‘Nationalism is the search for a new solidarity’

Red Tory Phillip Blond on Boris, Brexit and the ‘post-liberal’ future.

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Topics Brexit Politics UK

Brexit has clearly laid bare the divisions in society and in the parties. The old divides of left and right fail to capture the current moment. Could a political realignment be on its way? ‘Red Tory’ academic Phillip Blond has long predicted and argued for a fundamental reshaping of the Conservative Party. spiked caught up with him to get his views on the new political landscape.

spiked: How has the Conservative Party changed since it came to power in 2010?

Phillip Blond: Where Cameron went wrong is that, even today, he’s saying, inexplicably, he should have made more cuts. This is bizarre. This just shows that he’s really just a Thatcherite or an economic liberal, which isn’t unusual in the Conservative Party. But he’s also a social liberal. So he’s fully liberal. Whereas it used to be the left that was socially liberal and the right that was economically liberal, Cameron represented the fusion of both. Now, the problem is that liberalism doesn’t help the poor, and nor does it help the middle class in the developed world. It doesn’t help them economically and doesn’t help them socially. It delivers the opposite of what it intends. It has delivered mass insecurity, in my view.

Liberalism works very well for those at the top. And the error that people make is that they assume what works for them works for others, which shows a lack of intellectual acuity. In the case of Cameron and Osborne, they have no idea why people voted Leave, what was behind voting Leave, and it came to them as an enormous surprise and it still does. They’re a bit like Hillary Clinton, still slightly shocked by what occurred. And this means that they have departed from the first rule of successful politics: know your reality.

Now, Boris is also an economic and social liberal. But even so, it’s clear that, on some level, he is properly advised. This is where I rate people like Dominic Cummings in the sense that they are intellectually capable of grasping the reality that they face. They recognise what I described 10 years ago, which is that the future is a post-liberal politics. Putting Brexit aside, what Johnson’s government wants to do is deliver exactly that: social and economic security. I think that’s very wise.

spiked: Do most Tory Leavers actually understand Leave voters?

Blond: Here’s the paradox at the heart of Leave: it is led by neoliberals, but its basis is post-liberal. You have a political incoherence. On the one hand, there are people who want more globalisation that will only make the working and the middle classes more insecure. And they’ve been voted in by people who want the reverse of that. It’s the same with Trump – supporting protectionism internationally and then hyper-capitalism nationally – and it’s very, very odd.

We’re in a world where people want the opposite of what the libertarian leaders of Brexit are arguing for. Yet, they are still the leaders of Brexit. So how do we explain that? I think that what is happening is that nationalism has become a new principle of solidarity. Nationalism is the unifying principle between the vision of ‘Global Britain’ and those people who are demanding solidarity because they’re experiencing insecurity in terms of the care of their parents, the care of the children, and their own situation. There is fundamental realignment going on.

spiked: What is the left getting wrong today?

Blond: They’re getting almost everything wrong because they cannot speak to or even acknowledge cultural insecurity. They have been taken over by the middle classes and upper middle-classes, who are pursuing a sectional politics around race, around gender, within a movement that’s supposed to be based on solidarity. Identity politics is just a middle-class power game that advances the advocates of it and allows them to gain power and status in the world that they are creating.

The working classes are rightly appalled by this. Everybody is interested in being woke around things that don’t matter. Today there is very little penalty associated with being gay, for instance, and there is very little penalty associated with being female – apart from when you have children – while there is massive penalty based on class. But nobody ever talks about class as the determinate. So that is what’s most repulsive, if I’m honest. I think we should address the things that are most wrong in society, and Labour isn’t doing that.

All of our idealisms have been poisoned by particulars – so, being gay, being trans, being whatever – instead of being elevated by universals. In a way, I think the return to nationalism is a return to an attempt at a ‘universal’, but a limited distribution of it.

spiked: How is the political landscape changing?

