”, you say. Good! I hear you. In fact, a line from The Mallard’s own Wednesday Addams in her review of Peter Hitchens’ new book stood out to me. “He mourns not for a pristine past, but a future that never was”. Does the word, name, presentation, etc. of ‘(C/c)onservative’ ever connote that idea too? Would anyone associate the word or concept of the future with ‘(C/c)onservatives’ on Family Fortune? Whatever, this is a small tweak too.

Don’t just mourn, don’t be one of those people who seem to enjoy self-pity, wallowing in the ‘man among the ruins’ thing. Even if it’s not so negative, don’t just be twee, oh the green and pleasant land, God save the King, blah. Find and keep what’s valuable, think about how to conserve it, but also how to bring it into the future. While you’re at it, adjust your attitude toward the future. Hitchens is an old man, so whatever, maybe it’s forgivable that all he can do is mourn for a future that never was. But you can act for a future that will be. It will. And you have to totally unironically, unreservedly believe that. Make it a matter of truth!

Jake Scott is right again. Stop pretending as if you are living in a liberal pluralist society in which different ideologies are just different options in a marketplace. I’m not sure this is quite what he meant, but it’s my take: some ways of doing things are better than others. Whether that’s economic, educational, social, whatever. There are better and worse ways of running a country. The progressives are objectively shit.

Truth. You are not a conservative, you are not right wing, even, you just believe in the truth. Twitter has been in the news, let’s use that as an example. The now dismal, disgraced, and now discarded Vijaya Gadde, could not even begin to conceive that Twitter had biased rules against conservatives on defining ‘misgendering’. It’s because her opinion wasn’t just an opinion. It was the truth. Of course, she was wrong. You are the ones with the truth. This is going to get tiresome referring to the same Jake Scott video, but he is right again. If anything he isn’t radical enough. On some things there just is no battle of ideas. There is no debate on insanity. Not in the real world, at least, maybe stuffed away in university philosophy departments where the debate can keep going for 3,000 years without resolution and not interfere with anything that matters.

Anyway, the truth is also that broadly conservative ideas about a whole range of topics are held by most of the country. Brexit was the big one, already proven. Next could be anything from immigration to British values, house building, tax, or all of them if only there was a proper political force prepared to go for it. More on that right at the end. In the meantime, what you believe is true and it will come to be, because you are going to make it happen.

This article hasn’t come out of nowhere, exactly. There does seem to be some buzz around the idea of ‘sensible centrists’. Is that the right branding? Not sure about it, but the concept is onto something which is good politics.

TL;DW, examples from the linked video: 1) it’s extreme to import hundreds of thousands of people to the country, the sensible position is to set immigration by what the country needs, 2) it’s extreme to let crime go rampant and obsess over the relatively small problem of one or two racist police, the sensible position is to be tough on crime, or 3) it’s extreme to hire thousands of people to obsess over a small number of people getting offended, to the tune of billions, rather than just not cater to that hysterical timewasting minority.

It’s not an entirely new idea, but popularising it in ‘right-wing’ circles is valuable, and so is the formula, which is new. The proof that it’s good is that it has been done before. How far back do you want to go? Curtis Yarvin presents Caesar as an imperially purple (red/blue/Republican/Democrat) end to chaotic fighting between extremes – a sensible centre. More recently Vote Leave presented the ‘leave’ option as a sensible left and right-backed, cross-party, non-UKIP, sensible centre which was merely taking back control from an extreme EU, where actually remaining would be the less certain, more dangerous, crazy option.

Does the UK feel stable, well-governed, on the right and true path, today? Is the UK sensible or extreme? See the appendix below if you need any help. Everything is totally fucking awful. It doesn’t even have to be! It could just be well governed instead. You’re not a conservative, you just want a good government.

