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From hecklers to the Holocaust: Strangest moments from the National Conservatism Conference

Wierdness and controversy beset the conference that wanted to plan Britain’s new political direction

Joseph Rachman
Wednesday 17 May 2023 18:35 BST
A heckler is dragged away after interrupting Jacob Rees-Mogg at the National Conservatism conference in London on Monday.
A heckler is dragged away after interrupting Jacob Rees-Mogg at the National Conservatism conference in London on Monday. (Getty Images)

Accusations of downplaying the Holocaust, rants about Black Lives Matter, and strange ruminations on “total biomedical self-mastery” - the National Conservatism Conference has produced some startling moments.

Pitched by the organisers as a venue which could stake out a new direction in British politics the conference attracted Tory party heavyweights.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Secretary for Levelling Up Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Lee Anderson all agreed to speak.

So, far however all it seems to have produced is controversy and bafflement thanks to the mix of far out speakers and strange statements by Tory politicians attending.

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion also managed to storm the stage twice - but amidst the general oddness these moments almost seemed a sudden burst of normalcy.

In honour of this new intellectual fermenting pit we’ve put together the top five maddest moment from the conference.

Douglas Murray’s “muck up”

Some of the earliest criticism was sparked by a speech from the controversial public intellectual Douglas Murray who was accused of downplaying Nazism and the Holocaust.

In a statement later Tweeted out by the conference’s official account Mr Murray said:

“There was nothing wrong with nationalism in Britain. It's just that there was something wrong with nationalism in Germany.”

“ I don’t see why no one should be allowed to love their country because the Germans mucked up twice in a century.”

The statement attracted condemnation and criticism from figures across the political spectrum, including Tory Peer Lord Eric Pickles, Co-Chair of the United Kingdom’s Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues.

David Starkey claiming the Left wants to “replace the Holocaust”

The historian David Starkey is no stranger to controversial statements.

Yet, even by his standards the statements he made were bizarre including the claim:

“The reason that the Left has such ire for the Jews is jealousy.”

“They want to replace the Holocaust with slavery in order to wield its legacy as a weapon against Western culture.”

Mr Starkey also used to the speech to attack the Black Lives Matter movement and "critical race theory" claiming:

“They are attempts at destroying the entire legitimacy of the Western political and cultural tradition."

“The idea that they are there to defend black lives is a preposterous notion. They do not care about black lives, they only care about the symbolic destruction of white culture.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg saying attempts at gerrymandering by the Tories “backfired”

Mr Rees-Mogg prompted surprise when he seemed to say the quiet bit out loud about new voter ID laws introduced by the Conservatives ahead of the local elections.

Speaking on Monday he said: “Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them – as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.”

“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg delivers his keynote address during the National Conservatism conference. (Getty)

“Total biomedical self-mastery”

If some of the speakers statements at the conference were controversial others were just plain strange.

According to Marry Harrington, a “reactionary feminist”:

“The movement formerly known as “the Left” is one of a radical libertarianism of the body, underwritten by a ballooning biotech industry, demanding the right of individuals to pursue total biomedical self-mastery.”

Ms Harrington identifies herself as “sex realist”.

But, the strange phrasing sounded like something out of a bio-punk sci-fi universe, perhaps fittingly given that the title of her speech was the “Disunited Posthuman Kingdom”.

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