From Mr Alexander Boot:
The evolution of The Times
mirrors that of the Tory party. The paper, for so long a universally respected
mouthpiece of conservatism, has become the embodiment of everything
objectionable in British politics.
It unfailingly puts forth the cause of republicanism patterned after
the US model. This, according to their Executive Editor, should even include
things like presidential (at a pinch prime-ministerial) primaries.
The paper’s party sympathies are faux
Tory, which is to say pro-Dave and everything he stands for, which is nothing
much this side of homomarriage. In foreign policy, The Times is close to American (and exceedingly British)
neoconservatism. The principal tenet is that if at first you don’t succeed,
bomb and bomb again.
If Britain doesn’t meekly obey EU diktats, she’s isolated from Europe.
If Parliament, just this once, refuses to commit the country to yet another
idiotic adventure, Britain is isolated from the USA.
To listen to The Times, we’ve
become a pariah state surrounded by an isolationist wall with razor wire on
top. That’s not exactly the impression one gets in my part of London, where
many of the 300,000 French immigrants live, but perhaps Times columnists reside in a different part of town.
Rachael Sylvester’s article Britain
Hasn’t a Clue Where Its Loyalties Lie is a typical Times product. Replace ‘Britain’ with ‘Rachael’, ‘its’ with ‘her’,
and the title would be much more accurate.
“After the Syria vote last week,” she writes, “the UK is now distanced
from the US and increasingly detached from Europe.” Considering that France is
the only European country that has so far supported aggression against Syria,
we really haven’t detached ourselves from Europe on this one. But The Times, like the heart, has its
reasons that reason knows not of.
As a rule, I can seldom put my brain to sleep for long enough to engage
arguments pitched at this infra-low level. But one sentence caught my eye, for
inadvertently Miss Sylvester’s silly article posed a serious question: “Too
many politicians from all parties know what they are against but they are less
keen to say what they are for.”
To narrow this to just one party, what is it that the Conservative
party is for? What would it like to conserve?
I’d suggest that a Western conservative – regardless of his faith – can
only answer this question one way without losing intellectual credibility. His
desideratum has to be the preservation of whatever is left of the religious,
cultural and political heritage of Christendom.
This explains why political (as distinct from cultural) conservatism
has had such a rough ride in America. An American who calls himself a
conservative would probably answer the lapidary question by saying ‘the
Constitution of the United States’.
But that was the constitution of a revolutionary republic, the first
secular state in Western history that came into being as a result of insurgency
against a legitimate – and benign – government. What would it like to conserve?
The secular, proto-socialist fallacy that all men are created equal?
This explains why real conservatism in America has been taken over by
libertarianism or, even worse, neoconservatism.
The libertarians define themselves by their opposition to the central state,
which is close to the conservative position. But they also fight tooth and nail
against the influence of the familial groups (clan, parish, village community,
cooperative, trade guild, kindred) that have traditionally defined the
Christian body politic.
The neocons, on the other hand, are an odd cocktail of Trotskyite
temperament, Keynesian economics, welfarism and unbridled aggression – all
mixed with vaguely conservative phrases, misunderstood and misused.
On the other hand, British conservatism practically defines itself. The
triad ‘God, king and country’ encapsulates neatly the essence of British
conservatism, both its transcendent inspiration and political expression.
The starting point of deliberation for any Christian thinker is that
the key institutions of Christendom, which is to say of the West, must somehow
reflect the teaching of Christ and, on a deeper level, his person.
The essence of Christ, as accepted by all apostolic denominations, is
that he is both fully divine and fully human, uniting within himself the
transcendent and the transient, the timeless and the temporal, the physical and
In politics, this unity is communicated by the triad of ‘God, king and
country’. However, the parallel could be made to work even harder if we relate
it not to the umbrella slogan but to a specific political system.
I’d suggest that constitutional monarchy underpinned by qualified
franchise is the only method of government that truly reflects the essence of
Christendom and its founding religion.
A monarch ruling by divine right or some similar claim to legitimacy
represents the transcendent aspect, a factor of constancy linking generations
past, present and future on a timeline demarcated by Creation at one end and
the Second Coming at the other.
At the same time, an elected parliament is a temporal institution
translating public interests into political action and also preventing the
monarch from becoming a despot. To achieve a workable balance, Parliament’s
power must be real but limited, the monarch’s power limited but real, and they
should both feel accountable to the institution that is itself accountable to
I realise that this understanding of conservatism is a million miles
away from that of Dave, The Times or
any of its columnists. But I know of no other that could explain not only what
we are against but also what we are for.
Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes