For all the talk of vibrant "multi-culturalism", Blair's Britain is strikingly unicultural - diversity of race, gender and orientation, but a ruthless homogeneity of metropolitan modishness imposed by a highly centralised politico-media culture. America is a federal state and thus local majorities prevail: in New Hampshire, we like hunting; in the gay environs of Fire Island, the thrill of the chase lies elsewhere. Each, as I said, to his own.
In Britain, Soho's views on hunting should be no more relevant than Somerset's opinion of gay leather bars. But they are. And those Left-wing columnists who go on about the "climate of fear" in Bush's America ought to remember that, even in their wildest power-crazed dreams, Bush and John Ashcroft will never be able to issue a national ban on centuries-old traditions merely because they offend metropolitan taste. Nor, unlike the modern British state, are they able to keep the populace under 24-hour video surveillance, whether you're at the railway station, in the shopping centre, or strolling down a leafy country lane.
That's Mark Steyn, if you didn't guess. He's quite right, of course, and he's exactly right to contrast the treatment of country folk with that of homosexuals. After all, to listen to gay rights activists you could be convinced that Sir Elton's mansion was under constant siege from baying mobs of conservatives. Sorry to disappoint any of them reading, but what the average social conservative thinks about homosexuals is that he doesn't. Folk in Cheshire talk about events in the Manchester Village about as often as they talk about happenings on Venus, and with as much intent to try and control them. Yet this vice is definitely not versa. Au contrair, the Left can't stop itself trying to force Cheshire into one big Village. Whether it's Gay Marriage, sex education for foetuses, opposition to faith schools or any one of a hundred other issues, there's no doubt who's trying to dictate to who these days.
Against this background the Conservative Party has been worse than useless. It's as if they've spent so long believing in themselves as the natural party of government that they haven't noticed that they are not, in fact, in government. British Conservatism's response to this Gramscian onslaught is hobbled by the fact few Conservatives have any principled objection to this kind of social engineering. Sure, they may have qualms about five year olds being taught about the full Monica, but there are few who can conceive of social engineering not being a valid role for schools.. Steyn, again:
The inability of Conservatives to defend hunting sums up the problems of British conservatism. At the time of the first Countryside March, Joanna Trollope said that the essential ingredients of village life are "church, pub, farms, cottages, a small school and a Big House". That's swell if you're the one in the Big House, but presenting rural Britain as a haven of deference and social order cripples its political viability. In Britain, this is an undeferential age - see Digby Anderson on oiks et al. Rural America is about individual liberty - where even the brokest of broke losers with no teeth can still have a few acres, a rusting trailer, a hunting licence and a "Survivors Will Be Prosecuted" sign at the foot of his drive.
As long as British conservatism recoils from individual liberty and clings to Joanna Trollope Big-House social order, it will be unable to offer a viable modern defence of that which it wishes to conserve.
Indeed. It is the nature of government that it will, at all levels, be vulnerable to hijacking by those who wish to impose a radical agenda on the public. Conservatives can not be in favour of the means while merely disputing the ends. Conservatives must recognise that the only defence for our values is liberty, for as long there exists the means for government to impose its values on the public, there will be those on the Left who will seek to use this power for their own ends.