Where the Conservatives should look for inspiration

Theresa May speaking at the Conservative party annual conference in Birmingham, October 2016

Kate Maltby’s analysis of the Conservative party’s disarray (My party has gambled away its reputation, 17 July) fails to see that its neoliberals are the equivalent of what the Trotskyists were in the Labour party of the past. Neoliberals are an entryist group standing for a body of economists’ ideas that can’t be implemented in a real, living diverse society with complex people in it, because it is a simple imaginary theory, totally anti-statist and individualist, as opposed to the far-left totally statist and collectivist version. Both are essentially authoritarian, not democratic.

What Maltby ought to recommend to the Conservative party is paying more attention to the continental version of conservatism, which has continued its success as exemplified in modern Germany, strongly statist to ensure a hierarchical integrated society with a powerful but decentralised state to provide the social and logistical infrastructure for the economy of modern business and industry as well as social order for the population.

The real political distinction in the UK at present is the conservatives’ unequal social and economic hierarchy (and individualised competition everywhere, partly under neoliberal pressure) versus the left’s focus on equalities (and equal rights and collaboration). That would give us plenty of political difference in policies to fight about, without all the authoritarian neoliberal economic theorising to confuse the arguments.
John Veit-Wilson
Newcastle upon Tyne

 Can I suggest another conservative political philosopher other than Edmund Burke that should be essential reading for the political reformers of the Conservative party and that is Michael Oakeshott. He would have been horrified that the party he loved had embarked on a reckless period of social experimentation known variously as either public choice theory, neoliberalism or Randian economics. He said “to be a conservative … is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried”.

When the party of traditional values abandons them in the name of social revolution, it can be no surprise that it is unable to speak with authority on the great issues of the day. The ethos of constant changes fits ill with the party of tradition. It is now the party of fractious groups all competing to claim ownership of the party. The result is the unappealing squabble of a group of largely middle-aged men and women over who has ownership of a set of policies that were the revolutionary policies of their youth, not realising that time has passed them by.