2007 - 2021

Trafalgar, Magna Carta, Waterloo

The despondent Tory cult gathering in Manchester has given the world some extraordinary rhetoric this week as they try to come to terms with their own internal civil war, the debacle of Brexit they have created and their own lame duck leader they are trying to kill-off quietly in some political back-alley and not in the full glare of media attention.

Fratricide is a Tory speciality but this is getting a bit drawn-out.

One way to do this is to distract their own dwindling members with some rabble-rousing nationalism. Here’s Jacob Rees-Mogg in full-flight:

Mogg should not be dismissed as a comedy candidate, but the others are worth a look.

Whilst all of the media attention goes to Boris Johnson – Phil Hammond made an important intervention yesterday and is by far the most serious and dangerous candidate, his dire attempts at humour aside [11 Moments of Hilarious banter].

Hammond’s speech – in which he announced no new policies and spent much of the address attacking Jeremy Corbyn – was a very odd affair in content, tone and delivery.

He chuntered on and on about the 1970s and announced an extra £10bn for the government’s help-to-buy housing scheme. But it was a speech dripping with ideology. Clearly the message has gone out that the Conservatives need to engage with young people, sadly Hammonds attempts were cackhanded and revealing, he said:

“I think we owe it to the next generation to show how Corbyn’s Marxist policies will inevitably lead us back to where Britain was in the late 1970’s. We know what state control does to industry: utilities, transport; energy; steel, coal, mail, shipbuilding, telecoms, ports, airports and much of heavy manufacturing were all nationalised.”

Aside from the obvious point that there is nothing whatsoever Marxist about the Labour Party, and the generation he is appealing to have no memory of the 1970s and have a life-experience instead of being ripped-off daily by the privatised commododified world the Tories created, apart from that, it’s a great line.

The reality is that Labour’s modest policies of taking public control of some key utilities and industries are mainstream in most of Europe and have been met with a youthful shrug of ‘Makes sense, this isn’t working’ by anyone young enough to miss Hammond’s buzzword ‘Zimbabwe’.

Here’s a party with average age of 71 wondering how to appeal to young people. A party of landlords trying to appeal to a generation of renters without undermining their own cash-flow.

In a bizarre aside Hammond – clearly rattled – created a whole mythology of Tory-victimhood:

“We will take them on. And we will defeat them. And I promise you this: we will defeat them by the power of argument; by our logic; by the experience of history. We will not resort to the politics of the mob, to the threats, the intimidation, the undertones of lawlessness that were so menacingly present last week. Nor will we be cowed by intimidation whether it’s on the streets or online.”


Hammond is clearly facing up to what he sees as a threat to his parties class and power.

At a £400 a head dinner he puts out this call to his business associates:

As Paul Mason has pointed out when Hammond focuses on “principles that undermine our economic structure at risk” – this is essentially a call for extraparliamentary resistance to Lab Govt by CEOs.

The chancellor has clearly been drinking the Kool-Aid and now getting into his stride proclaims:

” …we blazed a trail of ideas that ultimately liberated the people of Eastern Europe, unleashed the boom in international trade and allowed what we used to call the “less developed economies” to become the emerging economic giants of today.”

Read the full speech here.

Let’s leave the lead candidate running on a ticket of “I’m not a Clown” and focus on our own Ruth.

It’s a puzzle to some why Ruth Davidson has had such an impact. The praise for her is lavish and the claims from some that she’s a PM in making  – that’s a PM not an FM! – are extraordinary for someone who has never held a Cabinet position, who has never won an election and has no record in office.

What’s going on?

In a remarkable piece on Sunday Euan McColm outlined Davidson’s route to No 10 explaining: “Should Johnson fail, Davidson won’t necessarily be home and dry: the ludicrous Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Tories third most popular choice to be next Prime Minister.”

“Home and dry” – he actually wrote those words.

Nor were there problems he could foresee (like the fact she’s not been elected as an MP):

“The fact that the Scottish Conservative leader is not an MP matters not a jot to her champions in the party. If she indicated the slightest inclination to move from Holyrood to Westminster, there are powerful Tories who would see to it that she was able to do so.”

