The Right is Intellectually Barren

Jeremy Driver
3 min readOct 2, 2017


As the Conservative Party Conference stumbled into Manchester yesterday, the Sunday papers were full of policy announcements aimed at peeling “younger voters” from Jeremy Corbyn’s newly invigorated Labour Party: a freeze on tuition fees; more money for help to buy; raising the student loan repayment threshold. The problem? They’re total shit.

Better minds than mine have already pointed out the significant political and practical problems with these announcements, so I won’t waste my time repeating them. However, the very fact that the Conservative Party view them as the solution to Labour’s consistent, but small, polling lead reveals an uncomfortable truth: the right is intellectually barren.

This is not all the fault of May. This dearth of thinking on the right began in the Cameron and Osborne years, where hawkishness on the deficit dominated the political narrative, choking out other policy and the Party’s wider purpose for Government. This effect has been accelerated by both May’s premiership, which has been icy on the record of her predecessor, and the arduous, boring process of Brexit. If the Conservative Party’s only brand is “economic competence”, how can we expect to sell ourselves when we don’t bring the goods?

This is not just an institutional problem facing the Conservative Party, but the wider right. Take the example of our media. Only a few years ago, The Telegraph was a respectable, quality paper. Now the below is the norm:

Similarly, The Times has been hollowed out, leading to a real decline in quality. I find it hard to believe that terribly researched stories like These Two would have made it to print a decade ago.

With the decline of our platforms comes our cognitive decline. The right wing commentariat consists mainly of either the same stale, boring, losers writing the same, unempirical, ill-thought out opinions that they’ve written for decades, or contemptible racists writing for disgusting sites. Politics has changed, and we would genuinely be better served replacing the whole right commentariat with a quarter of my Twitter feed.

In contrast, the left is popping with ideas. Most of these are terrible, but on most pressing issues affecting the lives of voters, the left and Labour have an answer. Expensive commute? Nationalisation. High rent? Rent controls. Skint? Payrises. Sure, the left has no position on Brexit, but that won’t trouble them until they cross the threshold of power. At present, the momentum is with them, and continuing the stupid Tory tactic of screaming “Marxist” will do nothing to stop them. The right needs to reinvigorate its thinking, or risk being swept away.

This is a call to action, but not rashness. A bit of perspective is needed: whilst the election was a fiasco and Labour consistently show a narrow lead in the polls, Tory support remains solidly at ~40%; whilst more popular than May, Corbyn is still unpopular; whilst the Government has lost its majority, the vagaries of the Fixed Term Parliament Act make it unlikely to fall in the medium term. Furthermore, the Conservatives were only ~1500 votes from a majority in June. Rashness in replacing May, or in introducing stupid policies could upset this equilibrium.

Instead, we need to reinvigorate right wing thinking. George Freeman MP’s “Conservative Ideas Festival” was a good starting point, but more needs to be done to encourage the intellectual development of the right. We need to strip influence from thirsty, charlatan hacks and into the hands of bright people that care about policy and outcomes. Instead of echoing the talking points of the left, we need sensible right wing solutions to modern problems: our piss-poor productivity; our broken housing market; and our rickety infrastructure.

Most importantly, we need to change the way we think about the process of Brexit. Instead of following the old Whitehall pattern of flagship speeches instead of action, we should view Brexit for what it is: the biggest political crisis of our lifetimes. Whilst the events of the last year have vindicated my Remain vote, I still believe that there is opportunity in the process of Brexit. If the sensible right seizes this opportunity to wrestle the narrative away from those who view Brexit as an intrinsic good; seriously reform our antiquated civil service; and change the priorities of Government to reflect the country that we want to be in 20 years, then perhaps it will have been worth it.

Instead, if we remain inactive and continue down the path we are on, we will get everything we deserve. It is now critical that the right reinvigorates its intellectual base and discovers its purpose for Government.