Tory Confidence or Arrogance

One thing I have always noted is that some of the Tories are arrogant. This is not just their politicians in parliament but at the local level and some of their members. I don’t feel that is the case with members of other parties, but I have often thought that some of the Tories tend towards being guilty of their own inflated self-importance. I came across a small piece that dealt with this issue about the Tories.

For the Tories apparently, it isn’t about going to the right school or even education it’s about confidence. Confidence is perceived to come from a good education and success in a chosen profession. A confident person is what impresses them. A case in point is David Davies who didn’t go to a private school (or rather not a school like Eton) but was picked out for possibly high office, by his colleagues, because he was considered to be so confident. The article goes on to discuss that the one thing boarding schools embed in their pupils (It may not necessarily be good education) but it is confidence, and this is what they admire.

How does this Tory mentality reflect in their approach to negotiations with the EU?

The article goes on to explain that the Tories cannot understand why the EU doesn’t get its point of view. They are so assured of their own arguments that they are finding it difficult why it isn’t also apparent to the EU. Take for example no deal Brexit – the Tories do not, on the whole, believe that the EU will allow the UK to leave without a deal, so they will compromise on the backstop. The fact that this hasn’t happened is painful for them to accept because they are so convinced they are right. They simply don’t see a problem.  Leaving the EU with no deal is therefore not their fault but the fault of the EU.

It’s an interesting suggestion but one, I feel, that isn’t far from the truth. Politically, the Tories have carried out these negotiations poorly. It took them two years to come up with what May hoped would be an agreement with her party as a base for a deal. This didn’t even last through a weekend, with ministers resigning.  Following that debacle, it’s almost impossible to follow subsequent Brexit machinations. Their deliberations on the matter have been nothing short of a mess and they are brazenly leading this county to a Brexit cul-de-sac. I can only assume that any success and reason for any optimise in these Brexit negotiations with the EU  is because of the underlying work being done in the background by the civil servants for which the Tories are trying to take the credit.

No one can complain that having confidence is a bad thing, but such blind confidence is going to come at a cost.





* Cllr. Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team

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  • There’s nothing wrong with promoting confidence at every level of society. Community development nurtures confidence in individuals as well as groups. What is not always recognised is that CD principles and methods can be applied to any sort of community – Old Etonians, for example, who may exude what others see as confidence or self assurance, but who may well find some parts of their lives profoundly unsatisfying. Arrogance is probably easier to identify. Those of us who have lived our political lives alongside Labour hegemony in the north of England sometimes note that sections of Labour left, Labour right and the Conservative Party can display a similar sort of arrogance. At its power sharing best, Liberalism can offer creative ways out of political arrogance. I think I can remember that Old Etonian Jo Grimond saying/writing something along those lines.

  • Peter Martin 13th Mar '19 - 9:23am

    It’s not just Tories who have this arrogance. It’s the whole entitled Oxbridge privately educated political class and there’s plenty of them in all political parties. They are the Establishment and they are overwhelmingly pro the EU.

    I recently received an email from a German friend of mine who used the term “Brexit Mess”. I don’t think he’s correct.

    I’m not sure if it comes across in Europe that most of the anti-Withdrawal Deal vote is from MPs who don’t actually want to leave the EU. There is, I pointed out, at least a 75% majority in the House of Commons for Remain. Theresa May is, or at least was, a Remainer herself. It is easy to take a cynical view and say that the negotiations were designed to fail right from the start. I was reading that Tony Blair, who’s not short on confidence and arrogance himself, has been advising Emmanuel Macron on just how the EU needs to play its cards to keep the UK in. He must be pleased with himself.

    So from their perspective it’s all going to plan. The EU has offered a deal that it knows the UK Parliament won’t be able to accept. The EU, and everyone else, knew that Theresa May was bluffing when she said that No Deal was an option. We’ll see that removed today. The next step is to offer something like a 2 year extension to Art 50. Another referendum is quite unlikely. Simply because the Remainers now have the upper hand and they don’t think they need one.

    So maybe they are entitled to be arrogant? They’ll be feeling quite confident that they’ll get their own way in the end.

