Friday, 1 March 2013

The source of the Tories’ problems

The Tories’ poor result in Eastleigh last night is a manifestation of a deeper problem: the party no longer knows what it is for.

As Robin McGhee points out in a perceptive blog for Prospect magazine, the basic issue isn’t the split over Europe:
Conservatism in 2013 faces an existential problem: how can it reconcile free markets with traditional values? As the Conservative party shuffles meekly towards electoral demolition, this intellectual imbalance can only become more damaging.
A evidence for the prosecution, McGhee examines a recent pamphlet Britannia Unchained, written by five MPs (led by Kwasi Kwarteng) from the Tories’ young, thrusting, market-fundamentalist wing:
In common with many political works that purport to be patriotic, Britannia Unchained displays an amazing contempt for the average British citizen. They are stupid, selfish, indolent, lazy and ignorant. They drink, eat, sleep and die too much. Conservatism, in anything resembling its traditional form, embraces all Britons with its respect for the traditions of liberty that have benefited them. Kwarteng & co only seem to be interested in squeezing every atom of productivity from the beleaguered population so that we can “compete” with countries like India and China, which benefit from vastly greater resources of land and labour. “Too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work,” the MPs claim. Well, good. That shows they are human and able to enjoy life.
The creative destruction of life’s pleasures for the good of economic indicators is not a conservative position. It is the opposite: completely without regard for traditions that do not hasten the advance of capitalism. Kwarteng and his co-authors are apparently unable to grasp this.
A conservative “moral idea” has been abandoned in a ruthless drive for economic competition. So much so that one wonders whether there are any conservatives left in the Conservative Party at all. Certainly a traditional conservative no longer has much moral incentive to vote Conservative.

This is what happens when political parties abandon their guiding principles for managerialism or economism. But then one suspects that politicians like Kwasi Kwarteng and his co-authors – who know the price of everything and the value of nothing – don’t really mind. After all, political ideology is so twentieth century.

1 comment:

  1. I do believe that the Conservative Party (as a Peelian creation) is heading to destruction with the Tories remaining as an ever more reactionary and intolerant rump.


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