The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Friday, July 29, 2005
Teddy Leigh and the Tory Taleban: Faith, Flag and Family.
by Peter

Tall, blond and blue-eyed, Edward Leigh is the very image of a Conservative Member of Parliament. Admittedly he is Catholic rather than High Anglican, but the Church of England has not been conservative enough for true Tories for some years now. And Edward Leigh is steeped in Conservative traditions. One could imagine that a leather-bound edition of Filmer's Patriarcha sits on the desk in his study. An elected politician for more than 30 years and a Tory MP for more than 20, he was Mrs Thatcher's speechwriter in the opposition years, and held ministerial positions under both Thatcher and Major. Today he is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee - one of the most significant appointments in the hands of the Opposition. Leigh has now entered the leadership contest, not as a candidate, but as kingmaker. He has put together the Cornerstone group (made up, it is said, of 25 Members of Parliament) as a lobby for a return to old-fashioned social conservativism (some of us thought this was what Hague and Howard had offered the country). His publication The Strange Desertion of Tory England provides a call for the Party to get back to its roots and campaign on Faith, Family and Flag.

No surprises here, one might think: Tory traditionalist calls for a return to traditional Tory values - no casualties. Yet there may be casualties. The most forceful words in the book are not for the Tory opponents, but for the enemy within. Liberalism is so dominant that it has managed to infect the Conservative Party like a virus... Allowing libertarian thought to gain a foohold in the Party would be a betrayal of foundational conservative values. Leigh is affronted that many Tories these days draw their inspration from Hayek or (still worse) Nozick rather than Burke or Disraeli.

Increasingly it seems that the Conservative Party ain't big enough for all its various currents of opinion. The modernisers' agenda is directly opposed to that of the Cornerstone Group. Libertarians like Duncan want a party that stands for free market policies (Leigh has spotted that there is nothing very Conservative about a free market) and for tolerance of individual choices on lifestyle. Many younger Conservatives see this as the way forward. Perhaps this is why they are also interested in a name change.

Elsewhere the Conservative 44% peple have identified three groups within the Conservative Party engaged in a "cold war": the Soho modernisers; the Easterhouse modernisers; and the "core strategy" group. They would like them to cooperate. But is this likely when each group has had a leader knifed in the back?

In any case, the Conservative Party's problems probably run much deeper. They enjoyed eighteen years of power. They achieved some structural reforms to the economy. And they implemented their manifesto in full. What we are left with is a party in search of a message. This is not too far from the situation of the Liberal Party after the implementation of Lloyd-George's People`s Budget. Once you have achieved your goals what do you do next?

The Tory answer? Squabble.
posted by Apollo Project @ 2:44 pm  
  • At 31 July, 2005 20:57, Blogger GoodLiberal said…

    I think that you a right- the Tories have won the political war of the market vs. socialism (although they have always been suspect on the market historically), but lost the cultural war. In this case Peter Hitchens' analysis is spot on- although I do not lament this 'loss'. The question is whether they adapt to this or whether they soldier on on their own terms. The Liberal Party refused to take up the class-ridden, politics of envy that was early twentieth century socialism and only survived by the skin of their teeth. But the present cultural climate has never seen more liberal, and Labour are doing their best impression of taking the authoritarian alternative role.
    But is Tory values and culture so ingrained that they carry on comfortably? Does the Tory core vote die off or bow to the inevitable over time- like the Liberals' back in the day? Or will it be sustained on 32% through man's innate 'Daily Mailesque' tendencies? That is the question...

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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