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Cllr Iain Frost

Thank you Andrew for this interesting article, I like the historical connections you've made to the current alignment in our politics. Although there is some connection between catholic collectivism and Labour I still think it's just clever re-positioning mainly (if not purely) for marketing and election winning. But your linking Whig beliefs to a modern Conservative context is the closer of the two and coupled with the 'And theory' makes (from an ideological perspective) a strong set of core beliefs to use against Labour.

Bill Brinsmead

Why are you a Conservative? My saloon bar chums stated a key difference thus:

• Socialists [New Labour, LibDems, Greens and many others] believe that they know what is best for us the people.

• Conservatives believe that we the people know what is best for us.

Not sure about Lilico’s 2nd point - favouring the interests of small traders over concentrated wealth. More Poujadist than Whig. We favour the interests of consumers over producers. Another key difference with socialists.

Adam Tugwell

Andrew, one of the most interesting pieces that I have read on CH for a while and full of truths that many could benefit from reading and understanding.

The problem with any political philosophy today is the way it is communicated to the masses; True Conservatism and what it stands for is complex and there are probably many who do not understand it fully. Once these ideas are communicated in a much more basic and therefore accessible way for the benefit of the entire spectrum of voters and then policies are developed and delivered in the same way, the whole Party will see and understand the benefits.

In the meantime:


Simon Newman

Interesting piece.

I don't think Whiggism is the only strand in modern Conservatism, though it was certainly the dominant strand under Thatcher and to a lesser extent under Major. There is also an Old Tory strand of the Julian Critchley sort which is more comfortable with 'Catholic collectivism' and whose modern heirs are close to Blairite New Labour values. The analysis also leaves out the continuing influence of Marxism on Labour, and via cultural Marxism on the social attitudes of both parties. Marxism is clearly not 'Catholic' in any sense, it has always been a creed of revolution and destruction.



An interesting and erudite article. I still think you over-state the Tories are Whigs bit (based on my dim memories of reading history. I also think Tories as believers in liberty/freedom is a better way of describing historic Tory beliefs than tolerance.


I also agree with Simon.

Tony Makara

Interestng analysis. During the last ten years it has certainly felt like we have been living under a catholic cabal. One which has superceded our traditional Anglo-Political culture. Our belief in parliament being the supreme manifestation of the people's will has been eroded. The last decade has seen us subject to top-down politics. Instruction from on high, handed down in a moral and patronizing way. The future Conservative government will end this era of concordat-politics. As a member of the church of England, the church of our monarch, the church of our nation, I have felt disempowered politically and culturally over the last ten years.


Every Conservative (new or old) should read this for it is what being a Conservative is all about. Well done.



I don't think I agree with you much (although I entirely agreed with your post on the BBC which I spotted earlier).

Re your above post, I was happily reading the first half till you confidently state "The future Conservative government will end this era of concordat-politics". I see little likelihood ahead of that given Project Cameron's desire not to offend but to be compassionate, tolerant (a word that appears to be used increasingly loosely), inclusive etc. As for the Church of England, over the years it has struck me as being more of a problem than a solution.

Mrs Campbell

Replace "Catholic" with "catholic" meaning "universal" and I'm a New Whig to my cotton socks. Excellent analysis but - one thing missing, the only collective that fits is the conservative one that everyone born alive shares, the family. Now let's think of the right simple phrases to hit the media with. Freedom works

Braveheart historian

An "interesting" re-write of history. Unfortunately any half-way decent historian would find this a revisionist twaddle at best.


The Tories of the 19th Century were (occasionally) strongly in favour of vested interests - landowners, rotten boroughs being but two. Also pretty keen on Empire - but not necessarily free trade.

There are many good reasons to be a Tory - but this sounds like you really want to be a Liberal (the inheritors of the Whig mantle)?



I must say your interpretation seems closer to what I can recall (albeit some time ago) being taught at school and university.

Andrew Lilico

I suggest to "Braveheart historian" or whatever else he fancies calling himself this week, that he consult Blake's definitive histories of the Conservative Party, rather than relying too heavily on Wikipedia. He will find my rendering quite orthodox.

On his other point, I commend him to my sentence: "The Conservative Party is thus the inheritor of the entire eighteenth-century Whiggish tradition". As in 18th century, not 19th century.

Andrew Lilico

Incidentally, if, unlike, presumably, Braveheart "historian", you bother to read more than the first two paragraphs of the link he provided, you will see that it is entirely in accord with what I said - merely lacking any discussion of the period just after the formation of the Conservative Party. Nineteenth century revisionists such as Disraeli attempted to read back into the eighteenth century debates between "Tories" and "Whigs" - indeed in some cases taking this back further in time. The authoritative orthodoxy - which the sadly ill-informed "Braveheart" would know if he really were a "historian" - is that all significant eighteenth century politicians called themselves Whigs, and instead belonged to various factions.

I have no desire to be a Liberal - this is a nineteenth century Democrat concept associated closely with John Stewart Mill, and although the inheritors of Manchester Liberalism are quite active in the Conservative Party, that is not my preferred model. Equally, I am no more a "Tory" than was, for example, Sir Robert Peel. I am a Burkean, an eighteenth century liberal, a Lockean, a Conservative - that is to say a "New Whig" (which was Burke's term for the position of a "Conservative").

