Whither the Tories? The party is in a dire state, and amongst the Right-leaning commentariat there has been much hand-wringing discussion recently on what can be done to revivify an organisation on its deathbed, with membership collapsing from more than 3million in its heyday to a rumoured figure of around 70,000 today.

Actually it is a shallow and meaningless question: far better to ask ‘Can conservatism win with the Tories?’ The answer is emphatically no, because the party’s culture is just plain wrong. Its version of conservatism is narrow, top-down, myopic and self-serving, amounting really to no more than conserving its own social position. As such it is antithetical to true conservatism, which is bottom-up, organic, holistic and long-sighted, seeking, in Edmund Burke’s famous phrase, to preserve the contract between the living, the dead and the not yet born.

Conservatism has done so spectacularly badly in recent decades because it is faced with the worst of all worlds: there is no real transmission mechanism of its ideas into the corridors of power – however there has been the appearance of one. The subsequent failure to champion a holistic conservatism politically thus handed the initiative to the Left, particularly in the cultural sphere, with calamitous long-term consequences.

Take the issue of architecture and the built environment. To the conservative, the preservation of the beauty and familiarity of old buildings and street patterns is an important part of conserving the social fabric: architecture, as the saying goes, is the art we all must live with and therefore vital to the moulding of public culture. The Left readily agreed, seeing the architectural modernist movement as a way of reordering society towards socialism. ‘We must create a mass production state of mind,’ said its founder, the evil genius Le Corbusier, in 1927. The Tories, always interested in office rather than power, were characteristically apathetic, regarding it as entirely trivial in electoral terms. Thus modernism was allowed to gain cultural momentum in the post-war years, and a tipping point was reached where the movement was seen as embodying the future. At this point the Tories, terrified of seeming out of date, enthusiastically embraced it. (Indeed the worst architectural vandalism of all – the destruction of Euston’s Doric Arch – was committed under the Prime Ministership of the classically educated Tory Harold Macmillan, who personally resisted pleas to save it.)

The end result of Tory cultural capitulation was not only the scarring of Britain’s towns and cities, making them some of the ugliest in Europe, but the demoralising of whole communities, and the rise of a militant nimbyism from those determined that their own localities would not be subject to the same fate. That in turn has led to a dramatic slowing in new housing construction, contributing to the sense of generational unfairness that now powers the rise of Corbynism. Far, far, far too late in the day – and only when their own electoral prospects have become severely threatened – have the Tories now come to realise the importance of architectural beauty.

The template for this sorry tale is applicable to issue after issue: failure to defend one part of the societal organism from attack at the peripheries inevitably meant ever more virulent infection spreading to the core as a multiplier effect took hold. Tory indifference to the big picture, to building and communicating a compelling conservative narrative, has been the primary factor in conservatism’s seemingly endless retreat.

Let us, therefore, hope that that membership of that ghastly party continues to decline to zero – it would be the best news conservatism has had in 300 years. Only then can we build a new conservatism in the context of a democracy fit for the internet age.

69 COMMENTS

  1. Ayn Rand, as imperfect of a vessel of one’s own message as can be imagined, once wrote an essay entitled “Conservatism: An Obituary” about 60 years ago, give or take.

    In brief, one of her arguments is that self-styled Conservatives in effect concede the “rightness” of the ostensible goals of the Left, but say that human beings being what they are, i.e., imperfect sinners, such lofty goals cannot be achieved, and that we can only make life a little fairer, not into some Utopia. Thus, we must always have some sort of “low-grade infection” version of the Hobbesian war of all against all, to make sure that no one particular C.S. Lewis “worst kind of tyrant” can emerge and then remain in power only by pure brutality.

    Rand’s point is that Conservatism is dead if all it does is to argue, in the Churchillian vein, that, e.g., “Free enterprise is the worst system except for all others,” “Traditional morality is the worst kind except for all others,” etc. etc. Her point was that, if THAT was “conservatism,” she’d rather have been called a “radical capitalist”– sure, those were “Boo! Hiss!” words in HER time as well as today, but she thought it summed up her position better than “Conservatism” did, because there was quite a lot she did not wish to conserve. (It is apposite to add G.K. Chesterton’s dictum to the effect that Progressives are there to keep on making mistakes, and Conservatives, to keep mistakes from being corrected.) She rejected the idea of appeals to tradition being sufficient.

    I have NO idea whether the Tory party ever would consider such a rebranding, but my guess is that it wouldn’t even occur to them, let alone that they would think it over and decide not to.

    • To push for ends which are fly in the face of human nature is plain stupidity.

      When means are used which experience has shown time and again are poisonous in practice – this is not noble. It is plain wicked.