  • John Marriott 13th Mar '19 - 9:58am

    Clearly hubris played a part; but – and I know it’s a bit to early for the final analysis – what it really boils down to is that Johnson, Gove and Co never really thought they would ‘win’* the referendum, and you can include Farage and Banks as well. Come to think of it, Cameron never thought he was going to lose, counting as he apparently was on using his coalition partners as a scapegoat preventing him from asking the people. So why then did he do all in his power to unseat those West Country Lib Dem MPs in 2015, whose support he reckoned he needed? And so, another day, another vote and another crisis for Laura Kuenssberg to wrap her Scottish vowels around as she stares menacingly into the TV camera, for Barry Gardiner to be ‘perfectly clear’ about nothing and for Sir Vince Cable to be nowhere to be seen.

    * I use the verb ‘win’ with caution as I do not consider that anyone actually won the 2016 Referendum. For ‘majority’ read ‘largest minority’. Am I really the only person who thinks this way?

  • “No one can complain that having confidence is a bad thing,” well actually I can. There is nothing more frightening than misplaced confidence; “Fear not this operation will be a great success, I’ve seen how it is done on Youtube and I’m very confident” would have me running to the door. The confidence of leavers loudly proclaiming “they knew what they voted for” has a similar effect they may be “confident” but confident what liars or delusionalists. So no misplaced confidence is extremely dangerous. To pharphrase Bertrand Russell

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so confident of themselves, and wiser people are so full of doubts.

    Well looking at our Brexiteers that phrase rings true.

  • John you are assuming David Cameron had a clue about how the 2015 election was being played out. He was i fear just the good looking face of the Tory party, the actual campaign decisions I feel where made else where, my personal guess would be with Gideon and Co.

  • richard underhill 13th Mar '19 - 10:44am

    John Marriott: David Cameron’s Chancellor of the Exchequer warned that the 2016 referendum would be lost and should not be held. Tories generally took the view of Winston Churchill and Ted Heath that referendums were not part of the (unwritten) British constitution. Winston Churchill had referred to their use by Hitler and Mussolini.
    The first UK-wide referendum was in 1975. Tony Benn had persuaded PM Harold Wilson. The electorate was told that it was real, so they should participate, so they did. Roy Jenkins said of Tony Benn “It is difficult to take him seriously as an economic Minister.” Tony Benn’s son Hilary has said that he is a Benn but not a Bennite.

  • Nick Collins 13th Mar '19 - 10:58am

    I believe that Bertrand Russell once remarked that many of the problems in the modern world were attributable to the fact that “the stupid are cock sure while the intelligent are full of doubt”, or words to that effect.

    Russell was, of course, the atheist equivalent of a “god-son” of John Stuart Mill who had earlier remarked that stupid people tended to vote Conservative.

  • I always thought that Danny Alexander came across as Super confident when in Office..his passionate lead from the front attitude whilst defending some of the more vicious cruel Tory policies certainly rubbed many up the wrong way.

  • Joseph Bourke 13th Mar '19 - 11:08am

    Bertrand Russell was a wise man. We have a Parliament made up of a government and official opposition that looks more like a rerun of the comedy film “Dumb and Dumber” than a representative democracy confident in its constitutioal institutions.
    And John Marriott – No, you are not the only person who thinks this way.

  • It is a sad fact that over-confident people tend to succeed in life. The Tories seem to have had their self-importance validated by winning most of the elections in the 20th century (how long will that last?). We can only hope that people learn to see through the facade, and those lacking in confidence are given a chance.

  • Peter Martin 13th Mar '19 - 11:39am

    If anything I would say that the UK negotiators should have shown a bit more spine! Call it arrogance if you like!

    Naturally, pro EU Lib Dems will consider that the EU has done every thing it could and the lack of agreement is entirely down to the UK.

    However, if we go back two years we see Donald Tusk ruling out an entirely reasonable proposal to have parallel trade talks. We should have started those two years ago. Even if we hadn’t finished by now, we could have aimed to have an interim agreement which could have in large part addressed the problems presented on the Irish border.

    It was these that scuppered the Withdrawal Agreement.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Mar '19 - 11:40am

    BBC tv has interviewed Father of the House Greg Clarke MP, who said that the extension to Article 50 should be until the end of 2021. Michael Heseltine (now a peer) was positive about the decision of the Commons on 12/3/2019 as a step towards another referendum.
    They have both sat at the top tables of political reality.

  • @Peter Martin:

    Peter, you say, “It is easy to take a cynical view and say that the negotiations were designed to fail right from the start.”

    Easy, but wrong, Peter! Don’t be so conspiratorial. It’s all been a humongous cock up.

    BTW I studied PPE at Oxford, but was state educated. Could you broaden your definition of “The Establishment”, so I still can be part of it, please?

