The calumniation of loyal conservatives
Perhaps it is usual in the sophistic world politics for factions within parties to cast aspersions about their brothers and sisters and generally denigrate one another. Each clique despises the coterie which isn't quite right on, and the internecine belligerence invariably weakens if not disables the army, as each competing battalion vies for supremacy, seeking to promote its own sergeant-major as supreme commander. In the Conservative Party we have seen it time and again, with the "Turnip Taliban", the "dinosaurs" and the "backwoodsmen". And let's not forget the "swivel-eyed loons". So when Tim Yeo talks of "Extreme Tory activists", he is simply propagating the same destructive narrative, seemingly oblivious to the fact that these 'extremists' are the ones who have bothered to stick with the party and pay their dues through the entire Cameron era, and are still pounding the streets and knocking on doors despite being despised by the metropolitan elite and publicly insulted by enlightened "moderates" like Tim Yeo.
But we see this in the Church as well, as each theological skirmish is portrayed in terms of winners and losers; victors and vanquished; ground won and ground lost. And as the bishops pussyfoot around trying to work out which cabal is kosher, it is invariably the conservatives who are cast as narrow-minded and homophobic bigots, or dogmatic and regressive zealots. It is only Christians after the fashion of Tim Yeo who are enlightened, reasoned and "in touch" with the real world. The other sort are simply chauvinists, xenophobes, racists and extremists.
Cool Tories like Matthew Parris want to expel the "Rabid Right" from his party. "Many of them belong in UKIP," he says. "They should be treated by whips and reported by journalists for what they are: people in the wrong party. Some should be shown the door." And further:
These people are unhinged. How much tolerance should the party’s leadership show (and how much attention should commentators give) to MPs whose mandate has been centrist, who would not have been elected except to a centrist party, but who spend time between elections chucking rocks at the very moderation that brings in their vote? Challenged, they have the cheek to growl and whimper about “the party’s instincts”. That their tiny claimed sounding-board for these instincts (a panel of typically less than 100 serious activists) should echo their own views is unsurprising, given that the local MP has spent a career repelling from party membership anyone under 70 who isn’t a spittle-flecked, obsessively anti-European, immigrant-hating social and cultural reactionary.And it's the exactly same in the Church, except the insults and exasperation are usually couched as "telling the truth in love". What the enlightened ones always seem to forget is that we are a family, united by far more than divides us. In the Conservative Party, it is by the Burkean principles of respect for institutions; defence of private property; the importance of the nation state; maintenance of the rule of law; and societal evolution rather than revolution. In the Church, it is by His blood, which is a darn sight thicker than the watery obsessions of gender and sexuality.
The Conservative Party must be a "broad church" - rather like the via media of the Church of England - not least because conservatism is as variously apprehended and diversely understood as Christianity. If each side persists in deriding and denigrating the other instead of focusing on the primary mission, it is not only the election that will be lost, but many thousands of souls.