    • Ayn Rand was a radical liberal not conservative surely? She was the opposite to true Burkean conservativism. To be a conservative is to want to preserve what is best, to promote the best in thought, writing, art, building etc and pass it down from generation to generation, whilst encouraging the people of your generation to meet those heady standards. Ayn Rand was highly critical of this ‘tradition’.

      • She was no conservative. As a radical liberal she failed, because Classic Liberalism must also have a deep sense of humanity, which Rand conspicuously lacked.

  2. The Tory party’s greatest energies have been waged, not against the ravages of socialism, but against the wishes of its ordinary members, who want to preserve and pass on to their children the country they grew up in.
    For the last fifty years the Tories have been a fifth column for this treachery.

  3. It is no good looking to the Conservative hierarchy for leadership.

    They are mostly Blairite wasters.
    And they are the good ones.
    The corupt ,disgusting, self-serving, City, FTSE ,and Westminster- swamp based,retinue are in control.

  4. The new American Embassy is a classic (if one may use the word) of graceless, charmless entirely forgettable black box architecture. We are told that the finest architects were involved in its conception. Says it all, really

    Trump didn’t want to be associated with its opening. Can’t say I blame him. Even though his own properties are little better.

    • The Grosvenor Square building is hardly an architectural beauty. The new Embassy is partly dictated by the security needed which is why Congress dictated the move.

      • It’s not, for sure. A fact made worse because of security measures, but it never was a prize. As I said the other day, I’m basically OK with the new one, as long as I think of it as a castle. But it sure isn’t the Tower for that matter.

  5. They are Blairite. A sort of big state nanny-socialist faddism wedded to corporate capitalism. They have conserved nothing and have been complicit in every piece of “progressive” vandalism.

  6. Unfortunately, even when the membership dwindles to near zero, the hedge fund money will keep this moribund institution going. We are in a terrible situation, a left-wing Tory Party versus an openly Marxist-Leninist Labour Party. The danger ahead is great and I am seriously worried about what happens come the next general election, because either the Tories win and limp on a few more years as New Labour mk2 and the problem of the Tories doesn’t get addressed or Labour wins and the idea of Britain could be lost forever.

    These are very trying times.

  7. Both Cameron and May have at best been Social Democrats, they are not Conservatives.
    But if not in the Conservatives where will conservatives coalesce?
    Across many ages the Conservatives have re invented themselves. After the shock of GE2017 they should have the impetus to adapt or die. If they do not change they deserve to die

    It should start with the good story of conservatism across the ages, the left have been able to post a negative picture of it, whilst history shows something different.

  8. “amounting really to no more than conserving its own social position”

    Is exactly what I’ve been saying here for a while now, despite what others have thought.
    The Tories claim to be a ‘broad church’ but they have made themselves so broad that they have allowed in too many wealthy hypocrites, who want to spend other peoples money to salve their bleeding hearts while keeping hold of their own.

    Camerons so called modernisation of the Tories created this, primarily because he believed that Tony BLiar was some kind of demi God because he won three terms, but it never seemed to cross his mind that the reason BLiar won those terms was because his own party was as unelectable as Labour made itself.

    I believe that Corbyn stands a good chance of winning the next election, and that is the only way we will see a return to Conservative values. I will vote for Corbyn next time to stop the Blue Labour party which isn’t much different anyway from pursuing socialism. I honestly believe the young need to be punished for their idiocy, and if Corbyn decides on a give away free for all by sealing their money from the future earnings it will teach them a life lesson they won’t forget in a hurry, just like the generation before which elected Wilson – and then never again until BLiars Blue Labour group.

    This is to my mind the most preferable way forward. Years more Socialism under Blue Labour or a short sharp shock, and hopefully a return to sanity afterwards.

    • I think you’re right that a short, sharp shock would be better than years of Blue Labour. However, I would need to relocate my business to Switzerland during the time of the short, sharp shock.

      • I think back to the time that Major really wrecked the Tory party over Maastricht, the ‘Bastards’ forcing a leadership election and in hindsight now it turns out Major couldn’t have got it more wrong, he would have had the country joining the Euro if he could have had his way.

        What might have happened if the country had elected the Welsh windbag? An old school Labour leader who would have obviously only lasted a single term before handing power back to the Tories.
        There would have been no Tony BLiar or Mandelson, or if there had been it’s unlikely they would have been in power as long.

        It would certainly have been a more favourable outcome in the medium term for the country, and I believe May is no better than Major was so maybe this time a spell of Labour might be better.

    • Of course a resounding vote for Momentum (Labour as was) will be the last vote for a multi party democracy. Ah you people on the right do not even begin to comprehend the discipline of what faces you . I despair.

