All joking about Elmo, Lord Buckethead, Mr. Fishfinger, and Jeremy Corbyn’s breast slapping “high-five” aside, there are serious lessons that the British Conservative party is learning right now after their recent election. American conservatives would be wise to learn them as well.
In Case You Missed It…
A couple of months ago, it looked as if the British left was a dying political brand.
The Labour Party had been shellacked in the 2015 General Election when they were led by far-left Ed Milliband. They then doubled down by selecting even-farther-left Jeremy Corbyn as their party leader. Labour overwhelmingly supported the “Remain” campaign during the Brexit referendum. That loss further advanced the narrative that the left was on the retreat–not just in Britain, but around the world.
That was when it all went horribly wrong for the Conservative Party.
Corbyn’s Labour Party won 266 seats, enough to deny Theresa May’s Conservative Party a majority. May had to enlist the Democratic Unionist Party, a party exclusive to Northern Ireland, to ensure she continues as prime minister.
British voters almost put a man who has never met a terrorist organization or communist dictator he did not praise in 10 Downing Street.
Let that sink in. This is the country to which western civilization owes so much. It is the nation that gave the world the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the modern legislative assembly. The British people stared down the Nazis while on the brink of the abyss during the Free World’s darkest hour.
And, somehow, that same bastion of western civilization just came dangerously close to electing a man who welcomed two members of the Irish Republican Army to parliament in the aftermath of the failed attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher.
A New Era For The Left
The first lesson that western conservatives must learn is that no majority is forever.
Even though Labour did not win a majority, Corbyn now has political legitimacy. This should terrify everyone who claims to support the values of Western Civilization and American conservatives should learn from the mistakes of our British counterparts.
In the aftermath of Trump’s election, it was impossible not to notice what a mess the Democratic Party is in. Under Obama, Democrats lost thousands of seats from Congress down to state legislatures. It would seem that a Democrat could not get elected to the post of community snow-shoveler.
However, in 2008, the same thing was said about Republicans. After all, a major reason why Republicans had historic victories in 2010 was because the Democrats had such large majorities from their landslide wins in 2006 and 2008. In a free country, political majorities do not last forever.
Corbyn’s strong showing shows that some people some people are still willing to vote for the opposition party, no matter what. This is why its been frustrating watching Republicans fumble the ball on things like the Obamacare repeal. Every mistake makes it that much easier for the left to fight back in the next election.
Ideas Must Come First
The second lesson that conservatives, especially in the age of Trump, can learn from Britain is that ideas are more important than personalities.
In his pre-election write-up at National Review, Charles Cooke described the Tory campaign as “cultish” and “monomaniacal” in their pitch to re-elect May. Maybe that is a feature of a parliamentary system where “Country before Party” is a foreign concept. However, it seems obvious that the party purporting to believe in limited government should not be running a “cultish” campaign.
Speaking of the supposedly limited-government party, the Conservative Party in Britain is not very conservative. Margaret Thatcher had to drag the Conservative Party kicking and screaming from its slightly-less-statist policies into an actual conservative party. The Tories are now back where they were pre-Thatcher.
As Cooke says, “By American standards, the British Tories are the wettest of the wet.” The “wets” were the Tories who Thatcher described as not minding the big and powerful socialist state. They just wanted to be in charge so they could manage it better or make it more efficient.
This, however, brings us to the third lesson: we have to put results before personalities here at home, too.
The Elephant In The Room
In November 2020, we will have to do another assessment of whether it is beneficial to re-elect Trump. In the meantime, conservatives need to keep both Trump and Congressional Republicans in line.
The election ended seven months ago. Despite this, there are still tribes of pro-Trump, anti-Trump, anti-anti-Trump, and anti-anti-anti Trump. They are both comically ridiculous and entirely unhelpful in assessing Trump’s job performance from a conservative perspective. We have to drop the stupid “tribes” and simply call balls and strikes.
American conservatives should expect Republicans to bring not just results, but conservative results. This is tremendously important. Ideas are more important than Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, or whoever your favorite Republican politician happens to be. And, while some of his supporters might disagree, Trump is far from a perfect conservative candidate. Sometimes, Trump hits the ball on the sweet spot, and other times he strikes out with the bases loaded.
It can be fun to look at the foolishness of the left and say “This is why Trump won,” but we should be careful about pushing it too far. People may have voted for Trump as a backlash against political correctness and other undesirable things associated with the left. However, Trump is now in power. Politicians are expected to bring results, or else voters will give the opposition another chance.
In Britain, that almost got a genuine Marxist elected to the same office once held by Winston Churchill.