Inside the Tory Civil War
The 10 Big Dividing Lines
Matt Goodwin’s Substack goes out to more than 20,800 subscribers in 137 countries. Become a paid supporter to access everything —the full archive, extended essays, unique posts, Q&A sessions, leave comments, join the debate, get discounts, advance notice about events, and support independent, contrarian writers who are making a difference.
In the last twenty-four hours, Suella Braverman has released a truly remarkable and utterly scathing critique of prime minister Rishi Sunak.
In a stunning three-page letter, the former Home Secretary and darling of the Tory Right accuses the prime minister of reneging on a deal to do whatever is necessary to regain control of Britain’s broken borders, lower immigration and deliver on the promises made to British voters in 2019:
“You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver on every single one of these key policies”, she writes. “Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so. Or, as I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises”.
Sunak, argues Braverman, is now leading the Tories into electoral oblivion.
Nope. This is a rallying cry to build a completely different brand of conservatism —and one that is far more in tune with the mood out there in the country.
What we are now rapidly heading into is not just a general election but a protracted philosophical and ideological war for the very soul of British conservatism.
And while there are several distinct tribes within the Tory family, at its core this ideological war is mainly between two sides.
On one side are Establishment Tories who are basically accepting of the status-quo, who dominate the upper echelons of the party, including much of the parliamentary party, its central office and donor class.
On the other is a new generation of National Conservatives who want to chart a completely different path for the party and the country —who think the current status-quo is broken, who think the post-Brexit Tories have lost touch with the rest of the country, including the millions of voters who rallied behind them only four years ago, and who today want to push their party in a very different direction.
But what actually divides the two sides? And what will shape this unfolding battle in the weeks, months, and years to come? I’ve discussed these issues with members of the current cabinet, Tory pollsters, and more. Here are the 10 big dividing lines.
1. Immigration. Unlike Establishment Tories, National Conservatives argue that while immigration does make a contribution to British society, today’s policy of mass, uncontrolled, and unassimilated immigration is now rapidly weakening and undermining our national community –-its shared identity, sense of history, culture, values, and ways of life. These problems have been exacerbated by Establishment Tories, whose post-Brexit immigration policy has further increased rates of immigration, has encouraged migration from more culturally and religiously distinct nations, and low-skill migrants who are a net fiscal cost, rather than benefit, to the economy. National conservatives firmly oppose these changes and see them as a betrayal of conservative principles. National conservatives want a sharp and sustained reduction in legal immigration and, ideally, a five-year freeze on immigration so that Britain can fully absorb and better manage the mass migration of the last twenty years. A referendum on stopping migration for five-years would be advocated.
2. National Security. Unlike Established Tories, National Conservatives argue Britain should withdraw from any judicial and legal arrangements which prohibit the country from controlling its own national borders and responding to security threats. Unlike Establishment Tories, they acknowledge Western nations like Britain are now in the grip of rapidly escalating migration, refugee, and security crises which threaten their social cohesion and sustainability. The first priority of any government is to ensure the security and safety of the national community. National conservatives are firmly opposed to the transfer of political and legal power to legal and supranational bodies which undermine or erode the ability of the country to control its own borders and deport foreign nationals who commit crime and/or glorify terrorism.
3. The State. Unlike Establishment Tories who have consistently diluted the power of the nation-state by passing power and influence to supranational, technocratic and amorphous ‘governance’ structures, National Conservatives believe that a strong, independent, self-governing nation-state represents the best means of organising and sustaining society. But they also believe in a limited state --where the powers of an ever-expanding administrative state and policy-making judiciary are dramatically reduced, where the organs of the state remain free from ideological bias, and where democratic powers and influence are sent down to the people, not hoarded at the centre by self-serving, insular elites. National Conservatives believe the nation-state works best when it is working in the interests of the national community, is directly accountable to them, and sends power and influence down, not up, when it is respectful of the principle of popular sovereignty.
And here are seven more big dividing lines for paid subscribers …
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Matt Goodwin to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.