Wednesday 3 April 2019

Was Margaret Thatcher a conservative? Is Jacob Rees-Mogg a nationalist?

The Guardian publishes each day a lot of unfair, uninformed, preposterous and sometimes frankly poisonous articles. It has a particularly repellent one today implying, very unfairly, that because the German AfD party does not like globalists that means that they do not like Jews. 

In fact, AfD is a strong supporter of Israel. Antisemitism is being used as a handy slur because the writer does not like the AfD's policies.

Nor of course, contrary to the article, does Alice Weidel, the joint leader of the AfD, have a pathological or any other sort of hatred of foreigners.

The author, Alan Posener, is an Anglo-German journalist who says that the AfD and British Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg (who yesterday retweeted something from the AfD) 'hate the EU' and want a Europe of nations, in De Gaulle's phrase, as if these were wicked things to do. 

He accuses AfD and Mr Rees-Mogg of being nationalists, but Mr Rees-Mogg, 'the Member of Parliament for the 18th Century', as true Tory would have no sympathy with the men of 1848. 

I have no idea where AfD stands on 1848, but by nationalist the article means AfD and Mr Rees-Mogg want to put their nations first. It sort of implies that this makes them a bit like the Nazis.

The men of 1848, by the way, gave rise to the national liberal tradition in Germany and Austria, which combined nationalism and belief in small government and free market economics, competed with the Catholic and later socialist traditions and in Austria finally was embodied after the Second World War in the Freedom Party.

Odd that when 'nationalist' is used as a pejorative word people do not have in mind nationalists like Gandhi, George Washington or David Cameron's hero Garibaldi. In Ireland and most post-colonial states nationalism is pretty popular, for good or bad. 

I suppose as Nelson Mandela was a communist he cannot be accused of being a nationalist.

Eurosceptic parties want national self determination, not to start wars. It is liberals these days who start most of the wars, along with Vladimir Putin.

AfD exists to argue against non-European immigration into Germany and talks about Muslim crminals in outspoken terms that cause grave offence. Mr Rees-Mogg, on the other hand, is very liberal about immigration and approved his father's condemnation of Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech in 1968 as evil and racialist.

But I am not interested in discussing these points. To point out falsehoods, distortions and propaganda in the Guardian is to seek to cleanse the Augean stables.

What does interest me in the article, and the only reason why I talk about it is that I learnt from it that Alexander Gauland, joint leader of the AfD in the Bundestag and a former friend of the writer, is a "tweedy Anglophile" who over dinner liked to "steer the conversation to the woman who would occupy a special place in his version of hell: Margaret Thatcher". 

Interesting. I also disliked her government immensely and thought it destroyed a lot of things I cherished. Peter Hitchens, who was a Thatcherite in her day, now sees that under her Britain moved far to the left except in the economic sphere where unbridled free enterprise made the country much less conservative. Sean Gabb, the libertarian writer, has made the same transition. 

I, at the time, thought she never did a single conservative thing, like making it easier for mothers to stay at home if they wanted to, while presiding over unnecessary rates of unemployment that killed communities.

But I also saw that she would be judged on whether she restored British self-confidence and by at the very latest the mid 1990s it was clear that she had done so.

On the other hand, I now see that at least she protected the country from the terrible authoritarian politically correct things that Mr Blair did. Her greatest achievement and greatest mistake was signing the Single European Act allowing majority voting in the EEC. She will be best remembered in fifty years for that, if the EU survives that long which is unlikely, and for the fact that her administration did not reduce immigration below the rate that had moved Enoch Powell in 1968 to say that we must be "mad, literally mad" to allow it.

Yet for all its faults her era now seems a golden one, a bit like the Edwardian age seemed when I was living through her eleven and a half years in power. 

No devolution, trials were not held in secret, civil liberties existed, hate speech laws were on the statute book but very much less used than now, the police had not become left-wing, vicars were men, the hereditary peers sat in the House of Lords, we did not fight wars in the Middle East and no-one imagined that millions of immigrants from all parts of the world would within a few years settle in the UK.

Margaret Thatcher was once reported as saying that 

We ought to change the name of the party from Conservative because we are not, are we?


Still, after her, to quote King Louis XV, came the deluge.


  1. The antisemitism slur is particularly bizarre since what most of the supposedly nationalist parties in Europe today have in common is a totally excessive fondness for Israel. In fact they're inclined to put Israel's interests ahead of Europe's. That's why, unfortunately, they can't be trusted.

    But antisemitism is like fascist or nationalist. It's simply a word liberals apply to people they regard as wicked. And anyone who disagrees with them is of course by definition wicked.

    The men of 1848, by the way, gave rise to the national liberal tradition in Germany and Austria, which combined nationalism and belief in small government and free market economics

    Those men have much to answer for. They did a great deal to wreck European civilisation.

  2. Liberalism gave birth to Nazism. I told a young inexperienced supervisor that, who taught me early 19th century German history and he disagreed but I was right. He also said that he saw every day people who would happily been guards at Auschwitz. I was unconvinced by that then and now.