Blond: We are in enormous transition. What’s interesting for the Conservative Party is that the electoral base of the party is now less well-educated, less wealthy and lives in less diverse areas than the base of the Labour Party. So the Conservative Party is becoming the working-class party. Let’s just think on that for a bit. It is currently still led by middle-class ideologies and middle-class values. But, over time, reality always wins through. Can the Conservative Party adopt or create values that serve its electoral base? Can it pursue policies that secure its new voters and create positive outcomes for them? That’s an open question.

Almost everybody who’s in power in the Conservative Party is a creature of an earlier ideological age. Almost nobody understands the party’s new electoral base and what it must do to help those people. And the values and electoral base is determinedly ‘Red Tory’. They want an interventionist state that intervenes to secure people and a new form of social conservation around place and people. That’s the new majority politics. And either the Conservative Party aligns around that, embraces that and generates policy for that, or it doesn’t, in which case it will become marginalised.

It’s not true philosophically and it’s certainly not true politically that truth or majorities are found in the so-called centre. The whole post-Blair analysis around the absent centre is a failure to grasp the new reality. The Labour Party has abandoned working-class interests in favour of sectional middle-class interests, but in that competition for middle-class votes it is probably going to lose out to the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats genuinely represent people who vote for them – they have a coherent policy position, whether or not you agree with it. I can see them replacing the left. And then if all the left ends up doing is identity politics, then it doesn’t have a future, and deservedly so.

What’s interesting here is to ask what Christophe Guilluy is asking in France: whether this is all the return of class politics. If class is the decisive factor, then the inversion is that the right could be the home of the working class. That’s where I think we are.

Phillip Blond was talking to Fraser Myers.

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Comments

A Game

4th October 2019 at 10:36 am

I don’t think Blond understands the leave vote at all, and I certainly don’t think he understands the upper classes who are for it and the common ground with the lower classes for it.
Two groups that historically have a lot of common ground, a strange mix of libertarianism and conservatism.
I think he might be limiting himself to the economics of leave. But that is a very shallow pool.
I think he thinks all belief in participating in globalisation means you are neoliberal. But what I see with wealthy leave voters is classic liberalism, participating in globalisation but from within the safe fencing of the nation state. And they want the levers of control to always push globalisation away when they want. Neo liberal globalisation diminishes everyone’s true control. The EU is a great example of that. They are in the wilderness of how to stay true ideologically, but how to control a behemoth with too many conflicting interests in failing health.
The wealthy Leavers are willing to take their chances with the electorate. The wealthy remainers aren’t. They want favourable conditions set in cement. Risk free. Which isn’t very capitalist of them, at all. Thus, neo liberals, instead of liberals.
But he certainly nails what’s wrong with the left.

Its become very clear that it is one group of white people in a battle for power against another group of white people. The “left” has chosen to weaponise the useful idiots, of whichever group they hail, as part of their arsenal. Its been working quite well. One just wished they had a clue about the end game they are pushing for. They don’t know they have no map and don’t know they are in dire need of one.
Nationalism is like everything else. Wonderful in sane, moderation.

Thomas Swift

2nd October 2019 at 9:02 pm

There’s quite a lot here to pick through but this line does chime with me: “Liberalism works very well for those at the top.” Does this not resonate with the people from somewhere .v. people from anywhere dichotomy? For the “anywhere people”, liberalism is party a rationalisation but also, to some degree, a kind of defence mechanism.

Janet Mozelewski

2nd October 2019 at 1:48 pm

All Mr Blond does is highlight the fact he is as out of touch as the people he claims (albeit in a long-winded way) are out of touch.
Quote: “What’s interesting for the Conservative Party is that the electoral base of the party is now less well-educated, less wealthy and lives in less diverse areas than the base of the Labour Party.”

