Toby Baxendale is an entrepreneur who is the CEO/Founder of Direct Seafoods, a Director of the Edelweiss Fund and also Chairman of The Cobden Centre.
Last month on ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie asked “What is Right-wing?”. In this article I seek to answer the question, using small “c” and little “l” to denote the conservative and liberal systems of political-thought and Capital “C” and “L” for the respective political parties of those names.
On the Origins of the Terms Left and Right-wing
After the French Revolution of 1789, those who sat on the right hand of the Legislative Assembly were supporters of the Ancien Regime, of the Monarchy and Aristocracy, those on the left were the radicals who would oppose its reinstatement. So the conservatives seeking to conserve were Right-wing and the liberals, seeking to entrench the move of power away from the old arrangements and into that of the people were left wing.
What does it mean to be a conservative and hence a person of a Right-wing disposition? I summarise here Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism to help with the question.
On The Conservative Disposition
Peel’s Tamworth Manifesto was aimed at
“that great and intelligent class of society... which is far less interested in the contentions of party, than in the maintenance of order and the cause of good government”.
There are two axioms of conservatism; the first is spelled out in the above. The second axiom is that contract is not the foundation of society, but authority is:
“Society exists through authority, and the recognition of this authority requires the allegiance to a bond that is not contractual but transcendent, in the manner of a family tie.”
Scruton points out that you do not look after your parents when they are older because contractually they looked after you when you were a baby; there is piety that transcends this relationship, it trumps contract. That is akin to our relationship with society as individuals.
As much power as possible should rest outside of the Commons - this prevents excitable legislation in favour of short term fads like, “civil partnership,” “the free market,” the “welfare state” that fundamentally upset the existing social bonds.