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September 14, 2010


Paul Sagar

Oh thanks for stealing my next blog.

Sheesh, not for the first time I was going to write something and find that Dillow's done it first...!

Jimmy Hill

On the first point I'm not sure fiddling with the numbers of MPs is an outright rejection of Oakeshottian principles. Change shouldn't always be resisted; otherwise women would never have had the vote etc. This could be seen as a slow revision of how we elect representatives rather than wanting to change the whole idea of representative government. Of course change that is desirable and change that should be resisted is obviously a difficulty for conservatives.

The second point also raises a dilemma for conservatives where they may have to fall back on a second best approach. If you are a conservative sceptical of human reason and knowledge then coming into government presents a great difficulty. If the other lot have put you in a bad place because of excess faith in human reason you can either continue along this road or try to change things. However, this attempt at change will most likely rely on human reason being employed to some degree.

Caution should be the conservative’s first principle, but if you stick to the principle too firmly all this means is that you embrace the errors of your opponents.


Conservatism was only going to live while the country perceived itself as successful or better in some way. The miserable self hating UK of the last half century or so is never going to support a healthy Conservative movement


Conservatism was only going to live while the country perceived itself as successful or better in some way. The miserable self hating UK of the last half century or so is never going to support a healthy Conservative movement


Labour deserve the bile for being the most irresponsible, incompetent and authoritarian government in history. No?

Phil Ruse

One of these days someone will explain exactly what "Thatcher’s assault upon traditional working class communities" was; repeated by rote by many of my socialist friends as if history began in 1979. "Assault" to my mind always suggests intent, but perhaps I'm wrong?


Fear not, conservatism will be alive and well amongst David Miliband's Labour party.


Your sympathy for the Oakenshott style of Conservatism overlooks that, in disliking radical change, Tories can conveniently overlook the inequities in the circumstances they prefer not to change.

I see nothing endearing about traditional, class-ridden Conservatism. The most worrying thing is it's now being set alongside the newer 'managerial' Conservatism under Cameronism, and makes an even more toxic mix.


There's no Plan A for the economy, let alone a Plan B...


This myth about conservatism, that it is above all averse to change, is one that I wouldn't have expected to be repeated here. Ted Honderich points out that it doesn't even paint conservatism in a particularly good light, implying that Tories do not distinguish between that which is familiar and good, and that which is familiar and bad; and further that they are prepared to adore today what just yesterday they found reprehensible. These would be stupid principles. Moreover, traditionalism clearly doesn't distinguish most modern conservatism. Even Burke's supposed traditionalism was of a very modern, capitalist character, which feared above all the stagnation that radical change might produce. Conservatism makes much more sense if you actually understand it as a defence of hierarchy and domination - that is what unites the Hayekians with the Burkeans, the Schmittians with the Nozickians.


You mourn the old-fashioned Tory (there's still Peter Tapsell) yet seem to have missed the simultaneous disappearance of old-fashioned Labour - socially conservative, patriotic, and interested in wages and the struggle for better conditions rather than racism and homophobia. The kind of Labour people who 'spoke for England'.


As for scepticism about the powers of human reason and knowledge, isn't that rooted in the (considered long-discredited) concept of Original Sin, what Steven Pinker calls the Tragic Vision ?


No one in UK politics believes in that any more, do they ? Both parties think that crime and poverty can be solved by sending round the social workers - the argument is whether they should be employed by the state or by an outsourcing company.


I think that the Conservatives are going to rue the day they allowed George Osborne to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.

country mouse

It's time that the old canard that being Conservative means resisting change, was hit firmly on the head.

Being Conservative means believing in the importance of the individual over the State, in the supremacy of Parliament, in long-standing and well tested values, on which new values are based. In believing that we should be allowed freedom to do anything, unless it is specifically banned by an Act of Parliament. In the responsibility of each individual for himself and his family ....I could go on. These ideas are far from dead.


Conservatism faded away in the Conservative Party sometime ago.

A party that is wholeheartedlyt committed to the European Project of "ever closer union" simply cannot be in any genuine sense conservative. Similarly, a party that is indifferent to the continuation of the union between Scotland and England. The same is also true in almost every area of social and economic policy.

In fact, today's "Conservative" party is no more than a faction within the "progressive" movement that hold sway through out Europe and the West.

Ryan Stephenson

Whilst I agree that Conservatism is often strongly linked with traditionalism and patriotism and this inherently implies a resistance to change, the fact is that the introduction of Germanic socialist philosophies since WWII has put the nation on a path which is entirely alien to those concepts of British tradition and culture. Thus Thatcherism was in many senses a fightback against those foreign socialist ideas that many Brits failed to relate to. It seems to me that we now have two types of Conservatism - Thatcherism, which perceives that the nation was led astray by Socialism after WWII, and a Heathite expediency which adopts the policies of Socialism in an effort to win elections by minimising change since the last Labour government.

Niether political view has any real traction, however, since in the current political climate the votes of those few who are considered floating voters (i.e. those that have no political views whatsoever) are simply purchased by the party willing to make the most outrageous offers of job security or income. The rest of us stand by powerless while more and more we are expected to pay for their profligacy.


The trouble with slow change is that it allows elites and vested interests to survive by adapting to the new conditions. Sudden change can liberate a lot of energy: for example, the 'economic miracle' in Japan after WWII happened because the Americans confiscated land from landlords and gave it to the tied labourers who had worked on it as virtual slaves. An instant middle class was created, whose consumption drove the economy for 40 years. The new landlords are the major corporations.


The flaw in this argument is what conservatives are supposed to do when the familiar, the tried, the actual etc. turn out not to work. Are they supposed to conserve the actual, the near, the convenient etc. even if it means tolerating a ballooning welfare budget that encourages indolence and fecklessness, unreformed public services rife with Spanish practices and a failing school system incapable of supplying productive workers even if it means bankrupting the country?


Surely "country mouse" is describing Liberalism not Conservatism?

More genrally words like Conservative are relative to history. Attempts by commentators and Philosophers to give fixed definitions are merely unhistorical games.

All Democratic Socialists would agree with traditional English Liberties as part of their belief system; that is why they formed a coalition with W. S, Churchill to defeat Hitler in 1940.

I am not convinced T Blair and New Labour are equilalant to Democratic Socialist in this sense. Both as they reject Nationalisation and higher income Tax for the wealthy as well as old fashioned Civil Liberties e.g Trial by jury, Double Jepardy, etc.


Cheers for noting my blog entry at respublica - there was me thinking that I'd get excommunicated for it

Joe Otten

Glover is of course dead wrong. The government is reducing public spending to 41% of GDP, the same as 2006. Higher than the average under Blair. Some small state ideology that is.

And by the time we get there, it will be time for another election.

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