    • Be careful what you wish for. If Corbyn and McDonnell get into power they won’t be leaving in a hurry. Indeed I wonder how long Corbyn himself would last with McDonnell close behind him. The latter is a communist with a fanatical support group behind him who will stop at nothing, including violent aggression not only to obtain power, but to keep it regardless of elections
      I am a conservative and like my namesake recognise evil men when I see them. Though I am disenchanted with the lack of conservative principle shown by the Conservative Government and Parliamentary Party , particularly over Brexit, I am even more concerned with the complacency they show towards the the Marxist Opposition and the danger they pose to our country, economically and socially. We have not seen the like since before the war and regrettably the young ( and not so young) are sadly ignorant of our history and easily duped Every Conservative MP should be taking every opportunity to alert the voters to the truth behind the label – the so-called Labour Party.

  9. Happily, the Conservative Party seems determined to destroy itself by keeping the UK firmly shackled to the decaying corpse of the EU. I suspect that betrayal will be the tipping point for many grass roots party members.

  10. Dr Cadman doesn’t worry that while the Tory party is declining to zero, the country will be run by the likes of Mr Corbyn and Sir Miriam Clegg? It’s a cliché that there’s a lot of ruin in a country but getting out from under the ruination can be a long and painful business. Venezuela, your views. The Tory party hasn’t been motivated by anything resembling a principle since the 1832 Reform Act which taught it to lean in future whichever way the wind blew. At the moment, it’s blowing strongly against conservatism. People would feel a lot happier about the Conservative party even with its present policies if it had a leader they could believe in. Mrs May is an albatross, a ball and chain, a set of shackles, a wet blanket, a no hoper and a lot of other negative things besides who is not only incompetent herself but infallibly chooses incompetent advisers. Spirits would be lifted just by getting rid of her and putting in a PM people could trust and who looked the part. I have a hunch JRM would be slaughtered by the media. Perhaps Esther McVey who terrifies the Left? Whatever, I’m afraid we’re stuck with the Conservative party.

    • We’re not stuck with the Conservative Party – the Conservative Party is stuck with us. Until it wakes up to the fact that it needs voters, it’s going to continue to decline.

      • It’s doing what New Labour was doing : despise its traditional voter base as small c conservatives and ‘racists’ standing in the way of the multicultural nirvana, while taking its votes for granted.

        Part of Corbyn’s appeal is that he is talking to this despised voter base.

        Too bad this base is too ignorant of history and indeed Corbyn’s ideology to recognise a snake oil salesman when it sees one.

        The Tories will have to continue to rely on Labour for its existence as the lesser of two evils rather than genuine, believing support.

        • You have someone who bankrolls your party, and you appeal to enough voters, you’re fine. What you need to fear as a party is thinking that a large membership somehow means that you have large scale, grassroots support. And that’s where Labour under Corbyn are going wrong. Loads of members, many of them young, mean very little other than that they are there to get disillusioned.

        • But he’s right about that. The problem with the Tory-Party is that it despises its natural supporters. No wonder it’s ceasing to have any members prepared to put their hands in their pockets and purses to find a membership fee.

          It has to rely on what is actually institutionalised corruption- Rich donors who hope to get something out of their overflowing ‘generosity’.

  11. So Mr Cadman asserts conservatism can win just not with the Tories. As he is a member of UKIP does he mean that conservatism can win with them? Or can’t he afford yet another lost deposit? Or are we waiting for something else. A latter day King Arthur returning to save avalon?

  12. The central tenet of this article, that the Conservatives are not conserving and are deeply unprincipled, is undoubtedly true. One of the worst results of this is that, because of the failure to convert an entire generation if not two to conservative values, we run the serious risk of the country being deeply ruined, in all ways, by socialists. The challenge is therefore to find a way to speed up the end of the Conservatives, allowing the birth of a true conservative party. Peter Hitchins was right all along !

    • The ‘Conservatives’ are perfectly capable of destroying themselves without anyone’s help!

      A newly-created party under a ‘Real Brexit’ banner, fielding local, genuinely conservative candidates might be the nail in the zombie’s coffin, though.

      • “The ‘Conservatives are perfectly capable of decrying themselves without anyone’s help!”
        I disagree !
        Look how they deliberately sabotaged Ukip using two infiltrators.
        All the evidence shows that the only thing that the fake Conservatives do conserve is themselves, their power and privileges. They are ruthless in that one goal, whilst lazy and useless at all the other ones.

    • Unlike the people who were paid to provide an Opposition, two of whom are now the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were right all along about everything that has come to a crescendo in the collapse of Carillion.

