'People who tell you too much about their utopia, I always get a bit worried that suddenly we’ll be forced to wear the same uniform. When you hear about someone’s vision to remake the world, you do need a bit of, “hmm, that’s interesting… How much freedom am I going to have in that one, and how much is that going to cost me?”
Conservatism is the philosophy of the doubter – rejecting the idea of ideological purity, the search for the City on the Hill, with a more practical, considered and flexible approach. An approach rooted in place and the histories of place. Conservatives embrace a philosophy of values rather than an ideological search for a perfected future – a rejection of utopias.
This ‘real’ Conservatism is different from the liberalism that lay at the heart of Thatcher’s repositioning of the party – which may explain partly the discomfort of some in the Party with Cameron’s rediscovery of the politics of place and community. These ideas – central to the traditional Conservative idea of government – were set aside by Thatcherism.
“Even so, the election of 1979 might have been little more than a psephological curiosity had it not been for something far more important than the statistical outcome. For the fact is that the Conservative party had been swept into office on a programme which seemed to mark a conscious change of direction, not merely from that charted by its political opponents, but from that followed by all British Governments since the war, including its own Conservative predecessors. Hence the seemingly self-contradictory notion of ‘The New Conservatism’.” (Nigel Lawson)
For the first time, British Conservatives were grasping at an ideological position – at least in the rhetoric of politics if not in the reality of government. And that ideological position owed more to Gladstone’s liberalism than it did to the pragmatism of Disraeli or the scepticism of Salisbury and Balfour. What Cameron has done is to set out again the ancient cause of the conservation – a cause defined by Lord Blake in his history of the party:
“There was a…belief that Britain, especially England, was usually in the right. There was a similar faith in the value of diversity, of independent institutions, of the rights of property; a similar distrust of centralizing officialdom, of the efficacy of government (except in the preservation of order and national defence), of Utopian panaceas and of ‘doctrinaire’ intellectuals; a similar dislike of abstract ideas, high philosophical principles and sweeping generalizations. There was a similar readiness to accept cautious empirical piecemeal reform, if a Conservative government said it was needed. There was a similar reluctance to look far ahead or worry too much about the future; a similar scepticism about human nature; a similar belief in original sin, and in the limitations of political and social amelioration; a similar scepticism about the notion of ‘equality’.”
I don’t agree with everything in the 150 page hardback book, nor do I like the outlook or views of every Tory standing for election. But if what we get is an end to government believing it can solve every problem – including problems specially invented for the purpose of solution – then I will proceed with a smile on my face. I don’t expect to stop being angry and annoyed at the stupidity, mendacity, busybodying and bulling of government and agents of government. But I do know that with a Conservative government I’ve more chance of being free to speak out, free to buy and sell and free to move around this great land of ours.
Vote for the politics of place and community. Vote for honest doubt about the ability of government to solve all the world’s problems. And vote for what Cameron said:
How much freedom am I going to have…and how much is that going to cost me?
With a Conservative government you’ll have more freedom and it will cost you less – and that alone is reason enough to Vote Conservative.