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UK Elections Show Fake Conservatism Cannot Win

Chronicles – “There’s a lot to react against,” said Margaret Thatcher when she was accused of being a “reactionary” during what turned out to be her victorious 1979 election campaign. Unfortunately, her heirs leading Britain’s shattered Conservative Party never took that wisdom to heart. Now they have suffered the most catastrophic electoral defeat in their party’s history, returning with less than 20 percent of the seats in parliament while Sir Keir Starmer’s new Labour government will control nearly two-thirds of them.

The reasons for the Tory implosion are easy to understand. After coming to power in 2010, they delivered the highest tax burden in relation to GDP since the 1940s. They used the revenue for massive public spending that drove up Britain’s national debt and inflicted record-high inflation without significantly increasing wages or reversing a considerable decline in public services. They committed to “NetZero,” a green energy program that will cost tens of billions over the coming decades and chased away foreign investment and business development. They oversaw a near tripling of illegal immigration and waited until the last weeks of their mandate to take even symbolic countermeasures. They surrendered control of Britain’s rich cultural heritage, historic educational institutions, and civil society to the radical left without so much as a whimper and then took only a handful of correctives.

A large percentage of the party leadership actively opposed restoring Britain’s national sovereignty through Brexit. Then, either from a lack of zeal, sheer incompetence, or purposeful malevolence, bungled its implementation. Along the way, the Conservatives eviscerated Britain’s military readiness, tolerated surging crime, indulged in humiliating sex and financial scandals, and imposed one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdown regimes even while prominent Tory leaders violated it.

Britain’s Conservatives, in other words, governed like American Democrats, with the exception that the Democrats never united behind their more modest “Green New Deal” that was advanced early in the Biden administration.

Like their American center-left counterparts, the Tories have left their country poorer, weaker, sadder, shamefaced, and more divided. Their record was so bad that Labour had no need to advance much of an alternative program, but merely to criticize Tory failures while promising vague, Obamaesque “change.”

The Tory leadership proved so atrocious that frustrated small “c” British conservatives coalesced around Nigel Farage’s alternate Reform UK Party, a new entity based on the Brexit movement that won 4.1 million votes from a divided right and appears to have cost the Conservatives as many as 173 parliamentary seats—or 52 more than they won. That would not have been enough to overtake Labour’s massive lead, but it does doom the ossified traditional Tory party to near irrelevance and a dubious claim to lead the British right going forward.

“I am sorry,” said outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who also stepped down as Conservative leader in the aftermath of his party’s crushing defeat. The real tragedy, however, is not that the right lost and the left won. It is that one statist, social democratic party will be succeeded by another statist, social democratic party that promises to be slightly different and work harder. Whether it does or not, the country’s woes will find no relief until the British electorate is bold enough to embrace true conservatism.

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