In a post on Brexit I had asked the following rhetorical question: “Can much of the spirit of either Burke or Cobbett be found anywhere in practical politics today?” As far as the spirit of Cobbett goes, the question remains rhetorical. But Theresa May’s new Conservative Manifesto has more of the spirit of Burke than one would expect from a successor of Margaret Thatcher. For instance:
Because Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.
True Conservatism means a commitment to country and community; a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do; a respect for the local and national institutions that bind us together; an insight that change is inevitable and change can be good, but that change should be shaped, through strong leadership and clear principles, for the common good.
We know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals. We know that we all have obligations to one another, because that is what community and nation demands. We understand that nobody, however powerful, has succeeded alone and that we all therefore have a debt to others. We respect the fact that society is a contract between the generations: a partnership between those who are living, those who have lived before us, and those who are yet to be born.
In the final analysis I think that Burke’s is an inadequate political philosophy. But it is certainly preferable to standard-issue neoliberalism.
Header image: Words on Stone.