7 December 2023
By Danny Kruger.
Book review by J R Thomas
This column has often suggested that for political parties to succeed they must have a well-argued core philosophy, from which a set of policies will logically spring forth. Thus Gladstone’s Liberalism; Disraeli’s One Nation Toryism; Attlee’s radical socialist Labour; and Thatcherism. Not so successful were Wilson’s ‘White Hot Technology’; Blairism; and Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, marketing ideas not drawn from any deep principles.
Lord knows what the Tory Party stands for now, but sometime soon it will have to let the voters know. Danny Kruger, one of the brighter batch of Tory members elected in the 2019 landslide, has written a slim volume – almost a fat pamphlet rather than a book – setting out what Conservatism might look like for the mid twenty-first century. It is a valiant and interesting attempt to suggest a remodelling of political society to reconcile the liberals (old meaning), libertarians (academic meaning), and paternalists (defunct meaning, almost) who have formed the Conservative coalition over the last hundred years or so.
Kruger defines what he calls “The Idea” – the sense that the liberal revolution which began with Hobbes and Lock has long outstayed its welcome and the western sense of individual liberty has grossly outrun our nature as human beings. We now think we are each God, perfect in our selves, says Kruger, and all sense of duty and care and obligation has fled our souls. He proposes “The Order” which sounds a bit Dan Brown-ish, but is a suggestion that we need to rebuild our systems and state so to encourage us to begin to care about our neighbours. He identifies three areas where this approach would fructify – sex (as in strengthening the family); political society which needs to be more responsive to citizen’s needs and wishes; and the economy where business has become too powerful for its own good and certainly ours.
This is a very interesting opening to the debate, if in many ways almost a call for us all to be good and go to church more often. What it does not do, by and large, is to suggest what policies might begin the new Conservative revolution, though he does argue that local councils should cease to be elected but work like jury service, with each of us liable to do a years council service. That indeed might be a big improvement to local democracy.
At least somebody in the Conservative Party recognises the need for much thinking; and after all, the time is probably coming when lots of Tories will have spare time to think. Expect a deluge of books, pamphlets and blogs in late 2024!
“Covenant” by Danny Kruger, published by Forum (149 pages), is out now; £20