No Place to Coalesce

  • National Newswatch

Ronald Brownstein, senior editor of The Atlantic, made a prescient observation in an interview this past week.  Speaking not only of American Republicans but conservatives across the globe, Brownstein noted that right-of-centre conservatives are increasingly running out of room in the political world.  The rise of extremist ideologies on the Right has taken on more influence, leaving traditional conservatives “with no place to coalesce.”In such a light, he could just as easily have been describing Canada, India, Australia, Japan, or Germany.  Everywhere, it seems, the rise of the angry Right has produced democratic upheaval and an erosion of global partnerships.In yesterday's election of a new leader to replace disgraced Boris Johnson, we perhaps have our newest example of conservatism ignoring its historical boundaries.  While experienced observers point out that four years of consistent tax increases is hardly a Conservative trait, they also note that Britain's Conservative government has gone off in directions few would have thought possible after former PMs David Cameron and Theresa May resigned from office.In a party election that ended up being tighter than predicted, Liz Truss was able to capture only 57% of the vote in the leadership contest -  the lowest vote share among members since the current system of electing Tory leaders was first introduced.  Truss was disappointed, hoping for “more support,” but nevertheless gave a rousing victory speech.Following Johnson's tumultuous rule, traditional Conservatives are finding themselves exactly where Brownstein described: with no place to land.  How else to explain the almost 20% of card-carrying party members who didn't vote?  Having endured a bad run with Johnson, they just couldn't take a liking to Truss or her main rival, Rishi Sunak.  Truss's praise of her “friend” Boris during her acceptance speech likely didn't help.  Her claim that Johnson was “admired from Kyiv to Carlisle” seemed odd, considering that he had lost Carlisle in the most recent election.  That she completely ignored Sunak on the way to the podium likely doesn't bode well for cooperation in the coming months.  Today, Truss visits Queen Elizabeth and then she will assume office.As the UK reels from one escapade to another, the Conservative party is facing the unthinkable conclusion that it might be incapable of governing itself.   The Guardian had already concluded that the country was no longer manageable under Tory rule.  The New Statesman had previously published an article with the revealing title, The Closing of the Conservative Mind: Politics and the Art of War.This deterioration of the moderate form of conservatism is making itself felt in America, Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia, and it represents a challenge to all those seeking consensus, shared purpose, and the post-partisan era that many had hoped our recent pandemic would generate.  It didn't, and it won't.In a recent interview I had with Halifax mayor Mike Savage, he spoke of how we think all the passion in politics is on the extremes of the Left and Right.  He challenged that presumption by affirming that Canadians holding close to the centre of political life are actually passionate about their country – the energized middle – and that his hope was that they would rise up and press their advantage of greater numbers, a sense of respectfulness, and the growing awareness that the country continues to cross perilous waters.Is Savage correct?  We'll never know if we merely wait for elections to determine our decisions, since such a large number of Canadians shuns the polls.  In every community across the country, moderate Conservatives are attempting to put the brakes on the recklessness that is slowly encroaching on modern conservatism.  In so doing, they join their counterparts around the world in attempting to put the small “c” back into the Conservative movement by advocating for the rule of law, fiscal responsibility, human dignity, and limited government.  They must either energize their parties or abandon their hope of the brand of conservatism that was so necessary to this nation's history.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.