On talented, vainglorious, entertaining, and anarchic parliamentarians

On talented, vainglorious, entertaining, and anarchic parliamentarians

The Transformation of the Conservative Party: Nick Boles’ Resignation

Nick Boles

The dramatic resignation of Nick Boles from the Conservative Party on Monday, April 1st, marked a significant moment in the party’s transformation from a pragmatic ruling party into a vehicle for nationalist populism. Boles, a key figure in David Cameron’s modernisation project, had been a pioneer in bringing progressive ideas to the Tories. As one of the first openly gay Tory politicians, he won a seat in Margaret Thatcher’s hometown of Grantham, demonstrating his influence in transforming the party’s image. However, the departure of high-quality individuals like Boles, coupled with the rise of politicians like Mark Francois, is a clear indication that trouble is brewing within the Conservative Party.

David Cameron’s modernisation project, while notable, did have its flaws. The Cameroons’ focus on wooing the metropolitan elite overlooked the concerns of the left-behind population. By embracing “double liberalism” – the combination of free markets in economics and libertarianism in social policy – without addressing the negative consequences for disadvantaged individuals, the party inadvertently fueled populist sentiments. Furthermore, the actions of former Conservative leaders, such as Cameron and George Osborne, who profited from the system after leaving office, contributed to the populist backlash. It’s worth noting, for instance, that Cameron is currently engrossed in renovating his house in the Cotswolds. Nonetheless, the Tory modernisation project is still ongoing, with hopes that individuals like Boles, now an “independent progressive conservative,” will continue to contribute to the party’s evolution.

Policy Exchange, the intellectual engine behind Tory modernisation, deserves recognition for its work in rethinking capitalism and social policy. The organization’s efforts to address growing wealth inequality and public alienation are commendable. Of particular significance is their focus on reviving a sense of place and improving the built environment. After years of utilitarianism, it is refreshing to have policy thinkers exploring concepts such as “belonging” and “beauty” in the context of societal well-being.

The Legacy of Speaker John Bercow: A Mix of Grandstanding and Leadership

Throughout his tenure, Speaker John Bercow of the House of Commons has faced both criticism and admiration. Despite his penchant for grandstanding and the use of elaborate language reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ novels, Bercow has managed to navigate the challenging landscape of the House during these unprecedented times. Day after day, he maintains control over a chamber filled with loud and self-important individuals, an accomplishment in itself. His eccentric sense of humor is also apparent, as seen in his iconic bellowing of “PETER BONE,” a nod to the Tory MP’s idiosyncrasies. Bercow’s long-term achievement in asserting the power of Parliament against an overbearing executive further solidifies his positive legacy, ensuring his place in history as a leader who preserved the integrity of the House.

The Idea of a National Government and the Challenges It Faces

John Major’s recent suggestion that Britain might necessitate a government of national unity has generated push-back from various political factions. While creating a national government is an admirable idea, the practical difficulties are immense. The circumstances surrounding the last peacetime national government were unique: the party leaders, Stanley Baldwin and Ramsay MacDonald, shared a close personal relationship and leaned more towards moderation than their respective parties. Moreover, King George V played an active role in engineering the whole process. The presence of a general deference culture in Britain at that time also contributed to the success of the initiative. However, in the present circumstances, the ideological and personal chasm between party leaders, the disinterest of the royal family in intervening, and the absence of a culture of deference make the formation of a national government extremely challenging. Such an attempt may even strengthen the populist belief in elite collusion, further dividing the country.

Nevertheless, the idea of a national government may gain traction in the long term, as Theresa May’s recent desperation to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates. The intransigence of the right-wing of May’s party has pushed her to consider collaborating with an unlikely partner. As Britain grapples with the complexities of Brexit and its long-term trading relations with the EU, finding a stable majority capable of providing pragmatic solutions becomes paramount. While the future of both parties seems to lie with their ideological extremes, the confusion surrounding Brexit could force the short-term formation of a national government to ensure the completion of the Brexit deal.

The Core Philosophies of Conservatism: Anarchy versus Respect for Institutions

One of the most unsettling statements to emerge from the Brexit chaos came from Steve Baker, a Conservative MP, who proclaimed, “I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river.” This chilling sentiment goes beyond a momentary rant; it embodies the core philosophy of a faction within the Conservative Party that has abandoned the basic principles of Conservatism. The respect for institutions as embodiments of compromise and the restraint of emotional self-indulgence has been replaced by radical ideology. Baker and others like him are not true Conservatives but rather Jacobins, anarchists, and national populists who pose a significant threat to the future of the party. The challenge of saving the Conservative Party from these vandals is one of the most crucial political issues of our time.

True Conservative sages have expressed profound reverence for the House of Commons, highlighting its pivotal role in the nation’s history. From Walter Bagehot’s depiction of it as a “great and open council” to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s view of it as “the grand inquest on the nation,” the significance of the House cannot be overstated. Sir Sidney Lowe referred to it as the “visible center” and “working motor” of the British constitution, while Enoch Powell asserted that without Parliament, the history of England loses meaning. These sentiments are in stark contrast to the destructive rhetoric of Steve Baker and his ilk, underscoring the urgent need for true Conservatives to reclaim their party and reaffirm their commitment to the principles that have guided them throughout history.

Correction (April 9th, 2019): In the original version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Margaret Thatcher was an MP for Grantham. While she hailed from Grantham, she was never its MP. We regret the error.