Yet again we have a presumption that having more paper qualifications equates to being better educated. It clearly doesn’t. I am sick and tired of this patently inaccurate notion. I know plenty of modern graduates who have more or less obtained their scroll on the basis of handing over money in the form of a ‘loan’ for little more than over-priced motel accommodation with a bit of tuition thrown in as a beard. I am constantly appalled by their ignorance, inability to actually think creatively and for themselves. It is a sure sign of the badly-educated. Education is only an asset if it is GOOD. Like bad food, more of it doesn’t make it better but much much worse.
Margaret Thatcher was elected by a landslide 40 years ago. She did that because she had broad appeal (despite what revisionists try to imply) and many of those who voted for her were working class people who were not wealthy at all. They were people who were fed up with chaos and upheaval and simply wanted stability and to be (whisper it) proud of their country after years of being told they shouldn’t be. Entirely the same as today, in fact.
I have no idea how Blond quantifies ‘more diverse areas’ and why this signifies anything worthwhile. If he means…as I suspect he does….more people ‘of colour’ or from other cultures then that is a complex area. It doesn’t equate to true diversity. There are areas of the midlands which are populated by a majority of people who originate from Asia Minor. What is ‘diverse’ about that? They certainly don’t vote conservative. The ‘lack of diversity’ label is another way of saying anyone who lives in a largely white area of what is traditionally a white country is somehow backward thinking and ‘wrong’.
Basically Blond is trying to make something complex out of something pretty straight-forward. The tax-paying electorate want to know the government of their choosing will A) keep their side of the contract and B) get out of their way.

A Game

4th October 2019 at 10:16 am

J Mozelewski:
I disagree with Blondie in a different area, so to agree with him is a risk.
I do, however, think what he’s talking about is literally the opposite of who is now the Labour party.
The comment about uneducated is a quick way of saying manual labourers, low skill white collar, retail, the underclass.
To put it that way certainly, in my view, doesn’t dismiss the known reality that is common sense/street smarts. What is it? “School of hard knocks”. Orwell (seriously, when are they going to do shows about George Orwell – ability to see into the future – he’s completely eclipsed Nostradamus) said something about its only the educated that could believe some of the utter bollocks presented to them.

I think he has gotten wrong the bit about living in diverse areas. We know the middle classes are killing themselves to stay in their nice, white ‘hoods, the working classes in cities live in multiculturalism. Rural areas… less diversity for all, rich, middle, poor.
But he’s right in what he’s sensing – Labour announced their vote buying policies… the working classes were furious. Everyone is suddenly a very conservative economist, talking about debt and growth. The common ground there is that the poorer will always have to budget, know how the ebb and flow of economics has a true impact on them, relatives, neighbours.

He does seems to fall short on the sociological side of his analysis. The poor will vote against self interest for self preservation.

John Millson

2nd October 2019 at 8:07 am

‘They want an interventionist state that intervenes to secure people and a new form of social conservation around place and people. That’s the new majority politics.’
In other words Traditional Labour of Wilson, Brown and now, Ashworth or Long-Bailey.
Assuming your Rees-Moggs could never be in any other party, the Tories could never embrace genuine egalitariansim. For them the more or less rigid Class/Caste system is best: ‘everyone knows their place’. The working class Tory eventually ‘comes up against it’.
Dream on Mr Blond.

A Game

4th October 2019 at 10:44 am

J Millson:
They believe for the most part in economic egalitarianism – if you know how to make money, welcome. They also believe in aspiration – work hard, think hard, get somewhere.
But they fall down in that they don’t pursue or ensure equality of opportunity. Its their weak spot. They just accept that someone born into advantage makes a go of it and thus, they deserve their success. It the lack of empathy Blond notes with their inability to see beyond their own appreciation of liberalism.

Geoff Cox

2nd October 2019 at 7:29 am

As far as I can see, despite all the talk about austerity, I can’t see we have ever had any. We have not run a budget surplus for many years, which means every year the economy is inflated. Then there was the billions put in through QE which has never been paid back. Call me an old fashioned Keynesian, but that is not austerity.

Jane 70

2nd October 2019 at 5:45 am

This has been a long time coming: the likes of Cameron, Osborne and before them, Blair foisted mass migration , austerity measures and bargain basement privatisation on an unwilling, but until recently, largely morose and silent public.

