Rules for conservatives?

In 1971 Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals transformed political discourse. Do conservatives realise what is being done every time a new, mad radical campaign appears? Have they read the playbook and know how to respond, and do we need “Rules for conservatives”?

In 1971 Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals transformed political discourse.  Do conservatives realise what is being done every time a new, mad radical campaign appears? Have they read the playbook and know how to respond, and do we need “Rules for conservatives”?

The Rules were written to empower powerless communities, but empower activists, whose ideas are not always benevolent, or sensible even if meant well.  In the final rule, “polarize” encapsulates the division caused, leading to hatred.  Taken as a whole, the Rules are wise, effective and frightening in their implications and effects.  Maybe they encapsulate things that have gone before in politics, which are most effective when stirring hatred and division, and we might be grateful for Alinsky’s honesty about that.  We still have to see it for what it is though.

Creating resentment, creating a belief that the other side hate you and conspire against you, and that therefore they are an enemy to be treated as vermin – that is the Marxist approach assuming all human relations are about class war and class oppression, and it is evil.

An American commentator did write a “Rules for Conservatives” in response.  Apparently it is written from a particular American perspective, and a couple of reviews suggest it is more a jeremiad than a programme for action, but without reading it I cannot comment further.

How would Rules for conservatives be framed and how would they differ from Rules for Radicals?  We could cut out the hatred and division, the demonization of the other side, but that is the most effective part of the Rules.

A key approach surely must be to stay calm so as to portray yourself as the calm, rational side, then to combat assertions with facts and statistics, and to expose expressions of hatred for what they are.  From this, some rules might emerge.

Another approach is the establishment one; namely to welcome the radical in, appear to embrace their idea, examine it and take it in hand, for taxpayer’ money to be spent on it, so the radical can go away and work on something else, while the establishment smothers the idea they took on.  Brexit has been like that.

Downing Street: and so it begins

It is always a funny race, for the Conservative leadership, all affect politeness and reluctance. Looking at the leading contenders:

It is always a funny race, for the Conservative leadership: the candidates are all affect politeness and reluctance, while behind them are teams hell-bent on getting their man, or woman, over that line, without seeming to do so.

Amongst all the contenders, the first commentary on each has been about where they stand on leaving the European Union, and it rarely goes much beyond this, but after Exit Day finally passes, with a new Prime Minister in place, the focus will be on how they approach Conservative concerns on reducing tax, free commerce and curbing the bullying state.

Looking at the leading contenders so far (and others will follow) –

Boris Johnson (Uxbridge, formerly of Henley): the bookies’ favourite.  Born in New York to a Somerset family, served two terms as Mayor of London where he proved popular.  His Brexit credentials are riding high:  he was the leading public voice of the Leave campaign and resigned rather than accept the Chequers proposals, although as this permitted him to resume his paid career in journalism there may have been more to that.  He is popular amongst the wider membership, if not amongst his parliamentary colleagues. The strong social conservative wing of the party dislikes his apparent social liberal stance, noting his speech in support for gay marriage in 2013, and his notorious ways with the fillies.  Said to be the most intelligent candidate in the field, nevertheless his public persona as bumbling clown has ensured that nationally he is loved and hated in equal measure and for some reason the latter prevails in Scotland.  His position on Brexit has overwhelmed all other analysis of his positions.

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton): the nearest behind Boris in the betting. Born and raised in Buckinghamshire, he had a career as a high-flying solicitor.  He has been in Parliament only since 2010 and was almost unknown to the public until he was appointed as Brexit Secretary when David Davis resigned following the Chequers Summit.  Raab burnished his Brexit credentials by himself resigning rather than support the Withdrawal Agreement.   He may be ‘Boris with his trousers on’.

Michael Gove (Surrey Heath): born in Edinburgh and adopted and raised in Aberdeen, he was with Boris Johnson the public face of the Brexit campaign.  He is only a recent politician – like Johnson, he is a journalist by trade, but unlike his was at the top end of the national press, rising to the assistant editorship of The Times in the 1990.  He is a long-time friend of Boris Johnson’s.  Extreme-end Brexiteers have spoken against Gove for remaining in the Cabinet through all the resignations, and for appearing to stab his friend in the back at the time of the last leadership contest (though the circumstances, not widely known, acquit him).  His public persona is more reserved such that he has not attracted great public affection, which may not play well in the media.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire):  a candidate for leadership last time round and the last firm Brexiteer standing at that point.  She was seen to lose her place with a gaffe about childbearing but overall her lack of recognition amongst the public was more telling.  Since then, Leadsom has attracted great admiration for her conduct as Leader of the House of Commons in a troublesome time. The question remains whether the BBC would accept her.

Liam Fox (North Somerset): also a candidate for leadership last time and another firm Brexiteer, but who has not hinted at another run at the position. A doctor by trade, born in East Kilbride and educated in Glasgow, he served in the army medical corps and has sat in Parliament since 1992.  He is firmly in the Thatcherite camp and indeed he served in the Cabinet of John Major.  He has been since 2016 the first and so far only Secretary of State for International Trade, in which capacity he has been busy negotiating across the globe.  He has been criticised for failing to sign any major trade deal in this time, although as that would be barred by EU law until actual exit, this is muted.  He may be crippled politically by the mysterious Werrity scandal from his time as Defence Secretary.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and the Border); a recent declaration of interest.  He is a soldier, and served in Afghanistan – his slight demeanour belies the reality of his physical achievements, recorded in his books.  He is respected for his military past but hampered by having supported the Remain campaign.

Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey):  Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary since Boris Johnson’s resignation and before that the longest serving Health Secretary ever.  He also supported Remain in the referendum campaign but says that his has since changed his mind.  He is well regarded in his current role and did well also in the thankless job of Health Secretary and, remarkably, seems to have got through it without becoming a pariah.  Well liked and perhaps seen as a safe pair of hands, he is saddled with his previous support for Remain, and a reputation as a social liberal.

Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove): Home Secretary, talented certainly, if lacking in warmth, but tainted by having been on the Remain side at the referendum.

These are not the only declarations so far.  Time will tell how expose to the race affects perceptions.  The wider membership of the party has strong opinions within it, but they only get to choose out of the final two – it is Conservative MPs who draw the shortlist up, and if they knock out the most popular candidates, little can be done about it.

There has been talk that this time there will be no coronation; that the members will have a genuine choice of two, but it is still open to MPs to choose their preference and a cypher as his rival to fix the result.

The Leviathan

Nature (the art whereby God hath made and governs the world) is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal. For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning hereof is in some principal part within, why may we not say that all automata (engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the Artificer?

Art goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of Nature, man.  For by art is created that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth, or State (in Latin, Civitas), which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment (by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty, every joint and member is moved to perform his duty) are the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the particular members are the strength; salus populi (the people’s safety) its business; counsellors, by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the memory; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will; concord, health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death. Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation.