EARLIER this week the Prime Minister tweeted: ‘RIP Sir Roger Scruton. We have lost the greatest modern conservative thinker – who not only had the guts to say what he thought but said it beautifully.’
So great that he was all but ignored by the current Tory Party establishment. Do us a favour and forget the cliches, Boris. This is the man you chose not to heed while he was alive though he was the only conservative with a philosophy. You chose not only studiously to disregard him but your erstwhile colleagues sacked him from the only advisory post (on building and architecture) your party ever gave him, not even bothering to check that he’d been grievously misrepresented and traduced, making him the target of the very witch-hunt culture he warned against.
‘The reaction to his death speaks to his profound influence on conservative thought and British politics’, wrote someone for Bloomberg. Really? In their dreams maybe. Is it guilt speaking? Possibly. The most truthful tributes speak to the tragedy of Scruton’s lack of influence.
Outside the most marginal of intellectual conservative circles his influence was negligible, despite Danny Kruger’s heroic attempt to attribute Boris’s election win to it. Conservatism Scruton himself explained is the losing side with intellectuals and in the media too ‘because instincts are hard to discuss and even harder to defend. If you are in the business of repudiating. . . of declaring your emancipation from your past you get an audience but if you’re in the business of trying to defend what is your basic sense of belonging words quickly run out . . . but nevertheless when it comes to voting . . . the instinct prevails. This is why in the intellectual word the left is always in the ascendent but in the real world . . . the right is always the solid basis on which people stand’.
That surely is the reason for Boris’s ‘Get Brexit Done’ win – more down to his finally reading the public mood, more to political pragmatism than principle, than to his being influenced by ‘Scrutonianism’. Far from being the Conservatives’ ‘lodestar’, Scruton had been cast aside at best as a ‘traditionalist’, at worst as a pariah; truly appreciated only in former East Europe where he’d courageously fought against communist totalitarianism. But here, as Toby Young wrote, he ‘always remained something of an outcast, vilified by the liberal establishment for daring to challenge the fashionable nostrums of our age’.
The tragedy and the irony is that ‘the only crime of this eminent intellectual was to be a conservative’. Exactly ‘because he was an unapologetic conservative and defender of Western civilisation he was never given the respect he deserved’.
Scruton’s last major writings on conservatism, How to be a conservative, in which he critically outlined the truths in all the ‘isms’ – socialism, capitalism and nationalism – and Where We Are:The State of Britain Now (of key relevance to Brexit) had marginal, if any, impact on Conservative policies. To the contrary Theresa May showed no interest in them, and defying his tenets bowed ever further toward Leftist, state interventionist solutions, with policies that far from strengthening society, further undermined it. Nor is there much sign of Johnson rowing back from this broad agenda. He promises more spending, an ever larger state sector, and further shrinkage of the private domain as ‘workism’ takes over. To date he shows little understanding of the factors – the collapse of shared norms and sense of belonging, the rolling out of diversity and gender ideology across the nation – that have destroyed mutuality and trust and are lowering the quality of life in Britain.
No wonder Scruton’s faith in the Conservative Party had fallen to rock bottom by the last year of his life. Attending most meetings of his re-instituted Conservative Philosophy Group in recent years, the only senior politicians I saw were Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Jesse Norman; never the liberal ‘one-nation Tory’ Boris Johnson. Though some government ‘spads’ put in an appearance, the great brain Dominic Cummings was not one of them. It was though their presence there might be judged adversely. He’d become a token Right-wing hostage for the BBC. Douglas Murray’s analysis is tragic but correct.
Oliver Letwin, when invited to speak, took the opportunity to set out his socialist credentials and coach the assembled group of eminent conservative academics and commentators, including his host, on the virtues of equality policy. It went down like a lead balloon.
Sadly, such arrogance reflects the general contempt for and disinterest in ‘Scrutonianism’ and its Burkean roots as described by Sir Roger a few years ago:
‘Political wisdom, Burke argued, is not contained in a single head. It does not reside in the plans and schemes of the political class, and can never be reduced to a system. It resides in the social organism as a whole, in the myriad small compromises, in the local negotiations and trusts, through which people adjust to the presence of their neighbours and co-operate in safeguarding what they share. People must be free to associate, to form “little platoons”, to dispose of their labour, their property and their affections, according to their own desires and needs.
‘But no freedom is absolute, and all must be qualified for the common good. Until subject to a rule of law, freedom is merely “the dust and powder of individuality”. But a rule of law requires a shared allegiance, by which people entrust their collective destiny to sovereign institutions that can speak and decide in their name. This shared allegiance is not, as Rousseau and others argued, a contract among the living. It is a partnership between the living, the unborn and the dead – a continuous trust that no generation can pillage for its own advantage.’
This is the ‘conservatism’ he described in conversation with Douglas Murray last year that ‘We all want the Conservative Party to represent . . . that, less and less it seems, is the case.’
The full interview can be viewed here:
The failure of so-called Conservatives to defend conservatism against ‘politically ascendent’ socialism clearly was preoccupying him in the last months of his life. He told Peter Whittle of the New Culture Forum too that ‘the Tory leadership shows little evidence of conservativism’.
You can view this interview here:
Now this great thinker, this humane and modest man is gone. It is down to us to take advantage of the resurgence of interest in his thinking that his death has afforded. We are fortunate to have his body of work to inform us, to challenge the Conservative In Name Only Party with, to help us continue his mission of conserving a free society, calling out oikophobia and those would repudiate their own culture whenever we can.
So no more crocodile tears, so called Conservatives, please. The best tribute you can pay Sir Roger is to heed him.
Over the coming week we’ll be disseminating his ideas in a series of videos and republications, targeting them where they are needed most, at the Conservative government, until they grasp what Conservatism is and why it, not Leftism, works for the betterment of mankind.
We will focus on two of his most recent books, How to be a conservative and Where we are; the state of Britain now.
The loss of Sir Roger is grievous. But his presence remains very much with us at TCW. We will do our best to honour his memory.