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Groves MatthewMatthew Groves was a
Conservative Councillor in Surrey for eight years before running for Parliament
in Plymouth Moor View at the last general election, where he achieved a 7.9
percent swing to the Conservatives.  After this he worked for the Church
of England's Parliamentary Unit promoting the role of the church in education
as well as raising with MPs the constitutional dangers of Nick Clegg's plans
Lords reform.

Conservatism is more
of an attitude than a political dogma. 
While there are many in the modern Conservative Party who adhere to
political creeds such as libertarianism or liberal conservatism, surely a
desire to conserve and a scepticism about sudden change is more about values
and attachment to the tried-and-tested than ideology or political theory.  And that is a good thing.  I still believe that while the majority of
the British public are not necessarily overly enamoured with the concept of the
invisible hand of the market or shrinking the state, they do possess an innate
conservatism.  It is that commonsense
sceptism about political theories that kept the ancient institutions of state,
the monarchy, the established church and the House of Lords intact in the
turbulence of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries and saw the Conservative
Party flourish in the era of universal suffrage in the last Century.  Lose touch with that conservative attitude
and the Party loses the foundations of its support.

That is why it is
deeply worrying that the Conservative Party seems to have developed an enthusiasm
to be seen to be doing and changing.  My
suspicion is that most people would prefer it if politicians did less not
more.  The trouble with politics is that
it can attract the sort of person who wants to make their name and usually a
name is gained by changing something, whether or not the change is good – Edward
Heath taking Britain
into the Commonmarket or Nick Clegg’s abortive attempt to destroy the House of
Lords spring to mind.  The Conservative
Party should be the natural foil to this – it represents the attitude so
pithily summed up by the second Viscount Falkland:  “When it is not necessary to change it is
necessary not to change.”

It seems that many of
the areas of policy where the Conservative Party has been perceived as
vulnerable in recent times are where they have been more radical.  It is people’s natural conservatism that
leads them to resent the growth of the supermarket at the expense of the local
high street and it is again conservatism that leads people to resist
development in their backyard; indeed the whole urge to protect the environment
is a sort of conservatism – the conservation movement.


I believe Mr Cameron
got it right when he realised that much of the alleged toxification of the
Conservative brand could be cured while remaining true to Conservative
values.  It is right that we are now a
party of conservation and a party of localism. 
Localism, despite its being given a name like a dogma is fundamentally
conservative – as Edmund Burke pointed out patriotism springs from people’s
membership of the little platoons rather than loyalty to a large, overweening
state.  The Big Society is truly
conservative – it is about voluntary organisations holding society together
rather than that same overweening state the Socialists look to.

Unfortunately, the
Coalition I believe obscures the clarity of who the Conservatives are.  What could be more un-conservative than
attempting to unravel the constitution by abolishing the House of Lords or
attacking marriage by changing its definition to include same-sex partnerships?  It is very worrying to many voters with a
conservative outlook to see the Party that should represent them allowing the
Liberal Democrats to run away with policies that attack institutions far more
important to a conservative outlook than deregulation of the market.

What is also
disconcerting is when MPs seem to rush headlong enthusiastically into
reform.  Those reforms may well be
justified, but if conservatism is more of an attitude of scepticism than
political dogma, much as elected police commissioners may fit in with Localism,
should we not have approached the policy with more of a sceptical try-it-and-
see, piecemeal approach?  Instead there
seems to be something almost zealous about the Party’s approach to change.

A case in point is the
reform of the laws of succession, being rushed through Parliament in one
day.  To a Liberal Democrat such as Nick
Clegg the longstanding nature of primogeniture is a reason to overthrow
it.  Surely to conservatives the approach
is one of not rushing, but thinking through the implications.  Of course, it probably will be better for the
survival of the monarchy if primogeniture is abolished, but there will be
unforeseen implications and that is exactly why the conservative response
should be to carry out this reform in a slower and more considered way.

One is reminded of the
Church of England being disconcerted by the enthusiasm of Methodism.  The Anglican Church reacted in a conservative
way; it exhibited an attitude of scepticism about the enthusiastic hymn-singing
and evangelism.  Now in the long run it
was probably a good idea for the congregation to sing hymns, but the
conservative attitude is to take these things step-by-step and not to rush
people who might be uncomfortable about change. 
So please let’s have a little less enthusiasm and a bit more English
reserve!

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