Sunday, 6 May 2012

Conservative Philosophy


Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’ Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’ ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’ Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism. (Mr Blair would have been equally baffled.) 

John Casey quotes this exchange from a meeting of the Conservative Philosophy Group. 

Hungarian conservatives in fact rallied behind the Communists in 1919 and 1945 hoping to get back Transylvania. Anti-Communists rallied behind Ceausescu from 1968 onwards because he was defending Romania from the USSR

Enoch Powell of course was right and Mrs Thatcher here was being a nineteenth century liberal, though she was also a conservative. The liberal failure to understand that men fight for their country not for ideals explains many things. It explains why Jews and Arabs fight for the same piece of land. It explains why we and the other combatant countries fought in the Second World War which was not a struggle against Nazism or Communism or racism or dictatorship but a fight for national survival on every side including that of Soviet Russia.

The Conservative Philosophy Group's Conservative Essays hugely interested and shocked me when I was eighteen, especially Maurice Cowling's remark that it was necessary to fight the class war but subtly and his dismissive reference to the "emollient"  liberal conservatism. Edward Norman's essay on Christianity and Conservatism I  of course loved as I love every word that great man has written.


  1. "Conservative Philosophy Group's Conservative Essays"

    Where can I find these?

  2. I bought them in a remaindered shop in 1980 before I went up to university.