    Also, I’m not arrogant. Does this count me out? Are there arrogance classes that can be taken in night school? I do so want to be part of the Great and the Good.

    Stereotypes, Peter…..

  • Malcolm Todd 13th Mar '19 - 12:34pm

    Nick Collins 13th Mar ’19 – 10:58am
    “I believe that Bertrand Russell once remarked that many of the problems in the modern world were attributable to the fact that ‘the stupid are cock sure while the intelligent are full of doubt, or words to that effect.”

    Yeats said it best, of course: The best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity.

    But what rough beast, its hour come round at last, is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born? If it’s the Second Coming of Boris Johnson, we shall know that the universe has a crude and nasty sense of humour.

  • John Marriott 13th Mar '19 - 1:07pm

    @richard underhill
    I don’t think I was clear enough about what I was saying about Cameron. What I meant about his not losing was to do with the fact that he was reckoning on the Coalition surviving after 2015 so he could afford to offer a referendum in the Tory Manifesto and then blame his Lib Dem partners for putting their foot down. SO, why on earth did he allow Grant Schapps to organise that campaign in the West Country, pumping large sums of money and bus loads of young Tories?
    @Peter Martin
    Be careful of labelling all Oxbridge graduates with an interest in politics as ‘entitled’. I grew up on a housing estate, went to a grammar school and attended Cambridge University. I certainly don’t consider myself to be anything special
    @Joseph Bourke
    Thanks for your support. I just wish that every time we hear someone say that ‘the majority of voters supported Brexit’ we call the person out that says it. ‘Will of the people’? What ‘will’ and what ‘people’?

  • Peter Watson 13th Mar '19 - 3:03pm

    @chris moore and @ John Marriott
    Peter Martin did refer to “the whole entitled Oxbridge privately educated political class” so it sounds like that lets you both off the hook!

  • Peter Chambers 13th Mar '19 - 6:43pm

    This seems to capture the attitude behind what might be called an Arthur Daley Brexit. All about the cash money and a handshake deal at the last moment between geezers. How many times have we heard Tories in the media talking about last minute concessions at midnight of the last day?

    This all contrasts to what I found some time ago working alongside Europeans at a multi-national. Lot of prep, lots of committee time, drafts, proposal papers, delegation, practice derived from principles, agreed joint statements, editing, working groups, options and final decisions. Much still went down to the wire, but the idea of a posh geezer appearing at the last day with a single piece of paper would be seen as unprofessional and amateurish. Hence insulting.

  • Peter Martin 13th Mar '19 - 8:41pm

    @ Peter Watson,

    Thanks for emphasising that. However, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “whole”. It’s likely there are more than a few individuals who don’t fit the stereotype.

    The real point that I was trying to make was that “confidence and arrogance” isn’t any longer an indication of Tory affiliation. The typical route to a successful career is a PPE from Oxford and then a few years working for an MP, a Trades Union or a lobby group trying to make the right connections to get a shot in a safe seat. The choice of political party isn’t based so much on political conviction as political expediency.

    It just means there often isn’t much difference between many of those who’ve chosen the Labour Party and those who might have gone for the Tories. As Lib Dems you are to a large extent protected, simply because LibDems aren’t in the same position to be able to offer careers to the careerists.

  • I am not sure what it has to do with anything, but I did not go to Oxbridge, but I am arrogant. I have what is called delusions of adequacy.
    However on to the Prime Minister. She is still working towards her simple plan. Take everything to the eleventh hour and say there is no choice. Her deal or no deal, which has now transmuted into her deal or remain. If we remain it is because MPs are going against the decision of the British people.
    I admit she has a problem. She has developed a bitter hatred of the Leader of the Opposition. He was to have been her means of getting a larger majority in the last election.
    So she doesn’t want a deal delivered courtesy of the Labour Party, so she needs her party, the DUP and enough Labour malcontents to get her over the line.
    The story is going out very clearly. The Chancellor went through it very clearly this morning.
    Where can we find someone who can express the truth about the EU equally clearly.
    It all seems plain to me. Perhaps that is my delusion of adequacy peeping though.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '19 - 9:03am

    Peter Martin

    It’s not just Tories who have this arrogance. It’s the whole entitled Oxbridge privately educated political class and there’s plenty of them in all political parties. They are the Establishment and they are overwhelmingly pro the EU.

    And Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the others who are leading Brexit are … ?