Today, it is governed by Conservatives. It has been backed by conservatives or otherwise simply just not replaced by conservatives, and in any case conservatives have been totally contaminated by the idea of Conservatives. On top of all of this, when you have the truth on your side, what is there even to be gained by being (C/c)onservatives? Again, see the appendix below for some sense of the scale of the problem.

I’m not sure what exactly is next. Rallying around any sort of name or group or identity, especially if it isn’t totally solid and ready, presents a target. For now it’s enough to simply reject the idea that you are a conservative, or right-wing, especially when asked or characterised as such.

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Her Penis is Boring

Oh good. You get a package and creatively wrap it. Who doesn’t love a Dutch surprise?

It’s all very predictable. As soon as you see the headline, you know what’s going to happen.

A great big chunk of the normie right, and even the more based/red-pilled/dissident/whatever right, have reacted like this. What do you reckon, do you recognise the below?

“Outrageous! *What do they mean HER penis*? If the left did this eh meh meh hypocrisy blah! Harumph, most unorthodox! If a man did this! We’ve fallen so far, the future of our country, something something the Queen. Splutters champagne, monocle falls out, but with Victorian era mutton chops.”

OK, the last bit might be a little unfair. You get the point though, don’t you?

Is this really some great new surprise or at all shocking? No! It’s been done to death and now they’re acting out with increasingly more extreme things to get the same level of reaction, attention, etc. to try and keep any buzz or excitement going in their latest fad.

Now they’re getting their ‘tits’ out at the White House. What’s next? Synchronised helicopters at the Cenotaph this November while the King stands to attention? This is all so dumb and transparent. Why are you reacting as if it’s anything other than boring?

The ‘right’ is the most promising place anything new or interesting is likely to come from. It’s on the outside. It’s not establishment normalcy, curated and factory-made orthodoxy. When it reacts in such predictable ways to such obvious dreariness, it’s really letting itself down. Don’t let your enemies feel like insurgents when they’re cradled by the status quo. Let them jump the shark.

Reacting is a diversion of your energy from more important things. Minority issues cut both ways. Sure, ‘most people’ (do majorities matter, or does winning matter?) might agree with you, and it might even count for something, but how high on their list of priorities is it? Yes, take the low hanging fruit, or perhaps this is an issue which also largely takes care of itself if enough (of the relevant) people are on your side.

Yes, this may have played a role in bringing down Nicola Sturgeon, but how significant was that? What role did money problems play? And the SNP are still there, with Labour next best positioned to take over. Nothing big or culturally or politically is really that different in Scotland. For the whole UK what still stands? The economy, immigration, house prices, tax rates, NHS standards, take your pick of any issue which needs more work.

For now, let the TERFs and trans people have at it. It’s not like the TERFs are your friends. Why give any quarter to a slightly different strain of the progressive problem?

And on a totally basic level, isn’t it just stupid to bother fighting ‘to prove’ (to who?) that men are men and women are women? This is really just a playground case where someone calls you a name, and you either call them one back or ignore it. You don’t waste energy trying to persuade your accuser that you are not whatever they called you.

Just like the playground, they don’t really believe in ‘her penis’ anyway. It’s a shit test, ab initiation rite, an in-group/out-group signifier. It’s like molesting a pig to get into the Bullingdon Club or whatever. Well, that’s the Machiavellian side. A lot of these people are just useful idiots, aren’t party insiders, don’t have a clue, and really have the same energy as the ones who have the power of God and anime on their side. Either way, don’t bother. It’s stupid.

Are we really wasting energy on something as basic as this rather than just going “no” and carrying on with something real, something that might need more real fighting over?

Don’t waste the energy. They’re better prepared for it and you’re just feeding the trolls, following the paths they’ve laid out for you.

When you react in the ways they expect:

  1. They have their own set ways to react, and the game keeps going,
  2. They’re ready and waiting, don’t do what they expect and wrongfoot them,
  3. You keep their fad alive, and…
  4. It makes you look like you’re just doing the same old thing you’ve done since 2016 or whenever.

