DOMINIC SANDBROOK: Despite 12 years of Tory government, why are we a much more left-wing nation?
Given that the Tories have been in power in one way or another since May 2010 – almost 12½ years – one might expect most walks of life in Britain to be decidedly conservative, in the footsteps of our political masters.
Certainly a very different country from the country ruled by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of New Labour.
But in very many key areas of national life there has indeed been a sharp shift to the left.
It’s a sign of the times that people who considered themselves Labor supporters in 2010, like writer JK Rowling (pictured), are now routinely vilified and vilified for simply having the courage to question the latest fashionable orthodoxies put means to be a woman
On the broader social and cultural fronts, the evidence of left-liberal momentum is particularly evident.
If a fortune teller had predicted in the summer of 2010 that, after 12 years of Tory rule, universities would vigorously ‘decolonize’ their curricula, young people would routinely offer their ‘pronouns’ to avoid any confusion about their gender and museums some of their most historic treasures wanted to give away, you would have thought them completely insane.
Of course, the left-wing activists who plague so many of our major institutions insist that such developments are pure common sense.
Anyone defying their latest obsessions, they howl, is waging a “made-up culture war” — as if repeating what most normal people instinctively believe turns you into some kind of dangerous fascist.
This significant shift to the left is not a turn to the leftist values of Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson, not even those of Blair and Brown, but represents a much more hysterical, intolerant left, obsessed to the point of unreasonableness with race and gender.
Indeed, it is a sign of the times that people who considered themselves Labor Party supporters in 2010, such as writer JK Rowling or philosopher Kathleen Stock, are now routinely vilified and vilified simply for daring to embrace the latest fashions Questioning orthodoxies about what it means to be a woman.
So what’s the explanation? Is it Tory governments’ fault for failing to fill cultural institutions with their own supporters? Should we blame the universities for filling the minds of youngsters with such bright nonsense?
Or should we blame the Conservatives themselves for not presenting an attractive alternative? Let’s take these suggestions in order.
There is certainly some truth to the theory that Tory governments have been too spineless to espouse petty-bourgeois conservative values.
For example, the government has been woefully weak in cracking down on mobs of crazed activists following the 2020 murder of George Floyd — a murder of a black man by a white police officer that happened and did happen in America our cities destroyed have nothing to do with us here in Britain.
The government has been woefully weak in cracking down on the mobs of crazed activists that devastated our cities after the 2020 murder of George Floyd — a murder of a black man by a white police officer that happened in America and had nothing to do with us here in Great Britain
It was also too weak to deal with the extremists of Extinction Rebellion and similar groups – although the bigger culprits are the police, who for their part seem more interested in investigating people for using the wrong pronouns than the order to maintain and catch villains.
But in some areas of the arts, the Tories have encouraged their supporters. BBC Director-General Tim Davie is a former Conservative Councillor; its chairman, Richard Sharp, has advised both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak; Its board includes Theresa May’s former press chief, Sir Robbie Gibb, a keen Brexiteer who has openly criticized the BBC’s “voke-dominated groupthink”.
A much bigger problem, I think, is the insidious dominance of this groupthink – which a handful of high-level appointments can do little to change.
In many cultural institutions, from the National Trust and the Church of England to once-great museums and publishing houses, you will find the same casual, thoughtless jargon, the same obsessions with history’s imagined crimes, the same lazy obsessions with gender and slavery, the same muddled babble of abstract nouns and meaningless Americanisms.
Why is this? One answer is that graduates are pouring out of university liberal arts departments after spending three years studying the supposed ills of British history and the importance of realizing that there are actually 72 genders – or maybe 73 or even 74, depending on the madness – were taught of academics.
In many ways, therefore, our higher education system should be blamed.
How ironic that while academics love to preach about “diversity,” the only diversity they seem to care about is skin color – not independence of thought. In a revealing poll two years ago, the Policy Exchange think tank found that just 9% of academics had voted to leave in the Brexit referendum, while just 7% identified themselves as “centre right”.
In a revealing poll two years ago, the Policy Exchange think tank found that just 9% of academics had voted to leave in the Brexit referendum, while just 7% identified themselves as “centre right”. Pictured: Pro-EU protesters take part in a rally calling for Britain’s accession to the European Union on Saturday
Most worryingly, only half said they would be comfortable sitting next to a Leave supporter at lunch, while just a third said they would be comfortable next to someone who challenges their transgender dogma .
But it is too easy to explain this as the result of a willful, nefarious conspiracy.
The truth is that many, even most, academics are complacent, narrow-minded, and intellectually second-rate—in other words, too imbecile to plan something so sinister. Instead, the fundamental problem is that very few bright, skeptical centre-right people think of working in artistic or cultural institutions.
Instead, they go straight into business, finance, medicine, or the law, which offer far greater financial rewards.
As a result, museums, universities and even schools are often run by idealistic, overzealous, intimidating leftists who lack the basic maturity or intellectual confidence to challenge what they have been taught.
So how to fix it? Well, the last 12 years have shown that Tory governments are incapable of waking up our great institutions. Indeed, if the past few days are any indication, there is not much point in expecting a Conservative government to do anything.
The answer, I believe, is a calm, confident campaign to defend the cultural values that are dear to most Britons.
In addition, such a campaign could perform much better than people expect. As the reaction to the Queen’s death shows, tens of millions are still small C conservatives at heart.
Unlike leaders of the Church of England or the National Trust, they make it clear that they love our country and are passionately proud of its history and heritage. For too long these tens of millions have been silent – not least because most have better things to do than debate with a weird, half-mad bunch of ideologues.
But as a result, they have been let down – and Britain has moved significantly to the left.
So it’s high time to fight back – politely and respectfully, of course, but still relentlessly.
Of course, the job cannot be left to Conservative MPs.
But I’m sure there are countless sane, sane people in the arts, media, publishing and education who are fed up with this nonsense and the shrieks and howls that go with it.
In fact, I know there are because they often tell me so in private.
So isn’t it about time they got up? Isn’t it time to stop placating these eccentric tyrants? And isn’t it time to stand up for Britain before they destroy it forever?
Dominic Sandbrook hosts The Rest Is History podcast
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