      Following the murder of Oliver Ivanović in the nightmare narco-state where they name their sons “Tonibler”, consider that Corbyn and McDonnell were also among the mere 13 MPs (all Labour, although several right-wing journalists, including Peter Hitchens, also did some heavy lifting on this) who either voted against the bombing of Kosovo, or acted as tellers in order to force that admittedly symbolic vote to be held at all.

      Corbyn and McDonnell did not start being right over economic policy 10 years ago, when the Crash came. Nor did they start being right over foreign policy 15 years ago, over Iraq. Both on economic policy and on foreign policy, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been right all along. As, whether or not they care to admit it, everyone can now see.

    • Although I broadly agree, my hope is that the collapse of the Conservative party may just allow the rise of a proper ‘Classic Liberal’ party. Such a party in real terms will be to the right of the current Conservatives.
      Now where is the 21st century version of Gladstone when we need him?

      • Classic Liberalism is of course very different to a genuine conservative approach , but it is to me, a Burkean conservative, preferable to the results flowing from this pretend Conservative party, which is very statist and culturally very Marxist.

  13. If the Labour Party moves so far to the left that the Blairite rump decides to leave then they will be looking for a new home. The LibDems would appear to be the logical home for disillusioned Blairites but by joining it they would probably forfeit any chance of ever getting posts in the government.

    Therefore for careerist Blairites a fully “modernised” Conservative party might be a more attractive option than the Liberal Democrat Party. Could Theresa May and her advisers be positioning the Conservative Party to make it more appealing to Blairites, e.g. by bowing down to the transgender lobby?

  14. I suggest that a new right-wing party be formed representing muscular and virile Conservative values, with Jacob Rees-Mogg as its nominal leader, and see how it does in elections.

      • Actually, yes. I think it would be hilarious to see the very thing that some on this website pine for fall to earth like a lead baloon, burst into flame like a Zeppelin and incinerate all aboard.

        It would be a practical and instructive lesson.

  15. As for architectural beauty, at least we still have Bath and Oxford. Otherwise, it is a disgrace that countries such as Germany retain their architectural merits when we do not.

    • There are many other smaller-scale places that retain much charm. Ludlow, Stamford and many more.
      It’s the large-scale architectural beauty we have lost. Germany lost even more in WW2 of course, but they carefully rebuilt some of theirs in the 50s and 60s. Our planners and architects used our damage as an excuse to bulldoze it away and replace with their favoured brutalism.

    • According to a CEO of English Heritage, Simon Thurley, this country’s charming market and County towns may be forced treble in size, likely with the dreary brick sprawl we have seen, in order to accommodate the expanding population.

      If anything will destroy the atmosphere and flavour of life in these places, this will.

      Bath and Oxford and a few other places like Cheltenham arent enough.

      Mass immigration has been a disaster for this country in so many ways.

  16. This is yet more evidence of how the Tories have lost the plot.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42708507

    Minister for loneliness appointed to continue Jo Cox’s work

    Tracey Crouch MP said she was proud to take on the “generational challenge” to tackle an issue affecting about nine million UK people, young and old.

    She said she would work across political parties and with communities.

    The Commission on Loneliness was first set up by Ms Cox, who was killed before the EU referendum by a man who shouted “Britain first” during the attack.

    Interesting also that the BBC are carrying on with fake news and downright lies, when it is known as a fact that the attacker did not shout Britain First – a link which the biased BBC is trying to make with the right wing group, but something like put Britain first.

  17. Conservatives should remind themselves that conservatism isn’t just about prolonging the archaic or the traditional just for the sake of it. (The earth isn’t flat). However that idea than only innovation can be achieved from the left so embedded always in socialism, is the the same as continuing the notion that the earth is flat.

  18. Real democracy is dead in the UK. Only way to solve the country is by having a real revolution and destroying the economy with a real civil war between the left wing socialist hard line communist Marxists including those in the current conservative party. Especially those aligned with the Corbyns of this world. Then the real Conservatives with genuine Conservative values can take back control. I am sure us real Conservatives would have a little help from Trump in this quest because Theresa May’s credibility together with her Government and advisers have zero influence in the Trump administration. Theresa May and her party has made it very clear America under Trump is not welcome in the UK .Tax rates being lower in the US will shift all big investment in jobs and growth away from the UK and the EU. This will effectively bankrupt the UK very quickly within 2 to 3 years unless we walk away from the EU without a deal.

  19. Mr Cadman

    As the Book of Common Prayer has declined; and as the Church of England has decayed: so shall we Conservatives.

    I say terminate the Conservative party. Let the people receive applied Socialism – and soon enough – they shall be ready for a new, principled, conservatism.

    We thirst, for righteous leaders.

  20. “Whither the Tories?”. I prefer, ‘ Wither the Tories’, because ‘Tories’ (present company excepted) they are not.

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