The more you disengage, the more they’ll look for a different game, or otherwise chase the high by pushing the absolute limits of their ideological/aesthetic paradigm. Eventually they run out of things to do, or it breaks, or people will get so totally disgusted by it that it provokes a real reaction. Interpret ‘reaction’ as you will.

Your instinct to react now is understandable, but it’s not useful. Yes, you’re right, progressives do get away with all sorts of things. On one level it’s because they have power to enforce what they want, defend their people, and you don’t. On another it’s because they have the kinds of religious fervent nutters who will throw bricks through people’s windows, glue themselves to roads, throw Molotov cocktails, etc. and your side doesn’t.

Well, OK, then you have to work with the people you’ve got. It means treating this for what it is. Boring!

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One Simple Way to Fix the Government

Sorry, not this government. The idea of proportional representation seems to be fluttering about, but you don’t even need to go that far. There’s a much simpler solution which doesn’t rely on changing the electoral system. Even better, all you have to do is lean into existing political expectations. And, well, it’s not so much one simple way to fix the government. First comes the political party, which then becomes the government.


Put party appointments, candidates, and occupants of elected positions under the direct and total command of the party leader. Yes. Run the party like a company, military unit, the mafia, etc. whatever comparison works for you. In other words, like any group organised to actually achieve a common purpose in the face of external pressures.

But what about party members?

Shouldn’t the members have a say? No. At least not the way they do now. It’s better that way. They’ll come around when their party wins.

Party members don’t really have much, if any, of a say in party matters as it is. Whether it’s council, parliamentary, or leadership candidates, there’s quite a lot of filtering which goes on before they are presented to members. At the lower level, staggeringly few party members vote on internal party association positions, or even council candidates, so there’s no real loss there. At the higher levels, in the Conservative Party, for example, Kemi Badenoch was the most popular choice for leadership this time around, among the members, before MPs filtered her out and narrowed the field to Truss and Sunak. Now it looks like the party isn’t even really getting Truss. (A lot of that is her fault to be fair).

As a party member, what exactly are you losing by not getting a say? Even after all that, you were almost certainly going to vote for the party anyway, so what are you even complaining about? Isn’t it more important to get behind those who reflect your principles, or back who you think is the best shot, etc. rather than “having a say” exactly?

The reason you want a say isn’t that you want power, exactly, it’s that you want to feel like you matter. Trying to get thousands of cooks to meddle in the broth isn’t the way to matter. When you identify the leader and plan that you want to back, fall in line, and follow their lead. As part of the masses, you have a very small amount of individual energy. If you want it to do anything, it needs to be focused like a laser. Let yourself be focused.

Success happens when there’s a plan and everyone sticks to it. It doesn’t happen when everyone starts fighting over their own ideas. Make the party leader ultimately responsible not just for their plan but for all the resources and people they will need to execute it. That means party members do not get a say. Party members must be rewarded in other ways, but that’s a topic for another piece.


There is one aspect of party candidate selection which is worth keeping: loyalty. The selection process today selects for loyalty above all else, to the party, and to nebulous groups of insiders within the party itself.

Loyalty is important. You need everyone to act as one, working to the same goal, with the same ethos, presenting a strong, united front. The leader at the top should have a plan and will need loyal people to get it done. Make it obvious where that loyalty is going to – to the leader – rather than vaguely to the party, which really means planless, disorganised, venal, behind-the-sceners.

Members don’t really have a say as it is. When it comes to it, most don’t seem to mind and vote for the party in elections anyway. Activists keep knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, donating, etc. Lean into that political reality, clear up the leadership structure, and, even better, make it much more honest by showing plainly where that loyalty really goes.

Just in that regard, putting everyone under the direct and total responsibility of the party leader would make everything better for the candidates, party activists, and the party as a whole.

