From a Victorious British Conservative, Some Advice for the GOP
Kenneth Irving is feeling pretty pleased with himself, and for good reason. Early in June, Kenny managed to take the UK Independence Party (UKIP) to their best election result ever. They managed to put the ruling Labour party, and the Liberal Democrats, below them in vote percentage.
Considering they were thought to be all washed up when high-profile member Kilroy Silk sauntered off into the wilderness, and with Labour and the establishment painting them as no better than the neo-Nazi British National Party (BNP), this was quite a result.
I asked Irving to share his insight into the modern political process and any tips regarding how the right can claw its way back in the age of Obama. As someone who knows how to fight against electoral odds, I thought he might provide good counsel on the topic.
Dodge: As the guy behind the historic performance of UKIP in the Euro-elections, what advice would you give the right in the U.S. on how to react to Obama electorally?
Irving: The right in the U.S. needs to have a principled leader who can unite the Republican Party, the think tanks, and pressure groups (both conservative and libertarian). That leader will emerge over the next couple of years and may be an unknown who comes to prominence.
The right needs to abandon the religious rhetoric and offer a pro-freedom program as an alternative to Obama. It must also admit mistakes -- the deficit, spending, and Bush's abysmal record on civil liberties and human rights (Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib).
The right needs to broaden the coalition to include libertarians (not LP types) and market-oriented liberals. A large proportion of the latter groups voted for Obama and delivered his victory.
The right also needs to champion its black advocates, like Tom Sowell. It cannot allow the Democrats to get over 90 percent of the black vote unchallenged. It needs to engage with pro-liberty black groups.
The big problem is that the American people will give Obama the benefit of the doubt for the first 18 to 24 months of his first term. During that time, the right can build the necessary philosophical, intellectual, and popular alternative program to rebuild its credibility with the media and opinion formers.
Above all, it must invest in the necessary wider institutional and grassroots movement. Grover Norquist can lead that initiative if the neocons stop persecuting him for marrying a Jordanian.
Dodge: What do you think of the current leadership of the Conservative Party in the UK who look to be in power come next election?
Irving: The Conservative leadership is a disaster -- no principles, conviction, or detailed policies.
The best of the Tories are Fox, Paterson, Gove, Francois, and Hammond; Shapps, Herbert, Hunt and Greg Clark were sound but have been sucking up to Cameron.
Hague, Osborne, and Letwin have sold out totally. Duncan has been damaged by the expenses scandal. Pickles was complacent and did run a European campaign (thank Galt). The Tories did not even have billboards this time.
Ken Clarke has a huge power base -- Lansley, May, Mundell, Mitchell, Spelman, McLoughlin are factional wets. Osborne has fallen under his spell, too.
Dodge: Is there any required reading for budding right-of-center types to advise them on how to deal with socialists?
Irving: On reading, I would recommend Madsen Pirie's book on debating techniques. Young people are attracted by ideology, and I still find Rand to be a good start -- novels then non-fiction.
The Ayn Rand Institute has changed direction under Yaron Brook who impressed me greatly when I met him. ARI has moved into outreach and invested heavily in new websites. The commentary -- videos, op-eds, press releases -- is the best around. It is the main advocate of capitalism around. Cato and Reason are wishy-washy by comparison.
The other institution that invests in young people is the Institute for Humane Studies. Nigel Ashford is my contact there. FEE is doing well too. I also recommend the commentary of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Dodge: Do you think the "move to the right" EU-wide is a reason for optimism?
Irving: On the EU, I see little ground for optimism. It looks like the Irish will ratify the Lisbon Treaty in October. With Ganley discredited and out of politics, there is no obvious leader of the NO campaign.
The federalist EPP gained a lot of seats in June. UKIP, like the Conservatives, has been forced to form a new group with some "eccentric" partners. There is no unified Eurosceptic opposition and it would, in any case, have no power to stop the march towards a super-state.
I cannot see the Conservatives delivering a serious renegotiation or a referendum on Lisbon post-ratification. My view is that the Eurorealists on the right and left (e.g., NO2EU) should form a coalition to campaign for a referendum on EU membership (which is Lib Dem policy!) next year.
Irving clearly looks across the Atlantic at the troubles of his American brethren. Kenny is one of the emerging leaders on the UK right that puts country before party and principle before pragmatism. His UKIP triumph is a clear example of how standing for something people can understand and support will get you elected, no matter what the establishment thinks of you.