Not with a small “c” at any rate
London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg wonders why the practical party has given itself over to a dreamy ideology that is not rooted in actual realities. Some quotes from traditional Conservatives show how far the party has moved from what it used to be.
Brexit would be a step into the unknown. It is based on a romantic reimagining of a past that never existed driven by contradictory views of what had been (the greatness of the Empire and the small island nation standing alone in 1940). It is a call for a huge change to be made without a plan. If implemented it would lead to a radical reshaping of our external relationships and our society in ways that few have analysed or understood beyond the most vapid of slogans.
Brexit really is not conservative at all.
And so a Conservative party heading dreamily and enthusiastically towards a Brexit to which it has given a great deal of emotion and little thought is not a conservative party at all.
Conservatism is not really an ideology. Philosopher Michael Oakeshott says:
To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded … the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.
The traditionalist Edmund Burke:
It is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.
Rudyard Kipling in the start of this poem epitomised the traditional practical approach to politics that Conservatives used to take when presented with a scheme, a vision, an idea, a dream. They wanted to know how it was actually going to work in practice:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
You can use Kipling’s approach by asking Leavers how their Brexit is actually going to work? More Kipling lessons for Brexit here in an exchange of letters in the Evening Standard.
Winston Churchill was the greatest of all Conservative statesmen. He spoke at the Congress of Europe on 7 May 1948 at The Hague which would lead to the founding of the Council of Europe. Sure, he had dreams. But they were rooted in historical understanding and the practical lessons from the terrible conflict that had just ended and the uncertain prospects that free Europe faced. He as a working politician more than anyone understood that sovereignty is a tool to be used.
In the centre of our movement stands the idea of a Charter of Human Rights, guarded by freedom and sustained by law. It is impossible to separate economics and defence from the general political structure. Mutual aid in the economic field and joint military defence must inevitably be accompanied step by step with a parallel policy of closer political unity. It is said with truth that this involves some sacrifice or merger of national sovereignty. But it is also possible and not less agreeable to regard it as the gradual assumption by all the nations concerned of that larger sovereignty which can alone protect their diverse and distinctive customs and characteristics and their national traditions.
You can read more about Churchill and Europe in this analysis by Graham Bishop, Vice-Chair of the European Movement.
Nick Hopkinson edits the blogs page as Vice Chair of London4Europe (the London Section of the European Movement called into existence by Winston Churchill to promote his ideas for European unity). Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.