    If you look at the discussions these elitist types have been having between themselves, it’s clear what they want from Brexit – the UK run by and for shady millionaires. They want to push us even more down the sort of extreme free market that gives this, and oppose the EU for the way that its international co-operation can stop shady millionaires playing off one country against another.

    If there is an alternative way that Brexit could work to so the opposite of what these elitists want it to do, what is it? Despite the fact that most people who voted Brexit did so because they are unhappy about the way the economy has gone since Thatcher and all governments since pushed it that way, no-one has come up with a detailed explanation of how an alternative would actually work.

    So Brexit will lead to the exact opposite of what most people who voted for it thought they were voting for.

    If I am wrong, Peter Martin, give me the details of the alternative. Otherwise, you are just supporting these elitist extremists by trying to hide the fact that it is they who are leading Brexit and saying something which gives the impression of the opposite of the real truth about them.

  • John Marriott and Joseph Bourke: No, you are not the only ones who think that those who voted to leave were the largest minority. If more than 50%, of the electorate (some 33.25m) had voted to leave, there would have been no argument from me.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Mar '19 - 1:23pm

    David Goble

    If more than 50%, of the electorate (some 33.25m) had voted to leave, there would have been no argument from me.

    Yes, there is still an argument here. What is clear now is that some people who supported Leave did so on the basis that we could still have a trade agreement similar to that of Norway or Switzerland – and would not support Leave if there was no such agreement. Others who support Leave have said that since a trade agreement like this just means we still have to keep to the EU rules, but no longer have a direct say on them, they would rather not have Leave if it involves that sort of trade agreement.

    So, if 55% voted Leave, but of those 10% would only support Leave if there was a trade agreement and 10% would only support Leave if there was not a trade agreement, then whatever form of Leave there is, 45% support it and 55% oppose it.

    So, when we were told “Brexit means Brexit” that was wrong. It can mean different contradictory things. When people voted Brexit we didn’t know what form they wanted. It has proved impossible to find a form that a majority would want. That has now become clear and led to the mess we are in.

    The silly thing is that no-one pointed out at the start that breaking all agreements does not mean complete freedom. You may feel free to do what you want, but then everyone else is free to do what they want to you. If you break all agreements with your neighbours, they don’t trust you and you don’t trust them, so you have less freedom.

  • Simon Banks 14th Mar '19 - 1:40pm

    I think Taher has a point. It’s not really about what school you went to. Most local Tory councillors, as far as I can tell, were quite poorly educated and not by private schools; yet they act as if disagreeing with them is lese-majeste. Yes, Labour in their strong areas can be just as bad, but their arrogance is cause-and-ideology driven: you are with us 100% or you are wrong. With the Tories, in areas where they’re relatively strong, it’s the simple assumption that the natural order of things makes them rulers. In Tendring district, they didn’t get a majority of councillors in the last elections, as they tied with UKIP and there were a few Labour, Independents and our one elected. Their majority comes from the fact that many of the UKIP councillors defected to them. Yet they cut off debate in the council in ways Labour never did when I was a Waltham Forest councillor and a Liberal Democrat campaigning in a Tory-held ward is as shocking as an indecent proposal.

    As for Peter Martin’s comments, as a state-educated, first-generation-at-uni Cambridge graduate, I’m a little tired of talk of Oxbridge arrogance. You can get arrogant people in all walks of life and a good university encourages you to think, which arrogant people don’t do often enough.

  • Peter Martin 14th Mar '19 - 1:50pm

    @Matthew Huntbach,

    “If there is an alternative way that Brexit could work to so the opposite of what these elitists want it to do, what is it? ….., no-one has come up with a detailed explanation of how an alternative would actually work. …If I am wrong, Peter Martin, give me the details of the alternative.”

    There’s plenty of discussion on the topic. This is a good place to start.

  • Peter Martin 14th Mar '19 - 2:14pm

    @ Simon Banks,

    If you read Peter Watson’s earlier comment, you’ll realise that you, too, are ‘let off the hook’.

    It’s dangerous to generalise, I admit, but I’d say Tahir has a point. My rider, was that modern ‘Tories’, in a broader sense of term, aren’t all to be found in the Conservative Party.

  • Peter Hirst 14th Mar '19 - 3:55pm

    I agee; one of the reasons that the negotiations with the eu have been so disastrous is that The Conservative Party cannot allow for others’ opinions. This arrogance shows itself in so many ways and is main reason for electoral reform and a written constitution. Labour seem to get infected from time to time. Only a Party with clear values of empowerment, diplomacy and cooperation can combat this.

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