For candidates, they don’t need to waste time with the chaos and pettiness of the local party and activists. They don’t need to waste untold hours doing pointless tasks to prove their loyalty. If they owe their position entirely to the party leader, that’s where you get the loyalty. Remove some big obstacles to getting the best candidates 1) the time they have to spend doing politics instead of whatever highly demanding civilian job they have, and 2) the risk of not getting selected even after all the loyalty-proving they have to go through.

Do you want better politicians? Make it easier for the better ones to put themselves forward.

For the party leader, the benefits are obvious. He squashes the potential for distraction and dissent, potential rivals from within his own camp, and gets to act much more pragmatically.

This all increases the chances of winning. You like winning, don’t you?

What If It All Goes Wrong?

If the leader turns out not to be a winner, at least it’s totally clear where the problem is – the leader. If the party can only go where the leader does, and the party fails, you know what to do. This makes it much easier to cut your losses, move on, and try again with someone else in a new party.

This criticism is more or less a criticism of the status quo anyway. When party leaders don’t work out, the leaders change. Often the party as a whole changes, merely the branding stays familiar. How many of you have asked whether the Conservative or Labour Parties are really Conservative or really Labour?

What’s the difference, practically, between junking an entire party with its leader and starting again fresh, and more honestly?

Better Government

If you were reading closely enough, you noticed that the solution included total responsibility over those in elected positions.

Let’s face it, people don’t really elect the individual MP. They vote by party or leader. Lean into that political expectation. Use it to clear up and prevent parliament becoming whatever it is now. Stuffed full of has-beens, inadequates, and failures, many occupying “safe seats”.

The party leader should be able to fire and hire as they see fit to the parliamentary seats they/their party has already won. Accepting this should be a condition of candidacy in the first place. It could even be the first law the party passes.

The ability to replace bad MPs might keep them good for longer and allow for a proper cycle of “tested and done” out for “promising and new”. For example; what is the point of Matt Hancock? He’s just blocking someone potentially useful, or at least someone who is not a net negative. Let’s be real, nobody voted for Matt Hancock. Come on. Why wait around? Fire him and get someone else.

Spent losers hanging on is one of the reasons the Conservative Party today is having so much trouble. It happened to the Labour Party too in the dying days of the Gordon Brown government too. Too many MPs hanging around long past their usefulness. It diminishes the pool of potential ministers.

Before you know it, we’re all pretending that Dehenna Davison is a minister who actually does any governing.

The Party Leader

Command over all party appointments, candidates, etc. would include the party leader himself.

No party leadership elections. Most people vote by party or for a party leader, presidential style. Lean into that. Spare everyone the mixed and mashed chaos of whatever normally goes on in the background of party politics. Spare everyone the same mixed and mashed chaos of what goes on in the foreground of party politics!

But isn’t it a problem if you can’t remove a leader from the party? No. Just back the leader you want in a new party. It doesn’t really matter if someone can’t be removed as leader in a party if everyone leaves to do something different. Just look at UKIP/Nigel Farage/the Brexit Party. And now Reform UK or whatever the Brexit Party rebranded as.

The solution for fixing the government

In summary: there’s a leader, a plan, their team, who they will hire and fire to get the job done, and do you want it or not? If yes, you have a structure which might actually be able to get something done. If not, don’t vote for it, and from your perspective, nothing is lost. Simple.

Image Credit

Conservatives can learn from modern art

You’re probably already baulking at the idea that there could be anything to learn from modern art. You’re not wrong that art and architecture today are often hideous, lazy, cheap, unconsidered, and, well, artless. It won’t help that I myself am still not completely concluded on what there is to learn. Alinskyite tactics of making the enemy live up to their own rules? Did Duchamp just encourage the wrong kind of person and end up making things worse? More on this later.

