At times like this when many commentators are saying our core beliefs have been repudiated it’s good to revisit our actual understanding of Conservatism.
Conservatism can be defined in terms of eternal beliefs; patriotism, the rule of law, property rights, free enterprise, support for the family. But it can also be understood as a disposition.
As party leader, Michael Howard defined Conservatism as the champion of the ‘little guy’:
"No one should be over-powerful – not ministers, not trade unions, not corporations, not the European Union. Wherever we see bullying by the over-mighty, we must stand up to it. Wherever we see one group flicking two fingers to the law, we must fight back."
Within this framework it’s easy to think of Conservatism as an opponent of the market practices of recent years. We are the party of scepticism and should probably have been more suspicious of claims that the business cycle had been abolished and that new financial instruments were quite as good as they appeared.
Alastair Cooke, former head of the Conservative Research Department (we think when David Cameron worked there), sees Conservatism as a constantly changing quantity. This is what he writes today, over at The Blue Blog:
"Change is the key to understanding Britain’s Conservative Party. It
seems at first sight a paradox. A conservative party would surely want
to stop things changing. The genius of the Conservative Party in
Britain embodied in its greatest leaders – Peel, Disraeli, Stanley
Baldwin, Churchill, Harold Macmillan and Margaret Thatcher – has been
to recognise that each generation needs to amend the social and
economic systems it inherits to keep abreast of changing times.
Sometimes the changing times are pretty dramatic: think of Margaret
Over to you: How would you define the Conservative Party’s mission?