Recently we have had a lot of tiresome articles in the "right wing" press around the theme of "uniting the right" prior to the next general election.
As you would expect, there was a lot of nonsense about formal pacts with the Conservative Party: let us not even bother with that. However, what was most risible was an article in the Spectator by Toby Young suggesting that the differences between the UKIP and the Conservative Party were essentially petty, and that both parties were conservative with a small 'c'.
It is amazing the extent to which the dwindling band of Conservative Party supporters delude themselves about the true nature of their party, and why it is now is such steep decline. In am article of rare insight, Tim Stanley nails it in the Telegraph, explaining current Conservative Party troubles in terms of the fundamental split between proper small-c conservativism and toryism.
The fact is that at the core of the Conservative party is toryism. The Tory Party was of course the ancient predecessor to the Conservative Party, originally formed to protect vested interest and the status quo during the reign of Charles II. The party adopted the mantle of conservatism much later under it's leader Robert Peel, whose maximum was the much more progressive idea of reforming the bad but preserving the good in society. Peel's subsequent repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 led to a major split in the party.
However the Conservative Party has never been able to get rid of the canker of Toryism, and throughout it's history an inner core of aristocratic or well-born Tories have always cynically used the party as a very effective shield for the preservation of elite interest. This has been especially true since extensions of the electoral franchise meant that the numerically small number of high-born Tories were vastly outnumbered by the total voting population. The strategy always adopted by the Tories within the Conservative Party has been to co-opt various small 'c' conservative sections of society under the party banner in order to remain in power and see off the threat of socialism.
Throughout the 20th Century this was surprisingly electorally successful, but the underlying presence of toryism within the Conservative Party has nonetheless caused a lot of harm. One very damaging consequence was the continued association in the minds of many people of capitalism with the exploitation of the workers by the aristocracy. Another was that benign institutions that deserved conservative support such as the grammar schools were left undefended because their destruction was actually helpful to elite Tory interests.
The modern age has seen an ever-widening and unbridgeable gulf between the interests of conservatism and those of toryism, and this is perhaps the central reason for the Conservative Party's long term decline. Perhaps the dominant reason was and is the rise of the European Union and the new international elite, which pitted the Tory lust for power and position directly against the conservative desire to preserve and nurture national institutions: "Conservative" governments have proved enthusiastic supporters of signing away our sovereignty in a way that truly "conservative" governments would never countenance.
The diametric opposition between conservative and tory goals is manifest in a multitude of other ways, too. Consider:
A conservative is in favour of grammar schools, whereas a tory sees their destruction as helpful to the preservation of their own public school educated dynasties.
A conservative believes in the wealth-creation of free market capitalism, whereas a tory is happy with corporatism, better preserving as it does the old boy network.
A conservative would support traditional marriage, whereas a tory sees little value in doing so, as the breakdown of marriage damages the poor far more the than the rich.
A conservative would help the traditional family in the tax system, whereas a tory sees the lower orders as mere units of production to be sent out to work.
A conservative would believe in limiting immigration, not least because of it's impact on local communities, a tory has no interest in doing so and just sees another source of cheap labour.
A conservative would support meritocracy, whereas a tory would be quite happy with gender quotas, knowing how these can be subverted to create an elite of extremely wealthy power-couples and concentrate wealth still further.
A conservative would support a feee market in energy, whereas a tory supports wind farm subsidies, as they transfer resources from the taxed poor to those with landed estates.
A conservative has set principles, whereas a tory is a Vicar Of Bray.
The sad fact is that, whatever deluded conservatives like Toby Young think, the Conservative Party only believes in conservative ideas fitfully. Moreover, the suspicion is deeply lodged within the minds of large sections of the electorate that it only ever adopts conservative positions when it helps the inner tory elite. This has had the tragic effect of estranging vast chunks of the electorate from conservative ideas. Quite obviously, as Dr. Stanley says, in many ways under the blue-blooded leadership of the Cameroons this is a decidedly tory government rather a conservative one.
UKIP may not be an out and out small-c "conservative" party, but it certainly contains strong elements of conservatism within it. What it certainly is not is a "tory" party, and it should have nothing to do with a Conservative party that is forever deeply tainted with a tory cynicism and selfishness that has hobbled the progress of this country for so long.
At the end of the day, you cannot touch pitch and not be defiled.
Monday, 7 October 2013
Conservatism vs. Toryism