Andrew Lilico

Stuart, obviously.

Tony Makara

Bill, Im glad that we agree over the BBC. Sorry you dont agree with me over David Cameron. Yes, David does believe in tolerance, as do I, however by that Im sure David doesnt mean tolance to be wanton licence. As regards the church of England, well it is the church I was christened by, the church of our crown, nation and commonmwealth, and no doubt will end up being buried by it. So the church of England is very much part of my identity. What is it about the CofE that rankles with you?


I have to say I completely disagree with this (albeit very well written) article.

The point about Conservatives is that they are in a sense, cynics about human nature and distrustful of grand schemes and ideologies - and of concentrated power (human nature being what it is such power is bound to be abused).

This explains practically all their ideas - they are distrustful of change (e.g. immigration) because it is disruptive and often for the worse, while being in favour of the freedom of the free market (because people are usually acting in their own self interest the free market is the best way of organising economic production). The reason we support the family is because it is a tried and trusted way of ensuring that the old and young are looked after - because people have a genetic bond to these individuals it is better than relying on some abstract state mechanism.

The Tories have supported in their time, free trade/protectionism, the empire/decolonisation, the free market/corpratism, tax cuts/tax rises (when Disraeli fought Gladstone), Europe/the nation state. They are ultimately pragmatic.

I feel Andrew you are taking a very particular view of one strand of Conservatism. There is a great overlap between Whigs and Conservatives - notably because they distrust the state. But the reasons are different - Whigs believe in individuals, Conservatives distrust the arrogance of state power and the hollow claim to act for 'the greatest good for the greatest possible number'.

But personally I would rather have a Blairite than a Whig in power.

The Whig view is ultimately not a popular one - which is why it vanished. Should we go down this route just watch our party diminish to a small rump - the issues of today are not 'Parliament vs the Executive' (important though this is), or 'standing up for ethnic minorities who wish to retain their culture and religions' - the BNP is routinely getting 10% of the vote in council (and a national) by-elections - people are worried that the country is fragmenting apart - including most of our voters, and race relations/immigration is the number one issue (followed by the not particularly Whig issues of crime, the health service, and education.)

We need to be pointing out that the only way things can get better is through a hard headed appraisal of what needs to be done - and applying the Conservative principles of responsibility, accountability, and distrust of ideology and change, (which have by and large been present throughout our history) not wandering out into an ideological desert.


I should also point out, given Cameron's emphasis on social breakdown and supporting the family he is no Whig - thank God - despite some of the hard right's attempts to portray him as some 'limp wristed liberal etc. etc.'


Very interesting, Andrew. I'm not sure Catholic social and political thinking has ever been as monolithic as you suggest. I was very interested in your current believes which are coherent, reasonable and attractive.
I have always been sceptical about basing current Conservative believes on history. The party has existed for so long and its tradition is so rich that you can identify precedents to legitimise almost any policy. I'm sure there are lots of contributors using the moniker 'traditional Tory' who have entirely different (but equally valid) interpretations of that tradition. So. I like your present political views; not so sure about the history.

Tony Makara

Our instincts are not always something we can explain or understand but our instincts do tell us how we feel. The last decade of government has had a catholic feel to it, a foreign feel to it. The Cherie-church is not the natural faith of an Englishman. We feel that instinctually, we sense usurpation and we don't like it.

Andrew Lilico


I agree that there are a number of strands to Conservative thought. And the Whiggish concept I offer here is perhaps a little pure to be, alone, the basis of an election-winning programme. Indeed, that is precisely why I have argued elsewhere that our best approach is to reach out from our Whiggish core to appeal to Paternalists - see, for example, my "The Role of Paternalism", http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2007/01/dr_andrew_lilic.html

However, in recommending this path I always urge that we recognise our Whiggish core - we cannot be authentic otherwise.

You are also correct that Cameron is not (offering himself as) a Whig - he is a Paternalist. This is a problem, as it creates an ideological gap between him and the overwhelming view of the Party. I believe that he must recognise this as a problem, and instead offer a programme that reaches out to Paternalists (for that *is* the right way to go) in a fashion that is authentically Whiggish.


Interesting article. But if New Labour are populists who worship the People's Will and Conservatives by contrast believe in the Sovereignty of Parliament, why on earth are Conservatives calling for a referendum on the latest EU treaty?

Surely as believers of Parliament's Sovereignty, they should want the Treaty to be ratified by vote in Parliament (in the way previous treaties have been ratified). A referendum is a popular plebicite - People's Will writ large.

Is this an example of Tories becoming confused about true Conservatism - or are they just being opportunists?

olly onions

interesting stuff

Tony Makara

silvertree, Although New Labour have portayed themselves as worshiping the peoples will, no government of recent times has done more than Labour to roll back democracy. In the name of democracy they have bolstered the power of the state. In the name of freedom they have sought to index our people. The question of a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty is a fundamental matter of sovereignty. Also a question of government integrity as Labour did promise a referendum. However we have learnt that Labour practice the language of duplicity so their promises are always worthless.

Jacob Bite

"oppose the succession of the Catholic despot James II."

despot, indeed! I think you mean the rightful King of England and Scotland whose throne was usurped by that Dutch pederast William III

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