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‘The Conservatives have screwed their voters’

Social Democratic Party leader William Clouston on how his party can meet Britain's appetite for change.

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Topics Politics UK

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If the polls are to be believed, Labour will win a historic majority in the upcoming General Election – just five years after the Conservatives achieved a similarly dramatic victory, which threatened to redraw the electoral map. This sharp turn is not a sign of enthusiasm for Labour, but of disillusionment with the Tories. Keir Starmer is winning largely by default. Voters have been made painfully aware throughout the campaign that there are few meaningful differences between either party. The public desperately wants change, but the political establishment offers only more of the same.

William Clouston, head of the Social Democratic Party, is trying to disrupt this uninspiring status quo. He returned to The Brendan O’Neill Show last week to make the case for the SDP. What follows is an edited extract from the conversation. Listen to the full thing here.

Brendan O’Neill: What should voters expect from the SDP?

William Clouston: The SDP is a party of the conservative left. That is, we are to the left of the Labour Party on economic issues, which is not difficult at all. And we are more socially conservative than the Tories. Again, that’s not very difficult. We’re a classic red-and-blue blend and, as the experts will tell you, we are actually occupying the hidden gap in British politics.

When it comes to mass immigration, for example, most people agree with our position that it has been used to hide problems in the labour market. The public also broadly agrees with the SDP view that natural monopolies, like water companies, should come back under public ownership. There’s no use in selling these assets to foreign entities, who simply rinse the public and ship the profits abroad. There isn’t any sense in selling off Royal Mail or letting the Germans run our trains. People are sick of this model, and that is why our policy platform is very, very popular. We share the values and aspirations of most British people.

O’Neill: What do you make of the state of the Conservative and Labour parties at the moment?

Clouston: The Tories’ basic political problem is that they have screwed over both their major electoral blocks. Firstly, they annoyed the Remainer progressives after 2016 by pushing Brexit through. After that, they completely betrayed the patriotic, pro-Brexit Red Wall voters in the Midlands and the north, who backed them under Boris Johnson in 2019. In the latter case, they did so by not only overseeing record-high immigration, but also by pushing a patronising ‘Levelling Up’ agenda – which was nothing more than a slogan. At its height, the programme only received two billion pounds a year. That’s bullshit.

As a strategy for destroying themselves politically, however, the Tories’ approach could hardly be improved upon. The Conservatives have no philosophical underpinning. The party simply isn’t conservative anymore and that’s one of the reasons why it is floundering. What it needs most is a reboot, but I’m worried about its ability to do this. It will probably lose its spine – that is, those Red Wall MPs from 2019. It’ll be left with 100-odd leftish MPs in the south of England. Politically, you can’t really go anywhere from there. The Tories are cooked.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has dramatically recovered from its historic defeat in 2019. But it is offering nothing to the public. On economics, I don’t think there’s much difference between shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and present chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

On social policies, however, a Labour government is going to be far worse. Its plans to introduce a Race Equality Act will be catastrophic, forcing large businesses to publish an annual ‘ethnicity pay gap’ report and making police officers undergo ‘anti-racism training’. I can’t think of anything more likely to stoke racial enmity and resentment. Labour seems to be more interested in imposing racial favouritism than providing some much-needed impartiality.

O’Neill: The SDP’s manifesto is called ‘Homecoming’. Why did you pick that name?

Clouston: People don’t feel grounded or rooted any more. In many ways, people feel sort of deracinated. This is downstream of the way we structure society. For example, the residential university system contributes to this by plucking kids from their local area and sending them somewhere else, far away from their family and community. Graduates tend to have what David Goodhart calls ‘achieved identities’. They understand themselves purely in terms of their educational and career success, and tend to shun strong attachments to any place or group.

At the SDP, we believe all of us should recognise that we owe a duty to where we live. You’ve got to put back into your community. Though the word may be trite, we are fundamentally against the ‘globalist’ project. That’s why I picked ‘Homecoming’ for the manifesto title. Once we explain to people what the SDP is about, they seem to instantly resonate with our message. They know whose side we’re on. That’s because our manifesto is not only a plea to the millions of people in the UK who are politically homeless, but also a call for each of us to look at Britain as a home, rather than a shop or a charity.

William Clouston was talking to Brendan O’Neill on The Brendan O’Neill Show. Listen to the full conversation here:

Picture by: William Clouston.

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Topics Politics UK

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