Inspired by R.J. Stove’s article on Evelyn Waugh, I have been looking through Robbery Under the Law again, and have come across, in the introduction, a very comprehensive credo that defined his conservatism:
“I believe that man is by nature, an exile and will never be self-sufficient or complete on this earth; that his chances of happiness and virtue, here,remain more or less constant through the centuries and, generally speaking, are not much affected by the political and economic conditions in which he lives; that the balance of good and ill tends to revert to a norm; that sudden changes of physical condition are usually ill and are advocated by the wrong people for the wrong reasons…”
And so it continues for a page. I found myself signing up to the majority of its pledges . I throw it into the pot for two reasons: firstly it seems to be a preoccupation of Amcon bloggers to define their conservatism, and it might be helpful; secondly because I do not recognise this type of conservatism in the leader of the current Conservative Party of Britain, David Cameron. His response to popular rage at the irresponsible spending spree of our policians has been to offer radical change and power to the people. We will be consulted over the internet, a fatal idea; we will be able to deselect sitting mps if they behave badly, a good idea in theory; the whipping system that is used in the U.K parliament to ensure that party members vote in a block with their party will be dismantled so that genuine debates on laws can be held in parliament. In this way laws can be scrutinized and emended before being effected. This sounds fine but it would soon be subverted in practice. His worst and most dangerous idea is that we should be able to run local government by local referendum via the internet. If 5% of any given local population wants a referendum on some issue such as policing they can call a referendum, and we are all going to have to start pressing the buttons on our computers. As if it is not bad enough being tyrannised over by a priggish and hypocritical parliament, a second layer of bossiness is going to be added to the burden that we carry, that of the interfering power crazed neighbour. This profusion of ideas which , if implemented, would overturn our existing constitution, would throw us Brits into a state of terrible confusion. These ideas are a smokescreen thrown up in a panic to give the impression that el Camarada Cameron is the man who can create institutions that will force our politicians to be more honest. The real truth is that our whole society needs to become more honest.
David Marquand in an excellent article in the Guardian links the petty venality of the british politicians to the economic crisis and blames the two things on a moral turpitude in western civilization shared by all of us, rich and poor alike. This has been engendered by a neo-liberal vision that “the unhindered rationally calculated pursuit of individual self interest in free competitive markets (is) not just economically efficient but also morally right.” this he says “bathed the flagrant disparities of reward that marked the neo liberal era in the odour of sanctity” and led directly to the greed of the householders, borrowing more than they could repay, of the bankers and their bonuses, and the politicians and their seedy house deals.