Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tim Stanley solves a puzzle – we don't like the Conservative leadership because they're elitist Tories, not conservatives

A while back, the Telegraph’s blogmeister Damien Thompson expressed the opinion that David Cameron and George Osborne were dislikeable because they divided the world into winners and losers – especially members of their own party. Winners = quick-brained, privileged, Oxbridge-educated, metropolitan smoothies able to go with the flow: Losers = less well educated, slow-footed traditionalists, hidebound by dogma and too thick to get with the zeitgeist. Dr Tim Stanley – who also writes for the Telegraph – fleshed out Thompson’s perceptions last month in one of those articles that has one slapping one’s forehead and shouting ”Of course!”:
Tories believe that conservatism is whatever a Conservative government does; they are a tribe of party loyalists, not a movement. Movement conservatives (note the small "c") are motivated by philosophy and will only approve of a Conservative government if it is definitely conservative in principle as well as in the odd policy. Mr Cameron is a Tory and, after three years in government, has earned the affection of fellow Tories. Movement conservatives are far less happy… 
[Cameron is] a Tory through-and-through, which means that he belongs to a class that has certain conservative prejudices but which shies away from dogma. The key thing for him is the gaining and holding of power, of keeping it in the hands of his class and out of the hands of all those who threaten its interests. 
In response to Tim Stanley’s article (here), Andrew Cadman filled in the historical background on the Bloggers4UKIP site (here):
The Tory Party was… the ancient predecessor to the Conservative Party, originally formed to protect vested interest and the status quo during the reign of Charles II. The party adopted the mantle of conservatism much later under it's leader Robert Peel, whose maxim was the much more progressive idea of reforming the bad but preserving the good in society… 
However the Conservative Party has never been able to get rid of the canker of Toryism, and throughout it's history an inner core of aristocratic or well-born Tories have always cynically used the party as a very effective shield for the preservation of elite interest. This has been especially true since extensions of the electoral franchise meant that the numerically small number of high-born Tories were vastly outnumbered by the total voting population. The strategy always adopted by the Tories within the Conservative Party has been to co-opt various small 'c' conservative sections of society under the party banner in order to remain in power and see off the threat of socialism.
Most dim-witted movement conservatives (including myself) had assumed that the main reason the present government had done so little to halt immigration or the spread of wind-farms or to support grammar schools or to undertake a root-and-branch reform of the welfare system and the NHS was because of the need to keep their appalling coalition partners happy. But Cadman thinks Cameron and Osborne’s Toryism is the real problem:

A conservative is in favour of grammar schools, whereas a Tory sees their destruction as helpful to the preservation of their own public school educated dynasties. 
A conservative believes in the wealth-creation of free market capitalism, whereas a Tory is happy with corporatism, better preserving as it does the old boy network.  
A conservative would support traditional marriage, whereas a Tory sees little value in doing so, as the breakdown of marriage damages the poor far more the than the rich. 
A conservative would help the traditional family in the tax system, whereas a Tory sees the lower orders as mere units of production to be sent out to work. 
A conservative would believe in limiting immigration, not least because of it's impact on local communities, a Tory has no interest in doing so and just sees another source of cheap labour… 
A conservative would support a fee market in energy, whereas a Tory supports wind farm subsidies, as they transfer resources from the taxed poor to those with landed estates. 
A conservative has set principles, whereas a Tory is a Vicar Of Bray.
This analysis might also help to explain John Major’s recent call for the government to do something about the erosion of people’s savings resulting from years of low interest rates.  Members of the elite to which Osborne and Cameron belong have sufficient funds to access inflation-busting investment schemes. Besides, they usually hold much of their wealth in shares (often in the family business) – and there’s nothing like low interest rates to create a booming stock market.

It would also explain why Osborne has – bizarrely – decide to stoke a property prices bubble at the bottom end of the scale. When the bubble bursts, it won’t affect the value of the top-end properties owned by the Camerons and Osbornes of the world, especially as they’ve handled the super-rich with kid gloves.

There’s an obvious parallel to be drawn with America, where the Republican Party is locked in a struggle between its current rulers – high-spending big-state Washington politicians who only believe in power (i.e. Tories), and the traditional, principled, grass-roots small-staters who make up the Tea Party (i.e. movement conservatives).

I’ve been trying for years to turn a blind eye to this sort of pseudo-Marxist class-war analysis – and I’m not saying I buy it completely – but it certainly explains why a Conservative Prime Minister has been so arrogantly relaxed about introducing policies seemingly designed to drive traditional party supporters here in the squeezed middle utterly mad.

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