But there is something in modern art worth considering, it’s not a total waste, you must take wisdom wherever you can find it. There is so little wisdom going. You can’t afford to waste any. Your opponents in the progressives are powerful, rich, and vicious, in all senses of that word. Many, many, many are also group-thinking chasers of convention, out of touch, fearful, vain, and insecure.  They don’t believe in the truth, something eternal, irrespective of them, they believe in their truth, as if it emanates from themselves. A pretentious way of saying they want to express their feelings? Perhaps. But truth for them is decided by consensus and fitting in. Yup, that’s the art scene progressives for you.

That’s good, that’s a massive weakness. How do you exploit it? How do you handle these people? It’s risky, but people who stand out, do not follow the crowd, have the self-confidence to go their own way, and the actual knowledge and mastery to do it competently, are cool. A big part of what the art scene progressives want to do is fit in and be cool. The risk is that what’s cool, or even just true, for them is decided by consensus, not reality.

Art, religion, politics, Rob Henderson’s luxury beliefs. What’s the overlap and what can you learn from one to the other? Dismiss all of modern art, if you like, but at least keep one artist. So much which comes after him is basically derivative and misses the point. Let’s follow a master, see what he did and why, and draw out the lessons. You too will make progressives clutch their pearls and faint, or pop their monocles, and exclaim “harumph, why, that is most unorthodox!”

Marcel Duchamp. He is exactly the right kind of figure to look at. Where to start exactly?

Marcel Duchamp is a tricky sort. You could say he was a total troll and he would often go out of his way to obfuscate history by making things up when asked about his work. He was a bit of a prankster, and he liked tinkering with all the new mediums of his day. He was unpredictable.

And modern art. Where to start exactly with that? Not all contemporary art is synonymous with modern art. If that’s not quite difficult enough, it’s not fair to describe all modern art as crap. At least you might concede it’s not all crap in precisely the same way. It’s a low standard, but a place for you to start.

It’s kind of like memes. They’re often highly context dependent, assume some level of preceding knowledge, are trying to say something to the person who sees them, and some memes are better than others.

Similarly, Duchamp is a man of his time. He was clearly interested in technology, and why wouldn’t he be? He’s around at the time of the wireless, new elements and other discoveries coming out of Marie Curie’s laboratory, the invention of cinema, and x-rays. New materials, new mediums, new ways of getting a different insight into the world around you. New ways of thinking. In physics and mathematics Einstein displaces Newton, non-Euclidean geometry bursts forward, the first thoughts about different dimensions. And it’s all happening around WWI, the ends of empires, the international rise of America, and the replacement of Europe’s monarchies.

What is analogous to any of this today? The internet, AI, social media, NFTs, space? New possibilities, new technology, new materials, new politics, it forces people to question things.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2

Duchamp’s first important piece: Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, an example of cubism, with caveats, because it upset some people.

Some context. Let’s quickly look at the Italian futurists in the 1910s, which started with Marinetti.

The futurists were pretty hard core right wingers (Marinetti co-wrote Il manifesto dei fasci italiani di combattimento), who were obsessed with technology and machinery. They wanted to scrap museums, libraries, forget the past, in favour of a world dedicated to speed, and strength, and the future. Is this what made the trains run on time? Anyway, artistically, they were interested in capturing energy and motion in two dimensions. And it was looking to have something to say. What a lot of people don’t fully appreciate about modern art (you were warned this would get pretentious), is that it involves audience participation. If you’re saying “WTF am I looking at here?”, you are saying a response to the piece.

Before modern art, you have realistic art. Actually, realism, which is what it sounds like. Technology by the 1910s keeps getting more and more advanced, and you have more cameras, and photos, and films, at the time artists were beginning to question the point of a realistic painting. Modern artists were rising to that challenge.

Whether it’s futurists, or dadaists, or surrealists, which all emerge around this time, they’re trying to deal with the paradigm shifts of their day. What are the artists of today up to? How many of them are energised and engaged with the paradigm shifts of our day?

The point is, a lot of art, especially modern art, is contextual, just like a lot of culture, whether it’s stories or music, movies, etc. to fully appreciate its impact you really have to be there and part of it. This goes beyond art, well into politics. How do you explain the world pre and post 9/11 to those who weren’t there? The New Atheism movement made more sense in the face of religious extremism, whether that was muslims like bin Laden or evangelicals like Bush.

