Many believe that the Conservative Party may be about to self-destruct as a result of the government’s failure to deliver Brexit. The problem is that conservatism itself has lost its way.
Conservatism isn’t a creed or ideology but a way of approaching the world. As the name implies, it’s about conserving what is of value in a society. Leaving the EU is all about conserving national sovereignty and democracy. The Tory party leadership, though, has abandoned much more than that.
When Soviet communism collapsed, many conservatives believed their political fox had been shot. With Tony Blair’s New Labour embracing the free market, they were stuck for a galvanising cause to replace anti-communism.
So they decided to elevate liberty as their governing creed. This was a terrible mistake. True freedom is guaranteed only by cultural constraints such as law, tradition, institutions such as the family or inherited networks based on intangibles such as professionalism, duty and trust.
As a result of the Tories’ failure to hold this cultural line, the centre of political gravity has been shifted to the left. Labour now occupies the position formerly held to be far left, while the Tories have become indistinguishable from the “soft” universalist left. This is now said to be the centre ground and anything challenging it is “the right”: not just wrong but innately irrational, bigoted and despicable.
This has left an enormous hole where conservatism used to be.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.