Days before the Brexit referendum, those who wanted to leave the European Union resigned themselves to defeat after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, one of the most passionate pro-immigration Remain campaigners. But despite the Main Stream Media’s best efforts, Brexit won. And now, even the Labour MP who inherited Cox’s seat is fretting because people who have voted Labour their entire lives appear to be switching over to the Conservative Party in the General Election due June 8. [Dan Hodges: Even in Jo Cox’s old seat they’re laughing Corbyn out of town, by Dan Hodges, Daily Mail, April 29, 2017] At least right now, it looks like, by resolving its five-decade civil war over the European Union, the Tories are poised to triumph as a National Conservative Party. The moral for the Trump GOP could not be more stark.
Theresa May’s Tories enjoy a double digit lead of between 11 and 17 points, down only slightly from the first eye-popping numbers [UK’s May Holds Lead In Election Polls While Opposition Support Rises , Reuters, April 30, 2017]. And support for Brexit itself has actually increased even as difficult negotiations with the EU loom. Earlier this month, support for the UK leaving the European Union hit a five month high of more than 55 percent [Support for Brexit at five-month high after Article 50 triggered, by Liam Deacon, Breitbart, April 16, 2017].
Significantly, this even holds true in Scotland. It wasn’t long ago Scotland appeared on the brink of voting of declaring independence (whatever that means in the context of the EU superstate). After the Union’s narrow survival was swiftly followed by Brexit, many suggested Scotland would demand a second referendum, vote to leave the UK, and then join the European Union as an independent power. But that’s not what’s happening.
Only about 45 percent of Scottish voters want another referendum for independence, assuming the Scottish National Party wins a majority of the votes in Scotland [New support for Scottish independence, Sky News, April 30, 2017]. The same poll also showed a plurality of Scottish voters want to stay in the UK and stay out of the EU—the Conservative Party’s position. And this comes at a time when the SNP is having to deny reports of mixed messaging about whether another independence referendum should be at the center of this year’s election campaign [SNP denies split over general election’s impact on independence vote, by Alexandra Topping, Guardian, April 30, 2017].
The SNP also has another media problem: unless they gain further seats, something which seems unlikely, journalists will declare the nationalist movement has peaked [Scottish Conservatives plot return from brink of political oblivion, by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, April 29, 2017].
Strikingly, the Conservatives are showing surprising strength in Scotland this year, outpacing Labour. [Exclusive Telegraph ORB poll reveals Conservatives take the lead over Labour in Scotland and London, by Ben Riley-Smith, Telegraph, April 29, 2017]
The Conservatives also seem bout to replace Labour as the largest party in Wales, which hasn’t been occurred since 1859 [Tories to replace Labour as biggest party in Wales – Shock ITV Wales/YouGov poll, by Paul Waugh, Huffington Post, April 24, 2017].
Obviously, much of the Tories’ strength is coming from simply the weakness of their opponents. The SNP asked for and got their referendum, and they lost. Simply demanding another one isn’t much of a program. The centrist Liberal Democrats have confused messaging and are functioning simply as a kind of “none of the above” option for many voters [The Lib Dems’ troubled start doesn’t bode well for them, by Stephen Bush, New Statesman, April 26, 2017].
And of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure at the head of the Labour Party has deeply divided the UK’s traditional center-Left grouping. In some ways, it’s a systemic problem that goes beyond Corbyn’s own personal failings. Labour has clearly staked its future on Muslim immigration, consciously choosing to sacrifice white working class voters in favor of electing a new people.
But many of these new grassroots activists and Muslim voters don’t share the same pro-Israel and pro-Jewish views of Labour’s traditional leaders. Inevitably, Labour has been plagued by repeated controversies about “anti-Semitism,” and, unusually for a Leftist party, hostile media coverage. [The Labour party has become institutionally anti-Semitic, by Stephen Daisley, The Spectator, April 5, 2017] Michael Foster, one of Labour’s largest and most high-profile Jewish donors, has even vowed to challenge Corbyn in the election. [Jewish donor promises to “fight” Jeremy Corbyn if he does not stand down, by Ben Welch, The Jewish Chronicle, April 30, 2017]
What about UKIP? UKIP may have been the most significant “fringe” party in British political history. But its political momentum, and even its political purpose, may be eclipsed for now. Membership and its standing in the polls are declining. The Conservative Party is simply stealing its issues [Is UKIP finished?, New Statesman, April 27, 2017].
