The first response it received, however, was something I should have predicted. Conservatives need to do the same; the current drudgery of ideas – so far that there are any – is hardly inspiring. If there’s one thing that I admire about the political Left – well, it might be the only thing – it’s their willingness to occasionally embrace out-of-the-box ideas (I’m trying very hard to write ‘radical’ here). Before I give the details, I should first explain that there is something of a stereotype of British conservatives that more often than not turns out to be fairly accurate. I found myself rather in sympathy with this fictionalised portrayal of the old battleaxe, as Christopher Hitchens once called her, since I have lately had cause to think much the same. There’s nothing remotely admirable about pretending everything is fine when knife crime is at all-time high, and it isn’t as though we can pull together when the problem is within our own borders. This isn’t because I find the subject matter disinteresting, but is instead due to a fear that it’s going to be overly American and riddled with inaccuracies; besides, with the recent Harry and Meghan drama dominating headlines and social media, I’ve rather had my bellyful of the Royals lately, monarchist though I am. Yet something the other day did catch my interest. To Europeans, this might explain how Brexit happened. Well, again, I had stressed that the military would be under direct police authority and direction. I explained that there is precedent for this, and highlighted the security measures taken over the 2012 Olympics, as well as comparable practices employed by our European friends, whose military and police forces are far more closely entwined than our own. Although in truth I may be looking too deeply into this, since the man I’m thinking of wrote ‘there’ when he meant ‘their’. My phone’s YouTube app autoplayed itself onto a scene from the show in which Margaret Thatcher is bemoaning her difficulties as leader of the Conservative Party (and what that says about my YouTube search preferences you must judge for yourselves). Middle-aged, of course, and while usually middle class, will often defend to the hilt the social and economic higher-ups to whom they’d love to belong. “The Army isn’t trained to do the police’s job,” it said, apparently ignoring the part of my post in which I’d explained how the military would have to go through months of re-training to do what I suggest. This is an enduring problem with British conservatives, with their view that ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and the much-vaunted British stiff upper lip will see us through any difficulties. The only comment on my post, therefore, was not surprising. EPA-EFE//JESSICA TAYLOR
As a patriotic sort of chap, I have taken great pains to avoid watching The Crown. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Tory Story: Why Britain’s Conservatives need to change
By Timothy Ogden
A UK-born freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, focusing on defence matters
epa08969121 A handout photo made available by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons in London, Britain, 27 January 2021. It was, if I say so myself, rather well reasoned, argued, and researched – and as I seem to recall writing at the time, desperate times call for desperate measures. Although UK street crime is apparently completely beyond control, nobody is proposing anything other than “get the money for 20,000 more police officers”, which fails to acknowledge the complaints of police officers who claim they are not properly trained, equipped, or prepared to deal with what they are asked to face. Besides, the response is usually “there’s no money” – hence my suggestion to bring in military personnel, who currently aren’t doing much beyond helping to distribute vaccines, and whose impending reduction in size in the latest Defence Review will be accompanied by increased use of technology and robotics. If you were wondering why the current Conservative government seems so listless and uninspired, perhaps this might explain it: they are people who crave power, but have absolutely no idea what to do with it once they’ve won it. I should make it clear that those two ideas are things that I prize about the culture most, but the way in which they’ve been used is something that I find vexing. Indeed, I’d say that it’s far more in the Dunkirk spirit to do something radical about the problem of crime in Britain than it is just to grumble online hark back to days gone by, and think the issues will simply resolve themselves. To remain on the issue of knife crime, I’m not sure I’d feel any better if the government did actually put 20,000 more police on the streets, since they’ve basically admitted to being too terrified or too poorly trained to do anything about the problem anyway. Besides, it’s hardly a good endorsement of the British people that the only reason they’ve stopped stabbing each other is that now they might actually get caught. In the clip, she says something along the lines of her Tory MPs being “stuck in their ways….they have no imagination”. Take, for instance, the subject matter of a piece I published on these pages, in which I argued that if Britain’s street crime problem is as bad as the media are claiming and the police admitting, our Armed Forces – who currently have no wars to fight – might be called in to land their manpower. EPA-EFE/JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT: JESSICA TAYLOR / UK PARLIAMENT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the PM's questions in the House of Commons. Note: I must say, although I don’t approve of any slashes to the military budget and remain wary of robotics, I do rather like the idea of a Terminator with a cut-glass British accent: for ‘I’ll be back’, see ‘I shall return momentarily’, and for ‘Come with me if you want to live’, use ‘Would you mind awfully joining me in the event you wish to prolong your lifespan…?’
Indeed, I was so pleased with my idea that I even rewrote it and posted it on the Conservative Party’s policy ideas forum; again, desperate times, desperate measures. You might find the left-wing media sneering at these people as the ‘golf-club sweater brigade’, but again, if you are unfortunate or unwise enough to visit a British golf club, you’ll see that there’s something in it; boozy red faces complaining about their wives or the government, talking with great authority and questionable accuracy about policy, patronising anyone under the age of 35, and occasionally speaking with censorious admiration of strongmen figures like Vladimir Putin. “On no account should this be a police state”.