Britain is heading for a populist tsunami far greater than anything seen in Europe

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage arrives at a fundraiser for Donald Trump, hosted by former Neighbours star Holly Valance, in London
Britain has been lucky with its recent populists. Farage is a real conservative who would have been at home in Thatcher's Tories. That may well not be true of his successors - James Manning/PA

Be in no doubt: the next few years are going to be calamitous for Britain. Almost everything that is bad today will get worse, and everything that, for now, is still working will be vandalised or destroyed. The public is clamouring for change, but there will be no great rupture under Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour, no break with the dismal status quo, just a further acceleration in our national decline.

We should be grateful for small mercies. Jeremy Corbyn would have imposed full-on socialism; many of his allies wanted to ban private schools altogether and savagely expropriate wealth. Starmer will misinterpret his likely super-majority as an endorsement of technocratic rule, giving him carte blanche to double-down on the neo-Blairite consensus that has been hegemonic in the UK since 1997, with an added dollop of class warfare, punitive taxation and wokery.

But Starmer’s plan stands no chance of success. It will merely make a bad situation worse, further ruining an already broken Britain, and will be remembered as the last hurrah of an ancien regime that never learnt from its mistakes. Our taxes will go up to even more extortionate levels, especially on capital and property, making it even less worthwhile to work, invest or create; our drift to European-style social democracy will accelerate; our ultra-regulated economy will carry on stagnating in terms of per capita GDP, delivering paltry wage growth and ensuring children can no longer expect to be better off than their parents.

The NHS, pensions and the welfare state will career ever-faster towards bankruptcy; immigrants will arrive at extraordinary rates, fuelling problems of integration and exacerbating the housing crisis; the gap between London and the rest will grow; the somewheres will still be pitted against the anywheres; the education system, state and private, will be trashed by egalitarian fanatics.

Quangos and human rights lawyers will be handed even greater powers. The woke revolution will tear through more institutions; the family will continue to wither, intensifying the baby-bust; criminals will run riot; energy costs will rocket further in a mad rush to net zero, while the war on mobility will be intensified; and our Armed Forces will remain preposterously small.

There is a small chance that Labour might improve the housing crisis, but if so it is concealing its real plans. Our foreign policy will worsen substantially, especially vis-à-vis the Middle East, and a hideous anti-Semitism will continue to gnaw away at our society.

Nobody of a conservative bent should wish for a Labour victory, or for a 1906-style Tory defeat or worse. It would be a catastrophe were the Lib Dems to become the official opposition. Starmer’s popularity will undoubtedly collapse in two to three years’ time, when it becomes apparent that he doesn’t have any answers, but by then great damage will have been done.

Yet the terrible truth is that it is the Tories’ embrace of neo-Blairite ideas, camouflaged by a thick coat of blue veneer, that is the fundamental reason they are set to be rejected by the electorate. Bad ideas never work, regardless of which rosette is pinned on them. Britain needs a cultural conservative, free-market and democratic revolution, a massive shock to the system, not a narrow choice between bad and worse.

The Tories, especially those who saw themselves as the heirs to Blair, have only themselves to blame for the fact that Nigel Farage is now polling almost as highly as them. There is no future for the Tory party unless it breaks with today’s pseudo-centrism and invents a new mass market Thatcherism for the modern era.

If that doesn’t happen, Britain will go the way of much of Europe, where the mainstream centre-Right and centre-Left stand utterly discredited for failing to fix any of their countries’ economic or cultural problems, and are being replaced by radical parties, some sensible (such as Giorgia Meloni’s in Italy) and some unpalatable (such as the AfD in Germany, which is rife with extremists).

Growing up in France, I dearly hoped that the centre-Right would pull itself together, and reform France’s failing institutions, economy and society, lest demagogues of the far-Left or Right fill the vacuum instead. It never did, and now, 30 years later, and after a succession of useless centre-Right and centre-Left presidents, it is too late. Les Republicains, the successor to de Gaulle’s party, are down to 7 per cent and are tearing themselves apart over their leader’s decision to subordinate himself to Marine Le Pen’s party in the forthcoming general election. This is one possible nightmarish future for our own Tory party.

France’s anti-establishment rage has been building for much longer than Britain’s, partly because it never had a Thatcher and because it has mismanaged mass immigration to a far greater degree than we have. Emmanuel Macron, a narcissist who pretended to break the Left-Right dichotomy, was the last chance for France’s old order, just like Boris Johnson and now Starmer were the final hope for the Tory-Labour duopoly.

Macron blew it spectacularly, his record of abject failure crowned by a humiliating downgrade of France’s national debt. In a fit of pique, dressed up as a Machiavellian calculation, he decided to take his ungrateful country down with him days ahead of the Paris Olympics.

There is a high chance that Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year old number two, will be prime minister after July 7. The consequences will be nuclear. There were runs on the pound after the Brexit vote and Liz Truss’ budget; with no franc, a Rassemblement National victory would see the markets turn on French IOUs. Protestors will descend on to the streets. In time, if Le Pen’s party survived contact with reality, her proposed referendum on migration would amount to the start of a Frexit in all but name, blowing up many of Starmer’s assumptions.

Britain has been lucky with its populists in recent years. Farage is a real conservative who would have been at home in Thatcher’s Tories and who, unlike many European Right-wingers, believes in free markets and a smaller state. But far less salubrious characters and parties could easily start to spring up when the next government fails, as it inevitably will.

The Tories have a duty to the country not to go the way of France’s Gaullists, and instead to help reunite the mainstream Right to defeat the neo-Blairite consensus for good.

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