Ever since the Conservatives’ disappointing showing in the General Election, it has been suggested that the party is in dire need of a new vision. But while spin doctors, kitchen cabinets and focus groups scribble frantically on the backs of postage stamps, it’s worthwhile pointing out that it is not only the Tories who seem to have lost their way.
While there are still good people in all political parties, when it comes to the most basic message of all – the message conveyed by their name – the Conservatives are not the only ones who could be successfully sued under the Trades Descriptions Act. With their enthusiastic embrace of ‘progressive’ sexual politics and cultural Marxism, the Conservatives seem to have forgotten how to conserve. At the same time, however, the Labour Party is no longer beholden to the labouring classes but to the luvvies, the politically correct, the Marxists – who are now in charge – and the people who should represent the workers but often see their interests coming a poor second to wider political manoeuvrings. So do the unborn, for in supporting plans to decriminalise abortion completely, the party as a whole shows that it is as little committed to labouring to give birth as it is to the labouring classes. Admittedly, the Liberal Democrats are liberal with other people’s money but they oppose the result of the Referendum, making them decidedly anti-democratic. Meanwhile the Greens, with their strange political menu of environmentalism and Marxism – population control and transgenderism – rely on attracting those green (in the sense of naïve) enough to vote for them.
The other parties’ shortcomings could prove advantageous to the Tories if they would only celebrate the best parts of their political heritage. They might start by reclaiming the word ‘Tory’, with its long and impressive history, from its use as an insult by opponents and their cheerleaders the BBC. They might recall some of the most famous Prime Ministers in our island story, Winston Churchill being the most outstanding modern example, although Margaret Thatcher’s achievements should also be reclaimed from the Left-wing dustbin of history and dusted down for posterity rather than, as with Theresa May, treated as an embarrassing example of something nasty wrapped up and put in the bin for good reason.
The Tories’ new slogan could be ‘conserve the best – reform the rest’, if ‘reform’ had not been given a bad name by ‘progressive’ politicians such as Mrs May, whose idea of reform is to buy off the shelf whatever looks shiny and new; as with same-sex marriage and transgenderism, to redefine some neglected good out of existence. Politicians who over the years have taken every opportunity to undermine marriage and the family now say that marriage is such a good and wholesome thing, and so beneficial for society, that it must be opened up to everyone, rather like knocking down the walls of a house ‘so that all might be included’ and looking on in mild surprise when the roof falls in. Rather than ‘reforming’ marriage, they have re-formed it, and the less wealthy and privileged are paying the price in lost human dignity, security and prosperity.
Perhaps then the Tories should say ‘refine the rest’, as in refining metal in the furnace until it is pure? True, it smacks of the ideological purity associated with the extreme Left, something with which true Conservatives have never been happy, but with their disinclination for political philosophy they are vulnerable to the attraction of dreary old errors dressed up as shiny new policies – policies that merely advance the cause of their opponents, who egg them on by accusing them of being behind the times. G K Chesterton’s brother Cecil was an early member of the socialist Fabian Society, which believed in ‘permeating’ its ideology through all political parties. He observed that the Tories were ‘less positively dangerous’ than other parties because ‘the very cloudiness of their political outlook’ made them ‘to a great extent amenable to skilful and systematic pressure from general reformers’.*
If ‘reform’ has been devalued, the very worst choice of words would be ‘perfect the rest’. The political perfectionist will never be happy because he (it is usually a he) is so busy trying to perfect the world that he never notices that it is good, and that he is making it a whole lot worse in his attempts to perfect it.
‘Conserve the best – improve the rest’ sounds pedestrian and could itself be improved upon; it might not be the snappiest of slogans with which to inscribe a banner. Just as well, then, that conservatives don’t do protests. Generally speaking, they are more busy doing than protesting, unlike their critics, who protest too much. But if they want to renew their image and burnish their reputation, they should perhaps stop for a minute and think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. And then try to explain it to the voters.
* C Chesterton, Gladstonian Ghosts (1905), pp 16–17.