Roger Scruton is in many ways the country’s leading Conservative intellectual, and it is always worth reading his work, whether on pessimism, beauty, wine, aesthetics, sexual desire or on politics.
In the current issue of the Spectator and expanded upon on the Conservative Home website we have, in his familiar tone of slightly fusty despair, an attempt to refashion Conservatism into something that is relevant for the modern age, but yet maintains the values that are at its core.
He has produced a manifesto with the help of Rodney Leach, and Gwythian Prins. “Conservatives” he says ” believe that our identities and values are formed through our relations with other people, and not through our relation with the State,” To that end he attempts to, “rethink the principles that should guide our policies. And we need to embed, within those principles, the complementary aspirations of both sides of the conservative temperament – Burke’s vision of a social order based on continuity and the rule of law; and Robert Peel’s and Margaret Thatcher’s belief in free trade and greater liberty for those who seek to better themselves and their families”.
He then presents us with 10 principles, starting with the biggie,
“The Nation State is the sole vehicle for democratic legitimacy”. This has long been a cause close to his heart and his book on the need for nations is a fine exemplar of why supra national organisations cannot be democratic and lack the basic concepts of trust and belonging. This bleeds simply into the point that without the ability to control borders then the nation is not, in fact a nation. For the bonds of reciprocal loyalty are stretched beyond breaking point.
He defends the sovereignty of Parliament, and the right to remove our governors and change the law amongst ourselves as essential to the very idea of democracy. He states very clearly “But whenever possible our law should be made in Westminster, or in the common-law courts of our kingdom – not by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels nor by courts of European judges.” He argues that Liberty is not as some would suggest defended through licence but by self-restraint. “liberty is founded on personal responsibility and a respect for others, whereas licence is a way of exploiting others for purely personal gain. Liberty therefore depends on the values that protect individuals from chaotic personal lives and which cherish the integrity of the home, in the face of the many threats to it.”
The environment must be cherished and the quasi state of Quangos and para-governmental organisations should be driven out of the temple. Business should be able to operate as it sees fit within a moral framework created from below, created through a virtuous circle of high trust and honouring contracts and obligations. We do not need so many laws if we are able to trust one another.
Education should be freed so that it becomes a contract between parents and teachers rather than a tool with which to inculcate the latest fashionable nostrums. On Law and Order he states rightly that “We have too many laws, too loosely applied. The safety of citizens, and their freedom to go about their business undisturbed, must be a priority” and makes a call for the police to once again become part of society, rather than as something outwith society as an organisation of control. The Military should move back to governance by Queens Regs.
And on culture that great amorphous quagmire of a political battlefield he says we should advocate a “cultural policy that reaffirms our national heritage and values. Such a policy should acquaint the people of this country with the institutions, traditions and achievements of which they can be proud. We need to change cultural direction, away from self-denigration towards a cheerful and confident reassertion of the national idea.”
All this he says is common sense, and if properly explained and proclaimed would gain the support of a majority of the people of this nation of ours. I have to agree with him.
Where I disagree with him is that he thinks the Conservative Party should embrace all this.
I am not sure why they need to bother. UKIP already does.