Modern art emerges amid two world wars, and the blossoming of progressive democracy and its three fruits; communism, facism, and liberalism.

The futurists believed that war is the world’s only moral hygiene, a chance to start anew, that art gets shifted into the new world it brings forth. And then rather a lot of them died in WWI and that was more or less that.

Now, here comes a particularly important thing. A bunch of these art movements would come with manifestos. That is, instructions for how art is and isn’t supposed to be. Rules for what you could and couldn’t express and in what way. The simultaneous scrapping of the past, obsession with what’s new, a certain reverence for violence and domination, and replacement with a new hierarchy. No rules, and also rules, and lots of angry people. Does that sound familiar to you at all, duckies? Have progressives been the same for a hundred years, maybe more?

Well, when art comes with rules, and particularly about what it is supposed to say to people, that is almost certainly propaganda. Oscar Wilde might have had something to say against this (The Picture of Dorian Gray), or Kim Il Sung in favour, as Juche art is supposed to carry a moral, political element to it.

Can we forgive the futurists? They were working before the full, crushing horror of the progressive 20th Century.

Anyway, Duchamp’s Nude changes the art movement of his time, challenges it, mocks it. The full saga of the Nude takes place over a couple of years. He presents it at the pretentiously named (the progressives are all very self-congratulatory aren’t they?) Salon des Indépendants where the cubists reject it. Remember that art is supposed to be full of rules? Cubism is supposed to be about multiple dimensions portrayed simultaneously. Futurism is supposed to be about motion. The Nude is both. Oh no, what a disaster! Most unorthodox!

So, in 1912 some exhibits were supposed to happen at the Salon des Indépendants. The futurists came first, that was all lovely, and the cubists were supposed to come after. Some of the smaller cubists came together to do their own thing and have an “art movement”. Duchamp was having none of it.

The first thing the cubists had a problem with was the title, but Duchamp puts the title right in the painting, so it can’t be hidden, removed, changed, disguised. Total troll. He’s also trying to play with language. It was originally titled “Nu descendant l’escalier” in the literature, and “Nu” is ambiguously male. Worse still, nudes are supposed to be painted lying down, like one of your French girls. Nudes aren’t supposed to be descending stairs. What’s more, the only place naked women were likely to be descending stairs in Paris was at brothels or Mallard Chairman Jake Scott’s mum’s house.

All round, the hanging committee (not as ominous as it sounds) for the exhibit were totally scandalised. Have a look at the painting again. Yup. Duchamp was told to change it, the title was wrong, the painting was too futurist, too Italian, just no good, so he left and removed himself from the show. Something similar then gets repeated in 1913 at the Armory Show in New York.

So much for artists being open-minded or intellectual. Then again, are you surprised that there’s a lot of snobby arseholes in the art world who get bitchy?

Still, Duchamp had the last laugh. Who else out of the cubists exhibited at the Salon is remembered as well today? In Duchamp’s own time, at the Armory, the next year, he was peer level with Picasso as a cubist, and other artists such as Matisse, Delauney, Kandinsky, Rodin, Renoir, and others.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

Alright, so where can Duchamp go from here? His next piece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, is an even further descent into top notch trolling.

Duchamp really wanted to get into the idea of the fourth dimension with Bride, in the geometric, not temporal sense.

In three dimensions, you can imagine a point within a three dimensional cube and create a coordinate for it along width, height, and depth. A fourth dimensional point would sit in relation to all three of those – it might be like if you could see all sides of the cube and its inside at the same time. And if this four dimensional shape could cast a shadow, it would be a three dimensional shadow, just like a three dimensional object casts a two dimensional shadow on a wall, for example.

