On Boring Conformists and Right-Wing Recusants

On Boring Conformists and Right-Wing Recusants
The Backbencher (2nd November 2016)
By Keir Martland 

James Delingpole’s recent article in The Spectator about the Right’s minority-status at Cambridge is absolutely correct. Yet the Left’s worst trait is its tendency to see itself as an embattled minority when in fact leftists are the new Establishment. Since the Left is the Establishment, the Left “sets the culture” – a particularly authoritarian phrase used by the Women’s Officer at Clare (according to ‘The Tab’) when talking about compulsory sessions at the start of Fresher’s Week. Dissent from the leftist Groupthink is not punished by throwing people out of helicopters, but by ostracism and other forms of non-violent opprobrium whose aims are to shut down debate and narrow the Overton Window.

Students on the Right are clearly not as willing to express their views publicly as those on the Left. This sometimes means becoming a recluse, or alternatively it means trying to blend in, with all the cognitive dissonance that entails. For example, at the Union debate on refugees earlier this Term, about twenty students walked through neither the “aye” nor the “no” door at division; to my mind, it is implausible that allof them were at the debate for mere intellectual titillation, only to leave the chamber ‘undecided.’ No, I would bet good money that a majority of those who officially abstained in that controversial debate did so to avoid being seen to be right-wing. For there is no quicker way to end a conversation, or even a friendship, than by telling someone you are a conservative (big or small “c”).

I will not elaborate on it too much, but will briefly mention the tension which my earlier article for The Salisbury Review on the compulsory Consent Workshops caused with some fellow students deciding that either I was, or my words were, “alarming” and “disgraceful.” Maybe this is the modern way of saying you disagree with someone, but it is indicative of ‘The Authoritarian Personality’ that Adorno et al were keen to ascribe to those on the Right.  “You disagree with us? That’s disgusting! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Last Monday evening, I decided to play truant from reading for my essay on the murder of Charles, King and Martyr. Having just received a circular from the History Faculty I saw that Lord Monckton was due to speak at King’s along with others on the subject of Donald Trump. This seemed to me too good to miss. I mentioned it to a friend who was similarly enthusiastic and we agreed to both go along. Each of the speakers gave good speeches, but I was really waiting for Lord Monckton, who, unlike the others, stood to deliver his speech and began by reciting Wordsworth from memory. He then conducted a little experiment by asking four questions:

(There were about 100 people in the room, so the percentages are not difficult to calculate.)

  1. Did you vote (or, if you could, would you have voted) for Brexit? Prediction <10%, result 5%.
  2. Do you think years of defence cuts should be reversed and more money should be spent on defence? Prediction <5%, result 3%.
  3. Do you think there should be more restrictions on immigration and on refugee arrivals? Prediction <5%, result 2%.
  4. Do you agree that global warming caused by our CO2 emissions will not be as bad as predicted? Prediction <5%, result 1% (e., just me!).

At every answer, there was much gawping, pointing, and sniggering. Lord Monckton then decided he would be blunt; he railed against the “boring conformism” of modern students who were unable therefore to understand why anyone might vote for UKIP in this country or for Trump in the United States. After the event, a friend from CUCA told me how brave I had been to put my hand up as a lone dissenter. Perhaps he was right, but it ought not to be a question of “bravery”; I simply hold a minority view. After the event, a similarly small group of “brave”, i.e. conservative students – myself and two others – spent much of the latter portion of the evening talking to Lord Monckton over cider and crisps as crowded around Godfrey Bloom and James Delingpole at the Union Bar earlier this Term.

The double-standards, however, are becoming increasingly apparent; everyone knows that an article putting the case for the silencing of whichever right-wing view is considered ‘extreme’ this week would be treated with considerably more respect than the expression of that view. And – without any sense of irony – the Left would agree with and support the first of the two articles, despite the fact that the former would be advocating censorship and the latter now represents, in effect, a profoundly subversive counter-culture. The double-standard is seen in the Hammer and Sickle USSR flag at King’s in the JCR. If intended as a joke, it is surely in extremely poor taste when you consider the tens of millions who died at the hands of Soviet Communism. The same people who find the Soviet flag funny would most likely have a coronary if a map of the British Empire circa 1900 was put in its place or – heaven forfend! – a poster of the great Cantabrigian classicist Professor Enoch Powell.

Using Groupthink and double-standards, and by still other means, the culture has been well and truly “set” and it has been done with an almost religious fervour. The trouble is that what we will inevitably end up with is not a university, but a seminary. Without the small number of dissenters, nonconformists, recusants, or heretics protesting against – and openly laughing at – the Established Faith, every room in every College, all the Faculties, the Societies, and the Union could easily become nothing more than echo-chambers.


  1. I take a fundamentally different view to you on one point you make here, which is about the so-called ‘Establishment’. They are not of the Left or the Right. They are mostly metropolitan liberals, which is neither Left nor Right. Their interests and concerns broadly reflect metropolitan prejudices and preoccupations, some of which are specifically left-wing, but not all. By ‘metropolitan’, I mean a sensibility that is city or urban, as opposed to ‘provincial’ or hybrid. You may accuse me of hair-splitting, but I think the distinction is important.

    On the other hand, I think there is some merit in your thesis, which you expounded in another recent essay, that the ‘mainstream’ is effectively just the battleground of the Left and Right (or ‘socialist’ and ‘fascist’, as you call it). However, since I see some merit in that, I would argue that the middle-ground, which are the values and beliefs the Establishment promote in the media they own, should be seen as the main battleground, with some (knowingly or otherwise) wishing to pull metapolitically towards the Left and others (again, whether or not cognisant of meta aspects) wanting to pull to the Right.

    At your age, I was on the Left – but in my case, that was an earnest and reasonably thought-through position, not fashion. Interestingly, it wasn’t fashionable back then for young people to be involved in politics at all, so it wasn’t really a question of ‘Left or Right?’, more a question of ‘Politics or Normal?’ Now politics seems to have become trendy again among young people – or so it seems – but rather than rebel, they seem to be conforming. Thus, Lord Monckton has a point.

    By the way, your conversation with Lord Monckton must have been interesting. He’s best known, I think, for the climate change issue, but if I ever met him, I’d ask him about his work for the New Right while in the CPS think tank, and later in Thatcher’s Policy Unit. Very interesting person.

  2. Keir,

    There is a fundamental difference between Christopher Monckton’s first three questions and his fourth.

    The first three were political – they were about opinions.

    The last was scientific – it was about facts.

    Kudos to you for getting the last question right, in contrast to everyone else. But your answer has (or should have) nothing to do with your political persuasion.

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