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Editorial: On the issues that matter most the Tories are reclaiming a dangerous ideological hegemony

CONVENTIONAL wisdom has it that collective Cabinet responsibility underpins the stable functioning of government. 

This is as true of modern bourgeois democracy as it is of its antithesis, socialist democracy, where the working class is the ruling class. And it is true of the democratic centralism of trade unions and workers’ parties where the working class doesn’t rule.

The Conservative Party has survived and prospered for centuries by combining a ruthless surface unity with appearing to be non-ideological whilst, in practice, displaying an extreme flexibility in such matters.

Today we are seeing an interesting if low-key political polycentrism in Boris Johnson’s present administration.

Take the little nugget slipped into the Downing Street narrative last week when the prime minister let it be known that he was a partisan of the idea of intellectual freedom and independent thought and that the culture secretary’s notion that the “left” exercised ideological hegemony over social media was not shared by him.

Nadine Dorries’s second job — in addition to her culture portfolio — is as a novelist. The romantic subject matter of her oeuvre might provide the basic material for unnumbered cultural studies doctoral theses of the future. If so she will have won an engagement in the culture wars of the 21st century

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak has won an enforced victory in his engagement with Labour's front bench.

Keir Starmer is to tell the Confederation of British Industry that Labour’s “contract with business” includes “fiscal discipline.”

This idea has a long and dishonourable history in the Labour Party.

Labour movement veterans of the 1990s will recollect the endless meetings with shadow New Labour figures in which every progressive policy initiative was abandoned to allow Labour’s chancellor of the exchequer-in-waiting — Gordon Brown — to stick with his undertaking to follow the Tories’ public expenditure programme.

In a few phrases Starmer will gift the Tories a key strategic advantage in the run-up to the next election and provide them with an open goal if any policy proposal from Labour looks like costing a significant amount of money.

Now that is real ideological hegemony.

While it is too early to dismiss Ms Dorries as a protagonist in a Gramscian battle against the hegemonic left we should note the curious thing that, as the left is not infrequently diverted from its principal focus in the class war by an inherently unresolvable series of disputes over identity politics, the right wing, especially the Tory Party, seems curiously uncurious about these matters.

Beneath their studied indifference to the modern world the Tories have learned fast the rules of the social media war.

Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 election campaign — let us remind ourselves — produced the fastest and greatest rise in Labour support and the second highest Labour vote ever. It is widely recognised that Labour won the ground war by mobilising uncounted legions of activists and the air war by its innovative social media offensive.

The basis of this advance was Labour's bucketful of policies which proved capable of mobilising enormous enthusiasm. Even hobbled with a disreputable fifth column within Labour the combination of popular policies with cutting-edge social media tactics proved a winner.

By 2019 the Tories had relearned the art of popular politics, weaponised the most popular slogan of the decade — Get Brexit Done — and substantially increased their social media output.

In an escalating social media war the ruling class has at its disposal the actual ownership of these means of ideological production and, as Facebook’s underhand censorship demonstrates, the working class needs to keep its wits about it.

Our starting point must be a real economic and political alternative to capitalism.

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