The idea was that if you could put three dimensional reality into two dimensions in a painting, what is a three dimensional piece a step down from? You can’t seem to make it real, exactly, so you have to sort of imagine it instead. Can you imagine a tesseract, the fourth dimensional equivalent of a cube? Here’s a representation of the concept.

For a two dimensional painting, it should come very naturally to you to understand what three dimensional object or scene it represents. For any of you duckies who have spent time thinking about non-Euclidean geometry, perhaps Bride might come a bit easier to you.

Or not. But it’s a commendable attempt at trying something new from Duchamp.

So, yes, you will definitely look at it and think WTF is this, but this is very much by design. Though he started the piece in 1915, and it would go on exhibit 12 years later in 1927, he would later publish notes in 1934 as an accompaniment. He did not want a purely visual response.

How did this take him so long to complete, you ask? His patrons said they’d pay his rent until he finished.

Now, at this point you’re probably asking a very justified question. How much is Duchamp really just a bullshit artist? Well, that’s a kind of art too. He’s at least a little funny, a little clever, and a little daring. Can the same be said for progressives?

Duchamp at this point is experimenting. He’s playing with chance. Art is usually done very deliberately, but is it possible to create something through other methods? Are you limited in your materials? Is it possible to use abstract concepts themselves to make something? Is it sometimes more interesting to achieve something that you didn’t exactly set out to do?

There are a few replicas of Bride. The original in Philadelphia is broken, it broke on its way to the original exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The ones in Sweden and Tokyo are not broken, and are a different experience. They’re also all getting a bit worse for wear. Duchamp didn’t necessarily make things to last. That wasn’t important. His personality itself is perhaps more the figure, more the legacy, than any of his works.

Disposability and personality? He would have been perfect in today’s world of memes, social media, and reality TV. Self-belief, showmanship, fake it til you make it, bullshit artistry. Politicians are memed into success these days. This kind of chaos, flexibility, fun, unpredictability, is not open to the progressives. They have a hegemony to conserve. You have a hegemony to subvert.

You could do worse than to learn from Duchamp.


Oh boy. Duckies, if I haven’t lost you already, this one might do it.

Duchamp is in America at this point. America, unlike Europe, has no real history at this time. Plus ça change. (French. You were warned this would get pretentious). Are there lessons to learn here about the internet and the internet generations? Not sure, perhaps you can think about that one.

Anyway, a lot of artists go to America because of the war and Duchamp is asked to run a show. The New York art scene wants to replicate the show Duchamp’s Nude was kicked out of. The Americans want to have a go at their own Independence. How derivative. So, two of the conditions for the show was that there was to be no jury and no prize. It’s like the Oscars. There are no winners. “And the award goes to…”. You can’t have winners. That would imply some people are better than others. No, jury, no prize, nothing is better than anyone else, but it’s still a selective hoighty toighty art show. All the artists who kicked Duchamp out of the 1912 exhibit will be there. Duchamp detects an opportunity.

He takes a urinal, signs it R Mutt and, sure enough, it is kicked out of the show. But it gets photographed.

Duchamp is making another mockery, running another test here. Why can’t a nude descend a staircase? Who made these rules? Who makes art rules? A lot of the audience had never even seen a urinal before, which makes it even funnier.

Duchamp is working with context. Everyone sees a toilet every day. Even prissy art snobs. You can’t look at one in an art exhibit? Why exactly? It’s extreme, sure, and you wouldn’t be impressed with it, duckies, but you’re not pretending to be progressive and egalitarian and open and free or whatever. Duchamp puts a toilet right in the middle of a fancy shmancy art show for all the people who are up themselves for reasons they don’t understand and they lose their minds.

And to this day, people are still debating whether it’s art. In today’s digital economy, when so much is abstracted – social interaction, work from home, shopping, entertainment, etc, – this debate is as relevant as ever.

