The British Right Wing platform, the Conservative Woman has just announced a change of name to TCW defending Freedom. Explaining the name change, editor Kathy Gyngell wrote on August 2nd 2021:
This reflects, belatedly I’m afraid, the major shift of gear that’s taken place on the site since the start of the first lockdown, from promoting social conservatism to defending the even more fundamental principle that is the prerequisite of any political discussion: freedom.
She later goes on to say:
One look at yesterday’s newspaper headlines should be sufficient for readers to understand why we are no longer prepared to risk the reputational damage of having the word conservative, albeit with a small c, in our name. We think it is irreversibly contaminated.
For some time now all of us at TCW have felt increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that anyone, though mistakenly, might associate our website with the Conservative Party or, worse, the Government. New readers, who are coming to us in droves, unacquainted with our ‘philosophy not the party’ mission, might well do so. So tarnished and damaged is the word that we can no longer bear the thought that anyone could think for a second that we are anything at all to do with the party which has so shamed and betrayed its name and the country; a party that has nothing to do with the fundamental values we still espouse.
Well, I perfectly understand Kathy Gyngell’s frustration. She and the many who support her and Laura Perrins magnificent work since “ConWoman’s” inception in 2014 will understand too.
ConWoman has been marked by a direct, indeed strident, style and that has not changed. TCW is a no nonsense, tell-it-from-the-heart expression of traditional Conservatism displaying the intellectual punch of its Oxbridge educated founders, Kathy Gyngell and Laura Perrins.
For the first 4 or 5 years, it defined its Conservatism succinctly in its four word motto:
FAITH – FAMILY – FLAG – FREEDOM
That compares for brevity and pertinence with the more detached and circumspect approach of the influential Centre-Right British think tank Policy Exchange whose motto is:
PROSPERITY – PEOPLE – PLACE – PATRIOTISM
Or rather that was its motto and its sole definition of Conservatism. The motto no longer figures on their website [accessed August 3rd 2021] but is still available on their Twitter account. The only allusion to Conservatism on the Policy Exchange website is to be found on the About Us page where they describe their research as “evidence based” and “empirical”.
It appears that the Conservative intelligentsia is fleeing from the word “Conservative”. Indeed they have a distinct tendency to avoid defining clearly what conservatives believe.
This is typical of the Right’s approach to defining Conservatism in recent decades. Either keep it hyper brief as already mentioned, or else explain it in tortured convoluted terms which all boil down to describing aspects of conservatism and speaking of Conservatism as “an approach”.
Roger Scruton did a tremendous work throughout his life to uphold Conservatism and oppose the totalitarian mindset implicit in Left wing thinking. Of all recent intellectual efforts, I suspect his “Conservatism – an invitation to the Great Tradition” is the best because it is a sympathetic philosopher examining the subject matter chronologically. But Scruton was not a politician speaking with political conviction.
For me, the one person who managed to give us a clear idea of modern Conservatism in the English tradition was the Irishman, Edmund Burke. He was the first to tackle the emerging issue in his Reflections on the Revolution in France published in 1790. The first, and to my mind, the best which is why I published my own edition of his work as Core Conservatism: Edmund Burke’s Landmark Definition.
In that edition I identify the core Principles and essential Tenets which Edmund Burke elaborated, explicitily and implicitly, in his historic definition and explanation. It was a work of reaction against revolutionary change, spelling out the dangers and shortcomings. It was patently Right Wing. But it was also an elaboration of the essential principles and practice which must necessarily be adopted by those who seek to conserve the best of the past, and hand it on intact to future generations.
Burke’s critical tenet concerning the need to reform the particular in order to conserve the entire edifice was the guiding principle adopted by the great English Conservatives of the 19th century, Sir Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli – note that Peel was no hereditary Aristocrat but from a northern industrial family while Disraeli was a Jew. So, when the Ideological Left constantly harps on about social change, the conservatives quietly get on and get results via their everyday demonstration of common decency. No accident then that the first, the second and the only women Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom to date were both Conservatives.
So I won’t be fighting shy of the word, Conservative. I will not refuse to endeavour to identify the clear and proper meaning of Conservatism and to comment on current affairs accordingly.
ConWoman is rightly embarrassed and outraged by the Conservative Party and Conservative government. Even so, not everything they do lacks merit. Much is indeed wrong and, believe me, my Conservative MP knows my feelings !
I shall stick with promoting the classic meaning of Conservatism with the Christian faith at its heart. Now more than ever, it is crucial to remind the British Conservative Party and government of its roots, its heritage, its identity and its responsibilities.
And for the voting public to know that too !
Please note http://www.RightWing.Institute will be retained indefinitely and can still be used to access the website.