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Sam Tarran

Jacob Bite, King James II was determined to bring the Church of England backed under the control of the Papacy, something that inevitably would have required a more authoritarian monarch. William did not usurp the crown; he was asked to overthrow James II and assure Britain's continued adherence to Protestantism.

I agree with you, Mr Lilico, on the the rights of an individual to go about his business protected from the mob or the state, the concept of a pan-European state, and proportional representation.

Although I'm a little unsure about the historical details surrounding the roots of the Whigs and Tories as depicted in the article, I was more intrigued by this paragraph:

"Sometimes not everyone adheres to the state religion. Sometimes people choose not to use the national language. Other times people take different numbers of wives, do not have weddings, or prefer sexual partners of the same sex. Even, occasionally, there are those who just wear different clothes and do not support the national sports teams."

Conservatives tends to support the notion of a strong (Judaeo-Christian) national identity and strong traditional family units. A 'diverse' nation abound with all varieties of religion and races and languages is not only at odds with the concept of a shared national culture, but shall lead to some form of reaction, perhaps violent, from the 'native' majority that now feels under threat. The rise of the BNP shows this to be true, and if none of the three 'dominant' parties is willing to pledge action against immigration or political correctness, then their support shall rise further.

"For the old Whig this principle meant support for Baptists, Presbyterians, and others who did not support the state religion, and hence who tended to suffer discrimination. For the New Whig this must mean supporting co-habiting couples, opposing the victimization of homosexuals, and standing up for ethnic minorities who wish to retain their culture and religions."

There is a difference between acknowledging Protestant denominations and allowing homosexuals to get married, or Muslims to practise Sharia Law in their communities. Although homosexuals should be free to do whatever they desire in the private, to offer them completely equal rights to wedded heterosexual couples would simply undermine the institution of marriage, as would offering co-habiting couples the same rights.

The independence of the family is the key to social stability in society. To quote D.H Lawrence, family is a "foothold of independence on which to stand and resist an unjust state. Man and wife, a king and queen with one or two subjects, and a few square yards of territory to call their own."

Jscob Bite

"Jacob Bite, King James II was determined to bring the Church of England backed under the control of the Papacy, something that inevitably would have required a more authoritarian monarch."

Yes, but I'm sure he had his bad points too

"William did not usurp the crown; he was asked to overthrow James II and assure Britain's continued adherence to Protestantism."

Who by? The plotters of illegal coup! I shall be inviting myself to overthrow the present German interlopers and return this land to the House of Stuart.

The Huntsman

I had not thought of myself as an heir to the Whig Tradition until I read this so I was fascinated.

Might I ask you to fill briefly where The Liberal Party that existed until just after WW1 came from and what its antecedents were. Was it an adherent of catholic collectivism in yr view?

Are today's LibDems true heirs of that Liberal party or are they merely, having SDP blood in their veins, a mutation of Labour?


An interesting discussion.

I have always thought Andrew has over-emphasis ed the Whig inheritance so am grateful for 1AM's post.

I also found Sam Taran's post interesting (particularly the bit by DH Lawrence; I didn't know he had it in him, as they say).


I guess my views about the Anglican Church go back to the 1980s when it seemed that prominent Anglicans reflex was to oppose/criticise whatever the Tories were up to.

Andrew Lilico

The [email protected],

Loosely, matters are thus: From the 1830s, the Foxites (by then just called "The Whigs") and Radicals banded together to form the "Liberal coalition". These subsequently formed a wider coalition with the Peelite Conservatives (roughly the front-benchers and loyalists that had sided with Peel over the Corn Laws) - including in particular Gladstone. In 1859 this wider coalition formally became the "Liberal Party".

On the Irish Question the Liberal Unionists left the party - these consisted of Hartington's Whigs and Chamberlain's Radicals.

As you say, this party was still successful until after WWI. A series of terrible defeats in the 1920s, the rise of the Labour Party, and the success of the Conservative and National governments in attracting major Liberals (such as Churchill) led to its demise.