Really this is about the governing classes, who today are the progressives. If you don’t understand three things by now, you really ought to. First, the ruling class don’t care about the rules in the same way many of the governed do, because they make them, know why they’re there, and what they’re trying to do with them, for power. Second, a lot of the governed really don’t know why their rules are there, but follow them anyway, for many reasons, and only care about the rules at the surface level. Third, a big chunk of the middle class gets up itself precisely because they’re not in the ruling class, are close enough to sniff it, can see it, want it, but aren’t truly in it, and don’t fully understand it.

The most important thing about Fountain is that Duchamp has a sense of humour. It’s even funnier that there was only one photo at the time, the Fountain now is just a replica, and nobody has even seen the original for 50 years. We don’t actually know if Duchamp was making everything up.

Duchamp used to make stuff up in TV interviews. Performance artist? Certainly an early iteration of it. It’s not just enough to subvert the progressives in your work.

You must live it.


Well, one in particular. L.H.O.O.Q., which is basically a meme.

The readymades were more or less mass manufactured products which Duchamp sort of took, made a few alterations to, and declared pieces. Yup, that’s a meme. Fair use!

L.H.O.O.Q. is a picture of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee drawn on. Factory produced graffiti? This is 40 years before Warhol, and how long before Banksy? L.H.O.O.Q. was only possible because of advances in technology.

The readymades are a tension between art and not art (pretentiousness continued) – you can go to a museum, look at an exhibit with a urinal set with a sign saying “do not touch” then go into the bathroom and do rather a lot more than touch. The question for you is why is one thing there and not the other? The Mona Lisa (the real one) is there because it obviously should be there?

The answer is “yes”, btw.

Duchamp here is mocking style, taste, and aesthetics, he’s asking questions about reverence, perhaps even worship, but Duckies, don’t rankle. Duchamp is forcing the protection of what’s valuable, of what’s genuinely accomplished and beautiful. There is something to defend in the rules set around beauty conventions. Just not the progressive ones where the rule is that there are no rules, but there are rules, and they’re the ones who control them. If there’s one thing you should recognise about progressives it’s that they don’t exactly care what they’re telling you to do as much as they care that they are the ones telling you to do it.

Duckies, don’t rankle at Duchamp attacking hierarchies in art. This is good when the hierarchy is intolerably corrupt. Duckies, you are against the status quo.

Duchamp basically agrees with the audience that trash is not really art.

What’s next?

If the 20th Century was about the great democratisation of technology, and all the chaos and opportunity that it brought (Twitter?), perhaps the 21st Century can be about the great ordering of technology with stable command. (Twitter + Elon?).

The last piece Duchamp does is Étant donnés. It’s a great big installation piece now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You could be forgiven for missing the most important part. It’s only visible through two peepholes in a door. And what you see looks like this. A nude, reclined against a landscape backdrop, what you might call a “real painting”, a real life piece, not readymade crap.

Duchamp kept this a secret between two girlfriends and his wife, only revealing the work after his death, and 25 years after he had apparently retired from art to play competitive chess.

Is this what Duchamp believed about art all along?

Duckies, relax, keep yourself in check, and stay cool. Let people enjoy themselves. There’s no real need to get snobby about other people’s tastes.

But also know your own. Do your thing. Let the progressives get on with theirs. They have all sorts of rules and ideas and it’s all built on sand. #Walkway? Disengage, do your own thing. They can do their thing. You’re going to do something cool that doesn’t care about their rules. In turn, your thing will show up theirs, passively. Show, don’t tell. Let them be ridiculous by comparison. Let it come naturally and not because you’ve driven them there.

Or maybe it’s all a load of rubbish? Duchamp used elements of luck as his materials in creating Bride. Jackson Pollock still came along as if he was doing something new with his drip period 20 years after. Andy Warhol still came along 40 years later with his prints as if the readymades hadn’t basically done the same thing before. And contemporary art keeps going.

Duchamp didn’t make anyone realise how ridiculous they were.

Did you just read this entire piece for nothing?

Photo Credit.

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