The Tories are unable to convincingly defend their record on any aspect of political policy. Having emphatically failed on ‘small boat crossings’ and the migrant crisis narrative, there isn’t anything else to shout about. Nothing is better after thirteen years and just about everything is worse – and everyone knows it. The consequence is that we are facing a nasty culture wars campaign by the Tories in an attempt to divide society, just as they did over Brexit – and at least retain some seats.
The economy is needlessly and negatively affected by Brexit. Moderates in the government are held hostage by the economic and political extremism of factions like the ERG. In the latest Ipsos poll, 45 per cent think that Brexit is going worse than they expected (up from 28 per cent just a year ago). Another poll for The Independent found that 61 per cent thought Brexit has brought nothing but damage to the economy. You can’t win votes on the back of Brexit – it’s a political disaster zone.
In addition, there are no real ideas on how to fix the NHS backlog, the social care crisis, the housing crisis and any number of other areas that the government are supposed to manage. Rishi Sunak has offered five strategies that aren’t strategies whilst industry after industry goes on strike.
The mismanagement of UK plc is laid bare for everyone to see.
The only thing they have left is division – the culture wars.
Last week, the Financial Times ran a piece about a leading Conservative business figure who has quit the Tories after almost 40 years, citing “the party’s alleged “f**k business” attitude and willingness to put vulnerable groups on the front line of a culture war.”
Iain Anderson, founder of the Cicero public relations group and said he was switching his support to Labour. Anderson, a friend of former prime ministers Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and levelling-up secretary Michael Gove, said that after 39 years as a Tory party member, he was quitting. “It’s not the party it used to be — I can’t defend it,” he said. Anderson was named “LGBT business champion” in Boris Johnson’s government in September 2021.
So angry is Anderson that “he has torn up his party membership too.” But then the FT goes on to say – ‘key to his decision to abandon the Tories now is his belief, based on discussions with party insiders, that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will ramp up the so-called culture wars as a central part of his 2024 election strategy’. Anderson is quoted as saying:
“It was made pretty clear the plan is to run a culture war to distract from fundamental economic failings. It’s not something I want any part of.”
Three days later The Independent ran a story about another Mr Anderson titled – “Lee Anderson says Tories should fight election on ‘culture wars and trans debate.”
“The Tories will have to fight the general election on the trans rights debate and other “culture war” issues, the party’s controversial new deputy chairman Lee Anderson has said.”
So bad have the electoral prospects of the Tories become that, the new deputy party chair took a swipe at Rishi Sunak by saying that the last election was won through a combination of Boris Johnson, Brexit and antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn – but the party will now have to “think of something else”. Clearly Sunak has not done that in the eyes of Anderson.
The only reason why Lee Anderson has said this is because it’s actually true. The consequence is that the Conservative Campaign will now have to awaken the very dark side of the right-wing press, which it has been having some practice at.
Take for instance Jeremy Clarkson – in which he wrote he “hated” Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, on a “cellular level” and suggested she be made to “parade naked” through Britain while people “throw lumps of excrement at her.” That commentary was published by The Sun newspaper. It generated the most press complaints in British history. Then take The Daily Mail’s appalling recent remarks about the detective leading the Nicola Bulley investigation. Both these events may not be considered part of the culture wars – but they are at the very height of misogyny on issues that divide opinion.
The one thing the Tories do have as a weapon is their ability to spot a dividing line – and it is here that they will fight to their bitter and twisted end.
What they are doing right now is finding the very edges of the culture war boundaries.
In the end, in today’s world, the culture war is about progressive politics versus regressive politics – about socialism and Conservatism. But for the Tories – abortion, gay marriage, misogyny, immigration, gender identification, the royal family and LGBTQ+ are all in the frame for garnering votes.
The one thing the Tories do have as a weapon is their ability to spot a dividing line – and it is here that they will fight to their bitter and twisted end. Prepare for the ramping up of the culture wars – it’s the weapon of choice for the Tories.