What will conservatism look like in 2030? | Alexander Hawthorne [Essay Winner]
You wake up from another night of restless quasi-sleep, the booming ‘block party’ outside having only finished at 4am, and check the latest updates from the New Communitarian on your 7th Gen RetroiPhone. There is good news. The Centre for the Advancement of British Values has released its report proving that the public now associate the rebranded Conservative Party with ‘traditional anti-racism’, ‘common sense defence of the National Greenbelt Expansion Programme’ and ‘sensibly paced federalisation’.
If current trends continue the above paragraph will seem in retrospect to be an absurdly optimistic vision of the effects of the next decade. Conservatism in the United Kingdom, after being systematically and structurally undermined for decades, is now being pulled apart at the philosophically atomic level. Given the apparently permanent direction of travel it is easy to dismiss any current and future concerns as ‘twas ever thus. This would however be a mistake because the anti-conservative tide is growing in strength at an accelerating rate, and this means that in all likelihood the 2020s will be an even bleaker decade for British conservatism than the 2010s were.
If all this sounds a little heavy on alarmism and a little light on specifics, then that is only because the overwhelming nature of the disaster facing conservative remnants in these isles means that one can pick any area of British life, from the economic to the cultural, and see both the present and future cataclysm. If everyone’s favourite great but prolix neocameralist prognosticator from across the ocean, Mencius Moldbug, is to be believed, then there is nothing that can, or could ever, be done about it because “Cthulhu always swims left”. On a practical level this means that the relationship of conservatism in 2030 to that of 2020 will be like the latter’s relationship to its counterpart in 2010 – only more so. Ideas which were once core to what it meant to believe that conservatism should be the philosophy, if not the theory, that guided the rulers of Britain inevitably come to be regarded as unhelpful, outdated, reprehensible and even racist.
Attempts to cheat this thoroughly empirically validated reality tend to involve co-opting the language and mannerisms of any given moment’s strongest anti-conservative, progressive, movement. This usually either devolves into claiming that some incredibly obviously communist-dreamed up belief is in fact a brilliant way to spread a debased ‘conservatism’ to demographic groups that have traditionally not voted for the Conservative Party or that said belief is inherently conservative.
But who can blame the bizarre coalition of 19-year olds and think-tank funders that try this approach? Surely it is better to do something than just chase down blackpill after blackpill with American-derived catastrophizing? Well, in a word, no.
When faced with a situation like the one that conservatives in Britain are, the most important first step is an honest assessment of the disturbing reality. This means a comprehensive rejection of the, quite literally, suicidal idea that the centre ground is filled with allies and that to be on or beyond the right of the Conservative Party is to be an enemy. It means a new conception of a right-wing that has electoral elements, hopefully strong ones, but is in no way constrained by the idea that general elections are the places where the future of the UK is won and lost. It means understanding that This Is It, that productive compromise is an oxymoron, that Our moderates should be ideologically afraid of Our extremists not Their columnists. And finally, it means understanding, or better yet grokking, that no one is coming to save us, and that if your strategy for 2030 relies on trends that don’t exist yet, technological innovation that isn’t happening or any kind of miracle that has not previously occurred, it is going to fail.
The percentage chance that donors, the Conservative Party establishment, or for that matter the broad mass of members, are going to buy into this view after the successful acquisition of a stonking majority is vanishingly close to zero. Most of them would not be persuadable even if they descriptively agreed with the claims made above, because they do not actually want to pursue conservative ends, and are certainly not willing to risk anything to support those who do. As a result, the idea that a 2015 Corbyn-style leadership campaign with a ‘true conservative’ winning would be possible, or even really change things, is fatally misguided.
Instead, the capture of the Conservative Party by conservatives must be understood to only be possible as a result of wider right-wing success than its cause. As a result, the task at hand then becomes how can the Right organise, grow in numbers and gain a position of strength, in all senses. For all the lamentably low-quality discourse that the argument around cancel culture has produced, it has highlighted a long-talked about but simultaneously underappreciated phenomenon in British life. Namely, the total capture of virtually every institution by either the overtly political Left or people who will without any resistance go along with their demands. This has in the past generated futile whinging about the BBC being politically correct or the universities being controlled by pinko commies. However, when the reality of this situation is confronted, it becomes a source for rather more concern than periodic Daily Mail columns.
If this progressive control of institutions is so thorough, and its maintainers so willing and able to crush all those who would dissent, what chance has a British right-wing of meaningful organisation? Here we must depart from both post-liberal delusions of pro-family community groups and the liberal conservative addiction to think tanks. The first because it simply creates more potentially powerful organisations that will nigh on inevitably be turned to left-wing ends, and the second because it is a classic case of a cargo-cult analysis of power – the think-tanks that have influence have it because those that they influence wield power, not because their ideas are so stunningly brilliant they win adherents.
Rather, to produce a workable plan to achieve power by 2030 involves going to places that seem rather antithetical to traditional British conservative, and indeed Conservative, approaches. While the author of this essay is of course, it almost goes without saying, a huge and unqualified fan of parliamentary democracy, a less unthinking and more desperate analyst might think a little bit about what a young conservative with no public association with right-wing politics might do to advance their cause. Maybe they would apply to the Civil Service Fast-Stream, perhaps their friends might become army officers, maybe an anonymous Twitter mutual will enter MI5, it could be that those ‘based’ Warwick history grads suddenly develop a taste for the Public Sector department at McKinsey & Company. If this all sounds a little vanguard partyish that is because it must be, although drawing as much on the clearer-eyed elements of the Conservative Revolutionary tradition as Bolshevism.
The route to conservative victory will likely be a very lonely one for the individuals who walk it, but it only matters that they do walk it if they know that others are doing the same. So, what will conservatism look like in 2030? Very Leninist or very cringe.
Alexander Hawthorne is the winner of the Mallard’s 2020 Essay Competition.