BY KEER LONSDALE
Liz Truss is political toast because she assumed her mini-budget would be understood. Her assumption was that a low-tax, foreign investor-attractive economic model simply spoke for itself. That everyone would get it. Maybe through a mysterious process of osmosis, because she never spelled anything out at all.
Her conservative critics shouldn’t be too gleeful in their attacks on the PM because almost all of them never spell anything out either.
In fact, if conservatism as a global movement has one core problem, it’s the Comms Problem, the problem of communication. And in Britain, this problem is as acute as can be.
What are the core principles of conservatism? Most people don’t have a clue, because conservatives never attempt to explain them, never attempt to dictate the narrative. They allow their ideas, and their motives, to be mischaracterised by the Left media all the time. And they never do, or say, a thing about it.
The problem isn’t just that the ordinary man or woman in the street doesn’t ‘get’ conservatism. It’s that the educated, graduate middle-classes don’t get it either. No one, from primary school to university, has ever told them what it is. In the aftermath of the mini-budget I had several teacher friends texting me in blind fury that Truss was giving tax cuts to her ‘rich friends’. When I explained that a lower tax burden on both businesses and consumers is a way to get the economy growing, to the benefit of everyone, they reacted in spluttering disbelief and denial. Because nobody had ever introduced them to this basic economic concept. (And these are teachers!)
Among the kids I teach (this is in an urban, multicultural comprehensive) the situation is dire. All the basic conservative principles have been undermined in their eyes by a lifetime of insidious left-wing propaganda and drip-drip innuendo. To mention patriotism, for example, or the role of the monarch, would often be to invite a furious reaction from a substantial faction of any classroom. “What does she do all day? She just sits there doing nothing!” would be a typical comment ignorantly aimed at our late Queen. The British constitution and how it works has never been properly presented to them. And when it is (in PSE – personal and social education lessons) it’s usually done in a way that highlights privilege and institutional injustice rather than a narrative of continuity, stability and popular support. We’ve had Tory education secretaries for donkey’s years and the Left-wing narrative in schools still goes entirely unchallenged.
The BBC promote Left-leaning narratives in the most cunning ways imaginable, posing as impartial commentators while allowing the most preposterously false assumptions to take root and grow in the public mind. They do this through utter cynicism, mostly based on selective reporting and suppressing, or at least garbling, conservative perspectives. And after all these years of Tory rule they’re still doing it, unchallenged and unhindered. Because the Right don’t ‘get’ the Comms Problem. The Right really must believe in osmosis after all, as Liz Truss evidently does.
I know what you’ll say. That we conservatives shouldn’t sink to the level of the contemptible Left; that society wouldn’t survive unless one section at least (us) continued to play the game in a gentlemanly manner. If we politicised everything, as they do, then we’d get the society we never wanted, with ideological battlegrounds everywhere. We’re conservatives, and our aim is a society at ease with itself, not one where culture war confrontation is built into every interaction.
And that’s true enough. But, in response, I would say if we don’t get our ideas across, we will always lose. Simply put, we have to have faith in our ideas. If only we would wheel them out into the battlefield once in a while, they would win, and win handsomely. And then society really would settle down harmoniously because the best ideas would have prevailed and, most importantly, would be seen by the vast majority to have prevailed.
Personal freedom. Patriotism. Tradition. Market-based solutions. These surely are the core of what we believe. They aren’t ideological imperatives that have to be remorselessly imposed but rather a collection of assumptions from which political thinking should spring. But they do need explaining, because if we don’t do it the unscrupulous Left will, mangling them into unpleasant caricatures of their true meaning and perverting the public’s understanding.
So how can we achieve this turnaround and solve our Comms Problem? First, admit it exists and that, like it or not, solving it is our most urgent priority. This means we have to get out of our comfort zones. To me, the big areas are: education, the BBC, and what Tory MPs and ministers say.
Education needs syllabuses that are Left-proofed, that are written with the expectation that inevitably some Left-leaning teacher will present them. We should never assume the Left will play fairly, so the conservative perspective should (along with all other political perspectives) be expected to be taught in a verifiable, Ofsted-measurable way. The BBC should be put under similar pressure. We mustn’t be embarrassed to do this! Fighting an ideological culture war like this needs to become second nature to us, like it was in Mrs Thatcher’s day (the only time in my lifetime that conservatives won, for a while, the argument).
Tory MPs and ministers must be the opposite of Liz Truss. They must see that clear, sound-bite communication of ideas is the key task the job of a Tory parliamentarian entails. If people don’t see that, for example, lower taxes will benefit us all, then Tory MPs haven’t done their job.
None of us should kid ourselves about the scale of the problem. The rot goes so deep in our society, with insane Leftist ideas dominating so much of our discourse, that the task has become massive. Indeed, Tories have become so unused to speaking ideologically that some of them have evidently also drunk of the big state, market-sceptical Kool Aid, as we have recently seen.
So let’s get talking about conservatism. Let’s start right now.
Keer Lonsdale is a teacher, writer and countryman based in the north of England. He loves the rural life, fishing for trout and following a pack of hounds. As a small-‘c’ conservative, campaigning against the excesses of the intersectional Left and their divisive agendas takes up an ever-growing percentage of his time.