Category Archive 'Tory Party'

06 Jul 2024

Peter Hitchens Mourns Conservatism… and Britain

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J.M.W. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838, National Gallery, London.

The British Conservative Party frittered away its electoral mandate. One Tory PM after another incompetently briefly occupied No. 10 Downing Street before ingloriously decamping, chivied out by the ravaging British Press, and demonstrably failing the implicit test of leadership and backbone.

They turned on Margaret Thatcher and deposed her to make way for the first wave of Tory pygmies, who paved the way for Tony Blair who gleefully banned fox hunting, the most iconic British pastime, and opened the floodgates wide to a tide of color enthusiastically intended to effectuate a Great Replacement of the British people.

Post-the Revolutionary Era of Blair, the Tories restored to power could not even agree among themselves to exit the EU. Boris was flamboyant and consequently popular enough to challenge the consensus of mediocrity, but COVID stimulated Puritan gravity and Boris got in hot water for failing enforce pious conformity with official regs during the plague-time. Bill Clinton would simply have shrugged, brazened it out, and changed the subject. But Boris wilted and was unmanned. Sad, sad, sad.

Post-Boris, Tory PMs came and went like Mayflies. The media and commentariat attacked and one after another, they scuttled and ran.

It was depressing to see Britain ruled by a Pakistani. The world turned upside down, indeed! But Rishi Sunak demonstrated his much vaunted brilliance by scheduling a new election at a point in which his party’s and his own popularity had come to resemble COVID’s.

Labour apparently got slightly fewer votes this time than when it was last defeated by a landslide, but Tory voters stayed home and a bloodbath swept away the party, including a number of luminaries and big shots.

It is obvious that the Tory Party lost precisely because it stood for nothing but the “Me, Too, Just a Little Less” species of Conservatism. It is easy to understand why Peter Hitchens is mourning.

Conservatism has died, not from an assassin’s bullet, or even from old age or because it was run over by a bus. It has died because there is no call for it anymore. This isn’t to say that nobody wants it, but that nobody cares that we want it. The same thing has happened to most of the things I like, from the forgotten Aztec chocolate bar to railway restaurant cars, from woodland peace to proper funerals.

In fact, conservatism — not to be mistaken for its loud, overdressed cousin, the Conservative Party, which somehow lives on — will probably not even get a proper funeral. Its passing will not be marked by sonorous gloom and penitence, and stern dark poetry borne away on the wind at the muddy edge of a deep, sad grave. Nobody can stand that sort of thing now. It will get a cheerful informal send-off with jokes and applause. After all, it won’t be there to hate it. I shan’t be there either. There will be no call for me. …

I thought that there were still quite a few people who actually wanted and liked conservatism. But in fact, there are hardly any. The other day I was asked to define the word, on Twitter, and came up with something like “Love of God, love of country, love of family, love of beauty, love of liberty and the rule of law, suspicion of needless change”. Given more room I’d have added all kinds of preferences for poetry and sylvan beauty over noise and concrete, for twilight over noonday, for autumn over summer and wind over calm, for the deep gleam of iron polished in use over the flashy sparkle of precious metal.

But you probably know what I mean. And all my life these things have been slipping away from me. I am using them as metaphors for conservatism in politics, in education, literature and music as well. My problems arise from the fact that I missed the last train of the old life. But I saw it go. I arrived, out of breath, on the station platform just in time to see it depart.

I saw official London when it was still black and battered, a great imperial capital. I saw the Church of England when it still possessed majesty, dominion and power. I saw, on a sultry August day in 1960, the final astonishing relic of British global naval might, the Royal Navy’s last battleship, towed to the breakers, a modern version of Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. The scene was made more melancholy when the colossal vessel, reluctant to die, grounded on the Portsmouth mud. A great lump rose to my throat, and I still feel a sense of deep half-understood loss when I recall it.

But the nation swiftly got over it, as it had got over the Suez failure in 1956 and our (still unrepaid) default on our First World War debt to the USA in 1934. I felt and heard and lived amid a completely different set of rules from the ones which now exist. British people of that time had been formed by a completely different set of morals, manners and standards. I remember how they spoke and carried themselves, how they expressed disapproval, how even in their hours of relaxation they filled each moment with purposeful activity.


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