Did it never occur to any of them that the hardships, exclusion, insecurity and loss of national cohesion resulting from this melange would eventually cause a gathering public outcry?

Osborne was one of the most destructive politicians ever to have wielded power and now he still proclaims the superiority of globalisation, free movement of capital and people and the joys of remaining in the EU from his empire of wealth and connections.

Blair continues to meddle, lost in his own delusions while Cameron tries to sell his memoirs and says he’s sorry.

Boris should consider some kind of pact with the Brexit Party to build trust in the voter base mentioned by Blond: this might produce the only effective rebuttal of the machinations of the Remainers in the HOC and the media.

An end to austerity, strict border controls, a review of Universal Credit, investment in apprenticeships and technical training and environmental policies which make sense to the public at large would be welcome.

A review of tax dodging and evasion and some limited nationalisation of our infrastructure would also be a way forward;
not the barmy extremes advocated by Mad MacDonnell.

And try to resurrect a sense of common cause between the UK’s nations : better together and let’s make a success of Brexit for everyone.

Finally ,a push back against the Woke lobbyists, who have assumed a dominance and influence they don’t deserve.

Jane 70

2nd October 2019 at 6:32 am

A few final thoughts : the multiculturalism agenda hasn’t been the success proclaimed by the promoters of diversity, vibrancy, cultural relativism.

We now have parallel societies with values which do not fit comfortably with British democracy- even though the latter is increasingly tattered and torn.

Common British values are what is needed, so a review of faith schools, their staff and teachings; no more turning of an official blind eye to polygamy, fgm, honour killings etc.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

1st October 2019 at 10:43 pm

Solidarity? We had it in Christianity, which nurtured us for over fifteen centuries in this country. But now we think we know better and the deleterious consequences can be seen all around us in social strife, moral collapse, and intellectual confusion. Nationalism, or Primitive Nation Worship, is a poor substitute for the life-changing Christian Gospel.

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Janet Mozelewski

2nd October 2019 at 1:59 pm

And what of the persecution by Catholics of heretics? The burning of ‘witches’? The persecution of Catholics by Protestants (and vice versa)? If that is being nurtured it was certainly an extreme example of Tough Love.

Jim Lawrie

1st October 2019 at 10:41 pm

Mr Blond makes a good point about middle class insecurity. Many of them can see that our economy cannot sustain their limited abilities and non viable skill sets. Social mobility for them is a downhill trip. As Jordan Peterson said rather sardonically to journalists complaining about their jobs disappearing, “learn to code”.

I agree with him on who is competing for what votes.
We are seeing the ranks of the indigenous working class being swollen by redundant members of the indigenous middle class. If Ukraine jions the EU, is they who will feel the shock.

Geoff Cox

2nd October 2019 at 7:26 am

Hi Jim – I’m sure you know, but for others who don’t, Jordan Peterson was deliberately echoing the middle class left who had previously scoffed at the loss of low paid (white) jobs in rust-belt America, by retorting that they should “learn to code”. He was just turning it back on them.

Jim Lawrie

2nd October 2019 at 11:36 am

I didn’t know that. Thanks. I thought he was throwing in their faces the fact that most of them were not capable of a career in IT, and that they knew it.

A Game

4th October 2019 at 10:40 am

Jim and Geoff:
Good one. When Peterson is right, he’s really right. In my opinion. The middle classes are the biggest parasite in society, presently. What they cost versus what they deliver, the quality of their output…

I think Jim is right, too… they know they aren’t up for IT.

Jim Lawrie

1st October 2019 at 10:33 pm

I think Mr Blond is uncomfortable with discussing nationalism in public.

Dominic Straiton

1st October 2019 at 8:56 pm

Nationalism is simply the love for family opened out to a larger community.It is the same instincts from the African Savannah. Its the feeling of home and belonging. When you cannot find it in a family or community at peace with itself then you will find nothing but war.

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