As I came back from my office at the university, the cab driver was asking me about what I teach in politics a day before the British elections. A big NewCastle guy, with an affable Northern accent, this guy voted Remain in the European Union elections and has been a lifelong voter for Labour.
For those who have no idea about the electoral map of the United Kingdom, the entire Midlands and North of England are traditional working-class Labour voters since Margaret Thatcher broke the back of trade unionism in the 1980s. These people were taught in their households, in no uncertain terms, that voting for posh urban southern Conservatives is a cardinal sin and they have more in common with the Scots north of the border than their fellow Englishmen down south.
This guy, however, said that he would vote for Conservative Boris Johnson, reluctantly: “What’s the point of a vote, if the results are not even honored? We voted for Brexit as a country, even when I voted for Remain. Chin up and move on.” It was then I knew Labour was toast. If a traditional Anglican working-class bloke from NewCastle can vote Conservative, even in anger or apathy, then we are living in a very different world.
The election results are still coming in as I write, and the Conservatives are on course to get a bigger majority than Thatcher’s. No word can adequately express the result. A rout, a massacre, a thumping—nothing explains the political earthquake that just happened.
It also highlights a few important trends that should be urgently studied and emulated by conservatives across the world. The former Eton-Oxford Classics scholar, former successful two-term mayor of liberal London, former editor of world’s oldest English magazine The Spectator, a chubby cosmopolitan blonde who can recite The Iliad in ancient Greek and lecture on the usage of ascending tricolons in the speeches of Winston Churchill, has just cracked the code of outright long-term conservative majority. This is the Reagan coalition of Britain at work.
This election consolidates that hypothesis that the old definitions of left and right are obsolete. It hasn’t mattered which political party’s badge was before your name in the last 20 years. The fundamental difference in Western politics now is cultural, and is between Westphalian sovereignty and unifying nationalism on one hand, and complete individualist internationalism and rule by technocratic institutions on the other.
Brexit was not a one-off, nor were the elections in Australia, India, and even the United States, not to mention non-Anglosphere countries like Brazil and most of Central and Eastern Europe. The nationalism in question here isn’t one based on race or ethnicity. Every BBC interview was showing British people of Nigerian, Indian, Hong-Kong Chinese, and even European heritage, saying why they voted Conservative.
Naturally, there were instinctive reactions from the left to blame it on racism and xenophobia, but statistics prove otherwise. There was one particular interview on BBC, where three Labour voters from the heart of England who never voted Conservative in their entire lives talked about how surreal it was to not vote Labour.
There will be swings in the future, and some of those seats will go back to Labour again, but a healthy, civic nationalism is a vote winner. If anything, this election just proved again that Twitter is not a country, and a majority of the conservatives and moderates do not use or are not strongly influenced by social media.
Added to that was the Corbyn effect. No matter how radicalized the universities are, traditional working-class people are patriotic. They won’t likely support a man or a woman who hates his or her own flag. Whether it’s those taking the knee in the United States, or the ones supporting Hamas in the United Kingdom, they’ve given a key lesson that Conservatives should not only remember, but implement. Loyalty to the land beneath your feet, regardless of culture, race, or background, is a uniting and winning factor.
Another important revelation was that neither Trotskyist socialism nor woke liberalism sells. As was inevitable, there is already bickering between the two factions of the left as to whose messaging flopped, but the answer, in reality, was both. The hard-left nationalized industrialization of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was a throwback to an era that simply does not reflect the reality anymore.
We don’t live in the times of Charles Dickens, and the largest class of people in the planet are the middle class, who won’t favor a complete overhaul of economic systems. The Anglo-American culture favors the “right to property.” It is in the DNA of the political system we inherit.
To grow the massive government to increase middle-class taxation to fund a supposedly egalitarian society is perhaps workable in a tiny country like Iceland or Sweden or New Zealand, but has never succeeded and will never sell in larger democracies. That doesn’t mean that opportunities should not be provided for the vulnerable and the needy, but overall the middle class will revolt the moment they must pay a heavy tax burden to subsidize others.
That being said, far-left messaging was also not a winner. This election in Britain had it all, from the Liberal Democratic leader Jo Swinson saying transgender people are equal to biological women, to Corbyn pronouncing his pronouns in political ads, to the climate hysteria by the Green Party. Only one individual outright rejected such focus group nonsense, and that was Johnson.
In a certain way, the win of Boris, with his uber-masculine persona compared to a Marxist gardener, or a Guardian- and Jezebel-designed feminist, was something that Britain almost forgot exists. People still like leaders. And leaders should lead. It was a harkening back to 1980s-style conservatism, a focus on Reagan-Thatcher messaging of free trade, with a sublime Gordon Gekko aggression, but a promise to look after the working class left out by globalization.
How to balance these contradictory urges will be a challenge for the Conservatives in the future, but so far, the majority in Britain elected for a combination of free-trade and freedom from the EU, with generous health care and law enforcement spending promises.
The result of this election is difficult to explain to non-Brits, with seats like Wrexham, Blythe, Burnley, and Sedgwick going to Conservatives, and North England and Midlands seats, which have not voted Conservative since the 1930s, or some since the formation in 1920s. Consider Kentucky voting for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the presidential election, and you might get an idea of the scale of re-orientation undergoing in British politics.
Once the smoke disappears, it might be that Boris has been the most successful coalition builder conservative in Anglo-American politics since Reagan. As professor Matthew Goodwin wrote, it is far easier for the right to move left on economics than the left to move right on culture and nationalism. And that is a recipe for the permanent defeat of the Marxist/intersectional/internationalist left.
Perhaps in the future there will be a return of a normal, nationalist, Jim Webb left, but that seems unlikely, as the transgender left and Trotskyist left fight over the carcass of Western social democracy. I am as conservative as they come, but this complete eradication of any form of sane, healthy left-wing opposition is a tragedy for any democracy.
Boris can shape conservative politics and consolidate a right-wing cultural hegemony, if he so chooses. The real test will come in the next few months, with the trade negotiations starting with both the EU and the United States. That is where Conservatives will face major challenges.
There will be a lot of news about Scotland and what that means for Scottish independence, but the fact remains that in any Scottish referendum, the split Labour, Conservative, and Liberal voters will unite to form the Unionist chunk. The bigger issue would be to decide what direction the nation goes.
If Boris can continue with this Reagan coalition of social-conservative working-class votes, a punch back against the woke intersectional left, a generous Gaullist social security for the elderly, strong law and order, a re-orientation of the propaganda centers of our erstwhile education institutions, as well as free trade with the rest of the Anglosphere, especially India, Australia, and the United States, it might be possible that he has cracked the formula for a long Conservative future. Other Conservatives should take note of that formula.