The idea that Davidson might be better networked in UK power circles than the Chancellor or the Etonian duo of Boris and Jacob is of course absurd, but the lavish praise as she emerges as the Great White Hope for so many fanboys is revealing.

Fo many commentators Ruth Davidson is the confirmation of a series of myths that they need to perpetuate to make the reality of Conservatism palatable. Here she is “from Fife” an “ordinary working class girl” – she breaks the mould smashes through the glass ceiling and shatters any notion that the Tory party might be actively engaged in class war (for evidence of which see Exhibit A: the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s own speech).

She has exactly the same appeal as the blesses Margaret did, who was too “ordinary” – a grocers daughter – a grammar school girl. These individuals are proof of meritocracy even amidst a dazzling array of facts disproving such a thing. Structural inequality may be staring you in the face but if you can focus on just one individual such glaring privilege as is on display in Manchester just melts away.

This self-mythologising of the ordinariness of individuals is absolutely necessary to confound the extraordinariness of their party, their sub-culture and their economic interests.

Of course the Tory conference love her because she’s a self-hating Jock always ready for a joke about the Scotch. She’s loveable even when she does her stern face.

Of the four candidates Hammond is by far the most dangerous and by far the most likely to win. Taken collectively – despite efforts to magically disaggregate Davidson from her own party – they represent a resurgent Anglo-British nationalism and a lurch to the right not seen since the early 1970s when senior Tories met industry leaders to plot and plan resistance to the Red Menace.


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Comments (8)

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  1. Wullie says:

    What a heap of shite, Agincourt & Crecy? Mogg fails to inform his audience that the English lost the Hundred Years War big-time which triggered the carnage of the so-called Wars of the Roses! The Scots were on the winning side but that’s for another day!

  2. Elaine Fraser says:

    Do they think that rape clause Ruth becoming PM will ensure they dont lose Scotland. They might not feel they need to be part of Europe but they know they need Scotland.

    I dont really buy that she would have any chance over all the Etonians waiting in the wings but by media repeating it over and over again creates the impression ( up here anyway) that she is way more important and influential than she actually is. If Trump can be President anything is possible.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    The self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ media, like the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, Prospect and sites like Left Foot Forward drool about Ruth Davidson. She could well attract the New Labourites.

    It does not actually matter that she is an MSP, has only won one electoral contest and has never held any post of responsibility, other than being ‘leader’ of the ‘Ruth Davidson Party’ (formerly known as the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party). As Gore Vidal wrote of US Presidents, she is simply a front for the real power brokers who keep out of sight. She will not be ‘grilled’ by the political journalists. The broadcasters will simply propagate party press releases. In Westminster, she will read from a script and the baying mob behind her will barrack any attempt at questioning.

  4. Willie says:

    The Conservative Party ideology is based on greed, and some special few being more privileged, more deserving, indeed more patrician that the undeserving poor and or horny handed workers. Thatcher, the grocers daughter being the example, she certainly showed those miners.

    Ruth’s Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party comes from very much the same stable. And yes Yuill and Dodds still do haulage business.

    But hey, Ruth doesn’t count but the Tories in England do, and I well recall the Feeble Fifty.

  5. scrandoonyeah says:

    You have just outlined why Corbyn will never be the PM….the dark forces down south will never allow that to happen….

  6. SleepingDog says:

    A political party in power might wither and decline more sharply than one in opposition, its faults and failings more public. And at some critical point, its backers may be looking to jump ship.

    There are presumably many organisations that fail to take on younger members and fade within a generation.

    Some context would helpful (theoretical, comparative). What escalation points in a party’s decline can be seen from around the world and in history? Is there a pattern of implosion we can see repeated? Has British state-backed media had success in undermining foreign political parties?

    A major part of the success of status-quo-backing media is to make it difficult to imagine alternatives, obscure the fragility of power, and project a stately stability built on tradition instead of a dynamic world in flux that must be vigorously repressed to prevent rival paradigms (political/economic models, different worldviews) emerging.

  7. Ross Mac says:

    Sorry Mike. Ruth Davidson did actually win her seat in the Scottish Parliament (despite zero local campaigning). I know because, sadly, she’s my MSP. At least Andy Wightman was helped to his seat by my List vote.

    1. Yes I meant she’s never won an election as a leader – she’s never won a majority for her party.

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