Conservatives once boasted that they were the grown-ups, even if they did say so themselves. They conserved the best of the past and believed in the sensible management of the world as it is, rather than in dangerous fantasies about the world as it might be. Hold out as their opponents might, eventually they would understand that conservatism was just common sense.
The Observer 30 October 2016
Theresa May appeals to a stereotype that has a deep grip on the English psyche. Sober and commonsensical, she behaves with the moral seriousness we expect from a vicar’s daughter. She may be a little clunky, but what a relief it is to have a straightforward leader from the heart of the country after the flash, poll-driven phonies of the past.
The Daily Mail might have compiled the far left’s hitlist of Labour MPs. Seven of its apparent deselection targets are women: Angela Eagle, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Louise Ellman, Anna Turley, Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth. Of these, Angela Eagle is an out lesbian and Louise Ellman, Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger are Jewish. Most are young by the standards of politicians and nasty old men have always enjoyed humiliating young women with ideas of their own.
The Corbyn gun club does not only have women at the end of its firing range. A list of MPs Jeremy Corbyn claimed had been abusive towards him included many men. But when Labour activists talk of the men most likely to be deselected the list narrows to three: Neil Coyle, Wes Streeting and Peter Kyle. Wes Streeting and Peter Kyle are, since you mention it, gay.
Apart from crags and pockets of ancient woodland, the British uplands are manmade. Three thousand years before Christ, neolithic farmers felled the trees and gave us a landscape stripped to grassland by grazing sheep we take as “natural” today. Two thousand years after Christ, new forces are moulding the British uplands. They will bring back at least a part of what stone age men destroyed.
Consider the following: Labour has had to suspend 18 members, including one MP and a former mayor of London, because of their allegedly racist displays. Everywhere, “Zionist” and “Zio” are used to define Jews, and non-Jews who question left orthodoxy, as “the other”: barely human monsters, who must be cast from the bounds of leftish society. The leader of the Labour party has defended supporters of every variety of ancient prejudice: the Palestinian activist who revived the medieval libel that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make bread; the Anglican vicar who promoted the views of modern neo-Nazis that the Jewish conspiracy was now so malign and supernaturally powerful it was responsible for 9/11. After reviving old prejudices, Labour members adopt new ones just for fun. Jews were the chief financiers of the slave trade, they say as they repeat a fantasy promoted by the US race-huckster Louis Farrakhan. Jews collaborated with Hitler, they continue as they repeat the fantasies of 20th-century Marxist‑Leninists.
To get a bearing, imagine that Theresa May and leading members of the cabinet had endorsed the supporters and ideology of the Ku Klux Klan or Britain First, and then rewarded the chairwoman of a supposedly independent inquiry into rightwing racism with a peerage.
English Conservatives and Scottish Nationalists do not wake at 3 a.m., drenched in sweat, worrying about how they can defeat him. Like a drunk who punches his own face, Corbyn beats himself, leaving Labour’s rivals free to do what they will. For English leftists, however, trying to salvage what they can from the wreckage of their party, the apparently simple question of how to take on the far left appears impossible to answer.
The Baltic states do not feel like a front line. I did not see a police officer in more than a week in Latvia, let alone a soldier. Somewhere out there were three NATO battalions, deployed to deter Putin from crossing the border. But if it wasn’t for the seediness that lingers like a bad smell – the occasional Brezhnev brutalist building and the memorials to the murdered Jews – I could think myself in a European country that had never experienced the twin curses of Nazism and communism.