The Conservative Alliance that Could Never Be | Jack Cousins
The other day while enduring my daily scroll through the sanctimonious cesspit that is Twitter, a post caught my eye. Compared to the mass of wretched content on this digital public square – most of it virtue-signalling nonsense or malicious points-scoring – this concept seemed positively coherent as it did constructive.
The tweet was by the right-leaning broadcaster and commentator Calvin Robinson, who posited the smart idea that a number of small culturally conservative political parties join together to take on the Tories – the party now being deemed defunct by members of what can broadly be defined as the anti-establishment Right.
Amongst those Robinson had in mind was Reform UK (previously known as the Brexit Party), the Social Democratic Party (a reincarnation of the party infamously set up by ‘the gang of four’ as a breakaway movement from Labour in the 1980s) and luvvie Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party. All of whom are undeniably weak on their own, but given each party holds far stronger culturally conservative views than the Tories, perhaps their alliance could hold sway amongst “the politically homeless”, as Robinson describes them.
“Imagine,” he adds at the bottom of his tweet, almost lustfully, “if Nigel Farage joined them.”
Well, what a jolt that could give the Prime Minister. Over the past decade it has become harder and harder to ignore Farage’s prowess to convince voters. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that the bogeyman of British liberals, while leader of the Brexit Party, once commanded over a quarter of voter support according to an Opinium poll at the height of the Brexit battles.
Known nowadays as Reform UK, the party – currently led by businessman and former Leave Means Leave co-founder Richard Tice – has been somewhat down in the dumps. Since Farage stepped back to the role of Honorary President, Reform UK had slumped into irrelevance until last week’s National Insurance hike. Polling support for Reform UK almost doubled overnight according to YouGov, and once again proved lesser-known parties can provide a home for disgruntled Conservative voters.
As for the SDP, the centre-left minnows once enjoyed huge support in their alliance with the Liberal Party, averaging around 7.5 million votes in the 1983 and the 1987 general elections. As the popular vote goes, they were within just a million ballots of catching Michael Foot’s Labour in 1983. In that election, voters flocked away from a Labour Party deemed to have lost its way. Since then, the SDP crumbled, before reforming itself to some notoriety. Given Labour’s present-day woes, could another SDP alliance come back to haunt them?
It is undoubtedly an unusual mix of political parties Robinson called on – some out of favour, some forgotten by time, and some plainly unknown to the public. But band them together and you might have something which commands strength and constitutes a clear ideological direction. Their likenesses are apparent: pro-Brexit, pro-free speech, anti-cancel culture and sickened to the bone by mainstream politics.
“The Tories are very good at talking the talk,” Tice explains. “but actually when you really look at it they’re very bad at turning words into action.
“They’re not leading from the front,” he continues “and it’s the same, for example, with immigration and the issue of the English Channel crossings. They’re reactive, and it’s almost as though they’re scared to lead from the front.”
William Clouston, leader of the SDP, also shares grave concerns about the state of British culture, citing Labour’s descent into identity politics as a pressing issue.
“I think what Peter Shore put his finger on in 1983 was that the Labour Party had started to embrace this rainbow coalition of grievances,” he says.
“If you look at the Parliamentary Labour Party, most of those people are liberals,” Clouston continues. “I mean they might call themselves socialists, but they’re certainly not as communitarian as we are and they don’t look at the world in the same way we do.”
Both their parties’ belief systems mirror each other, culturally-speaking. The SDP refute the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and vaccine passports, as does Reform UK. Both parties believe in the strength the nuclear family brings to society and are sceptical of the benefits mass immigration brings to the UK. By modern standards, they are radically traditional
Dig deeper, however, and there is only one conclusion to entertain: this conservative alliance could never work. Scratch under the surface of their cultural harmony and you will only see deep disagreements on economics. Simply put, Tice is on the right and Clouston is on the left. With a matter so important as the economy there is surely no amount of sweeping that could ever push this inconvenient truth under the carpet.
For instance, the SDP plans to increase the highest band of income tax to just shy of 50%, while Reform UK will aim to reduce it to 40% and lift the higher rate threshold to £70,000. Elsewhere, the SDP will aim to introduce a luxury council tax band on high value homes, while Reform UK will abolish inheritance tax for all estates under £2 million.
The very idea that a Shoreite and, presumably, a Thatcherite could form an alliance just about sums up the politically skewed and confused times we live in. They do share common ground, of course, but it is surely only in our age we could conflate their values as compatible.
Where Robinson’s idea does bear fruit is the suggestion the Tories could be challenged by cultural conservatives. The question then is, who can muster up a fight?