The Dianafication of Conservatism
Dianafication: the seeking of a shared and public grief at any given opportunity; the idea that a method of mourning is driven more by selfishness and secularism than by sincerity of emotion; corporate emoting; cumulative and protracted obsession with feelings and intuition.
Her death coincided with the rise to power of the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, and under his premiership emotion permeated politics. As distasteful as it may frequently have been, it worked. And the Rt Hon David Cameron is following suit, formulating policy and manipulating presentation to accord with the deep-seated feelings and random emotions of ordinary people. It is perhaps intrinsic to postmodernity that logic and reason are complemented by emotion and appeals to the spiritual: politics is no longer the pursuit of policy that works, but policy that feels right. Between the binary pair of logic and emotion, there is an implied hierarchy which is unfounded. In fact this hierarchy is impossible to justify with logic. It is perhaps fused with the reality that politics has historically been a masculine pursuit, a testosterone pastime, and so logic has predominated. But now the pendulum has swung towards emotion, which is not irrelevant to logic, but in excess becomes destructive. Politics demands both to be truly productive: just as it is difficult to be inspired by logic, so is it difficult to be productive purely with emotion. Empathy is no guarantee of sound strategy.
The Conservative Party’s historical focus on the economy, law and order, defence, patriotism, immigration, over-regulation, tax reduction, and their support for private enterprise, are now largely issues which are barely spoken of. They are harsh, masculine, rugged, abrasive, and no longer constitute the stuff of politics. The lions of Trafalgar Square and the British bulldog have been replaced by puppies and teddy bears. Mr Cameron is perpetually walking up and down those same hospital beds where Diana once trod, and he is taking the nation's pulse. When he detects a growing warmth in the blood, a quickening of the heartbeat, he yields to its cause.
It is no longer a matter of formulating the right policy on health, but of moulding the right words to persuade people that you are at one with their sufferings. It is no longer a question of sorting out the appalling state of the nation’s education system, but of appearing relaxed with one’s own children however many poor GCSEs or re-sat A-levels they obtain. Green is the new blue. The promise of no tax cuts is the new compassion. One must be libertarian even if some liberties are malignant, and multi-ethnic culture must prevail even if that divided multi-cultural house cannot stand against itself. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for in decadence are votes, and votes are the key to power. What that power is then to achieve is not the concern of today, and one should cast no cares for the morrow. That is to be focused on a narrow doctrine unintelligible to the sentient and sensitive masses. The politics of sensibility has trumped the politics of common sense.
Yet if this were the right strategy, one might expect it to be working. It ought to be a cause of great concern to Mr Cameron and his strategists that he is facing a landslide defeat with Labour winning a majority of around 100 seats in the House of Commons if the Prime Minister were to call a General Election over the coming months.
David Cameron’s Conservatives are now more about disposition, attitude, and an openness to emotions and spiritual experiences than they are concerned with the traditional core of their philosophy. The Conservative Party has become nothing more than a mood. And this is a great pity, for the Dianafication of Conservatism can have no enduring foundation: it will prove as ephemeral as the tears that were wept a decade ago.