“Furthermore, Mr Cummings, although right wing, isn’t a Tory — that’s to say, a believer in the wisdom of institutions.” Paul Goodman in The Times today.
Well you could have fooled me. Not about Cummings – like his erstwhile biggest fan the Prime Minister he clearly believes only in himself and the devil can take the hindmost. No I refer to the idea that Tories believe in the “ wisdom of institutions”.
Let’s look at a few institutions where that alleged belief has been challenged or abandoned. Start with Europe’s most important institution the European Union. The Tory Right, which has now taken absolute charge of the Conservative Party, had contempt for the EU. Faced with some genuine concerns about the power of and direction being taken by the EU Conservatives decided to flee rather than fight. They could, alongside likeminded governments in France and Germany, have argued and campaigned for reform. Instead they picked up the ball and ran away. Some “belief” that was.
Then there’s the institution of the rule of law. Rather important in a democracy you’d think but now being openly flouted with extraordinary arrogance with international law being boastfully broken. The House of Lords, an “institution” if ever there was one, has told the Conservative government to think again, wisely you might think. But the government will deny that wisdom and overrule the Lords. Some “belief” again.
Another institution that this government has undermined has been medical science. Here we are in the world of the denigration of experts who were rejected so contemptuously a few years ago by the Tories’ Tory Michael Gove. It is clear that the advice of expert advisors have been almost arbitrarily accepted or rejected on COVID-19. Often on the same day. That “belief” was random – Conservative politics and expediency decided whether the institution of medical expertise would be listened to and acted upon. Or not.
The BBC, an institution universally admired at home and abroad but creaking a bit, is another example. The usual suspects have the BBC in their sights – here the subtle changes necessary might be a bit cerebral for the Tory haters. Where what is needed is to blow the bloody doors off they’d prefer to blow the whole institution up.
Finally the institution whose wisdom you’d think Conservatives would most want to protect – the Conservative Party itself – is a shadow of its former tolerant and pluralist self. The One Nation Tories have been hounded out as from top to bottom loyalty to the cause of Brexit is required, or else. Wisdom comes from tolerance and constructive debate. The wisdom of the Conservative Party has been replaced and the Party is now a nationalist cult which tolerates no dissent.