On Monday I asked where have all the conservative men gone? Today I ask where are all the conservative women have gone? I ask this question as I am concerned that Conservative philosophy; policy debates; and, certainly the party, are becoming more socially liberal. The reason for this is that naturally conservative women are out of the debate because they are, in fact, conservative.
Naturally conservative women tend to do naturally conservative things such as raising, educating and caring for their family, themselves. As such they have less time and energy to participate in the public discussions of what Conservative policy should be. The party has ruthlessly taken advantage of this.
Now, it was not always like this: in its heyday women were far more likely to vote Conservative and practically ran the party through local associations. This was despite the fact that a woman’s role was seen primarily in the private sphere of the home. Ironically women were much more active then in the public role of local politics, if not national, than they are now.
This seems to have changed. Conservative women, busy raising the next generation (you are welcome) have little opportunity to participate in high-level debate. Sure, you can send some angry tweets or shout at the radio but that is about it. (Occasionally things might get so bad you pick up the phone and shout at an MP on the radio, like my ‘mauling of’ Nick Clegg, but that is rare).
And there is certainly no point on relying on female Conservative MPs to advocate for socially conservative policy. They have proved so hopeless on this point they are worse than the men. So it is no surprise that much debate in Conservative policy circles centres on concepts such as ‘liberty’ and ‘personal freedom’ but not on the family.
Take the conference organised by the Centre for Policy Studies – Liberty 2014. Looking at the line-up and speeches it is clear the focus was on economics, foreign policy and education. Now, of course, these are extremely important areas, but there was no discussion on the family or indeed the role of faith in public life, for example.
I have no doubt that most Conservatives appreciate that when Thatcher spoke of liberty and personal freedom, she meant liberty and freedom from the State – not from each other. But considering the total collapse in the Conservative Party of any support for the married family, it is beginning to look like they quite fancy some freedom and liberty from each other in addition to the State.
It is also worth examining whether this is down to policy being dominated by men (although it kills me to say it). The truth is, for most of human history, women have been devising ways to pull men away from individualism and into family and community. This is an absolute priority for women when children come along – men are needed to protect and provide. The reality is men can get along pretty well on their own, and that is as true now as it ever was.
So it makes sense for even conservative men to focus on liberty and personal freedom. For women the focus would be on personal responsibility. Sure, conservative men want freedom primarily from the State, but given their silence on the importance of the family, perhaps a few of them would quite fancy it from everyone else too. It would give them more time to read their Edmund Burke philosophy and Margaret Thatcher biography.
Sadly, as conservative women have been abandoned by feminists in the cause of pulling men back to the family, it is left to them alone to do it. But that is quite challenging to do in the public sphere when all their energies are focused on their own family in the private sphere – this is what makes them conservative women, after all. A classic Catch-22 then.
If I didn’t know better, I would say many conservative men are taking advantage of the women being indoors, to advocate for their more libertarian view of conservatism. Well, do not think we have not noticed.