Conservatives are two separate parties – in England

Why is it the Conservatives score much better in England than in the rest of the UK in the 21st century? I would suggest it is because the Conservatives consist of a coalition effectively of two parties – one centre-right pro-business near-liberal; the other essentially Nationalist (and now under severe challenge from UKIP).

When “Nationalist” really meant “Imperialist”, these two did not jar as obviously. Broadly, the Empire was in businesses’ interests, and thus the two clearly belonged to the same side.

Additionally, UK politics even after the War consisted essentially of Socialists (Labour) and Not-Socialists. What is now registered in the record books as “Conservative” was actually a conglomeration. Michael Heseltine was initially “National Liberal”; Neville Chamberlain, representing Birmingham, described himself as “Unionist”; there were other descriptions too. In some cities, Conservatives even stood aside for Liberals in return for a safe neighbouring seat.

Over time, however, the interests of business have begun to diverge as Imperialism has given way to “Euroscepticism” – perhaps better termed British (or even English) Nationalism. Conservatives in metropolitan areas such as Zac Goldsmith are a million miles from the likes of Edward Leigh in more rural constituencies. As ever these things are generalisms, but the Conservative benches thus consist of two very different types of MP – the Classical Liberal internationalist on one hand, and the English Nationalist on the other. The current conundrum is that UKIP is snapping at the latter, making English nationalism effectively the centre-right battleground, much to the bemusement of the Classical Liberal Internationalists who cannot comprehend this at all.

This explains also why the Conservatives do much worse in Scotland and Wales, where the “Nationalist” market is already spoken for by the SNP and Plaid, who have both also emerged as pro-EU. In Northern Ireland, of course, a wide range of Nationalist (in the broadest sense) options already exists – and precious little else! Thus, outside England, Conservatives are only in the “Classical Liberal Internationalist” market – the very market being ignored by the Leadership as it tries to resolve its obsession on its Nationalist-Eurosceptic (English only) side.

In other words, the type of person who regularly votes SNP or Plaid in Scotland and Wales actually votes for Conservative English Nationalists in England – particularly in rural areas. This means that the Conservatives are only half the party in Scotland and Wales that they are in England. It is also why they continue to run the risk of becoming completely England-only – another challenge to the very viability of the UK itself.

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2 thoughts on “Conservatives are two separate parties – in England

  1. Scots Anorak says:

    “In other words, the type of person who regularly votes SNP or Plaid in Scotland and Wales actually votes for Conservative English Nationalists in England – particularly in rural areas. This means that the Conservatives are only half the party in Scotland and Wales that they are in England. It is also why they continue to run the risk of becoming completely England-only – another challenge to the very viability of the UK itself.”

    This is all somewhat simplistic. For a start, Plaid Cymru is a conventional cultural nationalist party, whereas the SNP largely isn’t (as we both well know, Scotland encompasses Lowland, Goidelic and Norse ethnicities, which would make that difficult). The English Conservatives, insofar as they are “nationalist” at all, are right-wing populists, although there are also those who are against supranational bodies because they believe that they are an attempt to “buck the market”. What you haven’t mentioned is the old split between European-oriented Whigs and Atlantic-oriented Tories, whose contemporary reflex is seen in Conservative sympathy for English-speaking free-market economies such as the US and Australia.

    I suspect that many people in the SNP in particular would take great umbrage at your comparing them with the Tories. I can’t imagine the SNP hiring motorised billboards to tour ethnic-minority areas with messages implying that those who live there are all illegal immigrants. I can’t imagine them sitting with the Fascists in the European Parliament. Come to think of it, neither could I imagine them repealing European human-rights legislation because they lose less than 0.5% of cases.

    You are, however, entirely correct that to contend that the SNP and Plaid Cymru are somehow “nationalist” while those who favour remaining in the UK are somehow not is nonsensical in the extreme. Peter Robinson is a Nationalist, and so is John Redwood.

    By the way, the latest polling indicates that the Conservatives may gain four seats in Scotland at the general election — largely because of the expected collapse of the Liberal-Democrats.

  2. Chris Roche says:

    “For a period of three centuries after the end of empire imperialism is replaced by imbecility’ __ Winston Churchill.

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