Interestingly, though Conservative-leaning UKIP voters are returning to the Tories, Labour voters in Wales who voted UKIP are also defecting to the Tories [Shock Wales YouGov poll shows that Labour’s UKIP nightmare is coming true, by Stephen Bush, New Statesman, April 24, 2017]. UKIP seems to have served as a “gateway drug.”
In contrast to the confusion seizing the other parties, the Conservatives have a comprehensible message: They are the party of British nationalism. May argues a strong Conservative majority will both strengthen the UK in the EU negotiations and stop the “separatists” she accuses of wanting to “divide us” and “break up our country” [Reject SNP ‘separatists’ and vote Tory, urges Theresa May, by Arj Singh and Hilary Duncanson, The Scotsman, April 29, 2017].
John O’Sullivan celebrates in National Review:
The fact that the Tory party has been scoring 42–44 percent in opinion polls for several months (compared with long periods in the mid-30s or lower in the previous ten years) shows that May has already brought together a new broad national coalition — one that has the potential to grow further if UKIP continues to decline with Brexit’s success. [Theresa May Can – And Does, April 18, 2017]
The irony of course is that May herself did not deliberately create this opportunity any more than David Cameron. May actually opposed Brexit, albeit discreetly, leading to speculation at the time she had “blown” her opportunity to be party leader [Theresa May wants you to stay in the EU. Has she blown her chances of ever being Tory leader? By Asa Bennett, The Telegraph, April 25, 2016].
Most Conservative MPs also backed Remain (as well as the overwhelmingly majority of Labour MPs [EU vote: Where the cabinet and other MPs stand, BBC, June 22, 2016]. But the dissenters within the Conservative Party, be they long-time activists or Johnny-come-latelys like Boris Johnson, didn’t actually take over the Tories personally [A quick review of the UK Conservative party psychodrama that spawned the Brexit vote, by Marta Cooper, Quartz, June 22, 2016]. This is a familiar pattern.
Nevertheless, the dissenters won the larger battle, as the party has now readjusted to Brexit. The “Remainers” within the Tories have stayed with the party, and Brexit is winning over new voters. Additionally, as O’Sullivan noted in his NR article above:
Britain’s post-Brexit opportunities — and government itself — will exert a gravitational pull on other members of the Remain classes over time toward the broad-based conservatism that has achieved them. Opinion follows interest.
As Michael Brendan Dougherty has also observed, Brexit and the need to rewrite huge swathes of the law also provides the Tories with the opportunity for May’s new coalition to implement the kind of sweeping reforms normally impossible in a sprawling administrative state [Why America Should Envy Brexit, The Week, April 27, 2017].
The lesson here for American patriots: a political party can be fundamentally reorganized by a dedicated minority. May is far from a principled or far-seeing leader on this issue. But she has adjusted to new circumstances and the Conservative Party as a whole is benefiting because of the hard work and activism of Brexit campaigners. What’s more, a new doctrine of British unionism and soft nationalism is emerging—one which offers unprecedented opportunities to immigration patriots.
Trump Republicans should learn a similar lesson. Because “opinion follows interest,” Trump Republicans should make it their priority to impose policies to which the party as a whole will have to adjust. Many elected Republicans didn’t want Trump as their party leader, let alone president. But they came around when they had to, and adjusted to the new circumstances. They will adjust more.
Similarly, if President Trump and his team want to truly change the country, they need to start by changing the party and creating new realities—on immigration, economic nationalism and foreign policy. Consensus will not work; these changes must be forced. Many elected Republicans will oppose these changes but as “opinion follows interest” and Republicans want to retain their link to power, they will adjust.
On recent form, it’s even arguable that Trump himself may not be the one to impose these changes. If that’s the case, American patriots need to organize to do it on their own. After all, it was political outsiders who pushed through Brexit and transformed the Conservative Party.
There’s no reason American patriots here can’t do the same, even if it means they have to rise against President Trump in his own name.
But, one way or the other, Britain’s example shows that National Conservatism is in the logic of American history.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.