Tom Colsy is a director and founder of the Orthodox Conservatives group. Jake Scott is editor of the online Conservative publication The Mallard. He is Head of Philosophy and Ideology at the Orthodox Conservatives think tank.
All worthwhile legacies must be continued. Built upon. During the campaign that preceded his emphatic win last December, the Prime Minister certainly demonstrated that he believed the legacy of the 2016 referendum was worth building on. In voting to leave the EU, the British public stated their belief that the legacies of the United Kingdom, as an independent and sovereign nation, were worth continuing.
These reverberating events placed social conservatives in a curious place that nobody expected them to be – they’re on the brink of relevancy again. The new Conservative voter has little time for supranational rule, gender-free toilets, mass-migration and market deregulation.
Yet these two victories are soured by the fact one of the greatest Anglo-thinkers of all time also passed away during this period. A philosopher, as gentle and considered as he was serious. Roger Scruton was vilified by journalists and Conservative politicians alike during his penultimate year on this Earth, but perhaps Brexit’s conclusion gave him some respite. It’s a comforting thought.
With the passing of Sir Roger, and a Tory majority held in place by a culturally-conservative alliance of working-class towns and rural shires, there has never been greater demand for an old-fashioned, grounded sort of conservatism. One in tune with common people’s concern for one another, their family, and traditions, their love of country, and rejection of forces that try to overcome these bonds.
Orthodox Conservatives is a group that hopes to make room for such people, in a world and political landscape that increasingly refuses to. We believe that the late Sir Roger’s message that Britain’s institutions, cultural inheritance and communities are worth preserving, and not discarding, is a legacy worth continuing and also building upon. We know that there are millions of conservatives who feel similarly, even if their representatives don’t.
As a newly set-up think tank, we will allocate time in order to identify considered, realistic government solutions to areas such as family breakdown, collapsing spirituality, declining social capital, soulless architecture in our cities and suburbs, and crises in education and policing. Our fundamental mission is, as it were, to support the pillars that have always sustained our civility, belief and harmony as a people – and that are weakening each day.
The new Tory base is bound by values, not by class or race. This is the most positive and universal kind of bond – one we should want for our country. But in order to consolidate that union, we must mobilise. We must actively participate in the current political debates of our time, not be mere contrarian onlookers, tutting at all that takes place. Most importantly, we must be constructive and serious.
Nothing about this is impossible and we, like many traditional conservatives out there, believe it is time to move.
What is absolutely clear though, is that if conservatives do not take this opportunity to do so now there will be fewer and fewer of us to ever possibly take up the mission of doing so again. Fewer people are getting married today than ever before, only two per cent of young people in the UK now identify as Anglicans – the state religion. We know marriage and religious belief (particularly Christian) have a significant effect on people adopting conservative sentiment. Their demise, in turn, likely spells the gradual demise of conservatism.
This is unprecedented, and it is yet to be seen if it will be for the better.
We, at Orthodox Conservatives, recognise this urgency and seek to make change to steer us back on course. To make improvements to British society that will universally benefit all, as well as breathing life into our broken, low-trust communities.
There is a feeling amongst our members that the Conservative Party has fallen away from its roots; indeed, we feel that this sentiment is shared beyond our membership, in the country at large. Not only has the Party embraced unreservedly the tenets of neoliberalism, and believes only in the market, but it has capitulated to the Left on so many issues that it no longer represents the vast majority of people in this country.
By playing the political game on the Left’s terms, the Conservatives have accepted defeat at the outset; only by making the case for the principles of traditional British values – the values that made this country into the great nation it is – can the Conservatives (and conservatives) begin to win the political argument.
For one thing, free-market fundamentalism (commonly called capitalism) has exposed the traditional communities and societies that are the root and source of all identity to the ravages of uncaring global capitalism, where all that matters is money, and the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people depend on the capricious sentiments of absent business-people.
Of course, we are not ignorant of the benefits of capitalism where they exist – the improvement in living standards being the most obvious – but neither are we ignorant of the dangers and losses of capitalism, that have led us to a world where we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Conservatives should not sacrifice British culture – the nation of small business owners – on the altar of nothing but quick cash.
But neither should the Conservatives think that the British people are as taken with this “woke” guff that the Labour Party keeps shouting about, and keep being led up the garden path. For most people, the most pressing concerns in their lives are finding someone to love and marry, start a family with, buy a home with, and work in a solid job that they know will be there when they wake up in the morning – and they want a government that will ensure this.
Ensure, not provide. To be obsessed with gender norms, the diversity of television casts, and whether a zebra crossing should be a rainbow is actually a dereliction of the duty of good government, in ignoring the real worries of the vast majority of people.
Our aim is to show that conservatism is alive and well outside of the walls of Parliament, even if it is on life-support in the Conservative Party. The Party may have forgotten its roots, but we would like to help it find its way back.