The Liberal Party was principally a Radical party, incorporating particularly elements of nineteenth century Liberalism (particularly inspirsed by JS Mill) and rising Democrat and Social Democrat notions. This form of Liberalism is still with us - particularly in the work of Rawls. Its Democrat notions and ideas of self-determination were very destructive in world politics in the 20th century. It is highly pervasive in our society, and few people are prepared to gainsay Democrat or Rawlsian ideals. The Liberal Democrats are genuine inheritors of this dangerous and damaging intellectual tradition. I plan to devote a column in a few weeks' time to attacking a well-known recent book of Rawls'.

Tony Makara

Bill, I know exactly what you mean. There are times when I despair at some of the instruction coming out of the Church of England. However the church of England is the church of our nation and rather like a football team going through indifferent times we are duty bound to stick with it through thick and thin.

Andrew Lilico

Incidentally, [email protected], I guess that almost any Conservative member or activist today would have been a Peelite, and might well have joined the Liberal Party initially.

Account Deleted

I disagree - the positive elements of the Whig programme (distrust of an inefficient and overbearing state) - can be more easily absorbed into a Conservative programme than vice versa - without ditching firm lines on law and order and so on...

The Huntsman

Thank you for that.

I never once contemplated joining the Liberal Party as a youth!

Without giving too much away, their MPs could comfortably fit into a 2CV then and they were definitely fringe material. It was difficult to discern what they stood for in any event.

My family were Yorkshire Coalowners (decent ones, I might add)and solid Tories through and through and had been since the early 19th. Century. My gt uncle stood for the conservatives against Arthur Greenwood in 1935 and I was brought up on Tory politics. Growing up in the Wilson/Heath era was a complete antidote to leftism or liberalism for me.

I describe myself on my blog as being of the Libertarian Right so I guess I ought to tick all four of the boxes of new Whiggish principles above adapted for the modern age.

One post above by Simon Newman reminds one that there was a period until 1975 when the party espoused 'Butskellism' which put simply seemed to be an acceptance of the status quo arrived at in 1945-1951. That seems to have been an aberration from the nature of Toryism only ended by its overthrow under Mrs. T.

The role of the Catholic Church is an interesting one. One thinks of it as a monolithic organisation which is deeply intolerant of dissent (just ask the Cathars!) and has a thoroughly dirigiste streak to it down to telling people what kind of contraception they may or may not employ: the ultimate nanny state.

I hope you can perhaps keep this thread open for a couple of days as it has led to some good posts and makes one think a bit more about why one is a conservative and how our party's past manifests itself in our current situation.

A very thought provoking article for which I for one am most grateful.

Matt Wright

Interesting article but it would be very foolish of some readers to come to the conclusion that there is some inherent mismatch between Conservatism and practising Catholics,


Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:48

>it would be very foolish of some readers to come to the conclusion that there is some inherent mismatch between Conservatism and practising Catholics<

Essentially correct, and of course I hadn't said that there was. Practicising Catholics dissent from all sort of encyclicals - the two I mention are no different. There are many excellent Catholics in the Conservative Party - IDS being perhaps the best-known example.

Another view

I just returned home and read your article. Andrew, you’re a brave man and were no doubt ready for the pot-shots of other historians jealously guarding their special periods. However, I think your analysis is flawed:
1. Catholic social and political thought is not as monolithic as you suggest. Rerum Novarum is very different from Quadragesimo Anno, the last written in the heyday of fascism. Indeed, Rerum Novarum has a great deal to teach modern Conservatives and is notably at variance with Blairism. Significantly, the encyclical thought that the state should intervene to help families in extreme need but that otherwise it should not interfere. This is very different from the Blairite approach, which has disadvantaged spouses who want to stay at home, has not supported marriage as an institution and has undermined parents on disciplinary matters. Also, the idea that classes need not automatically clash and that social cohesion is essential for a stable political order, chimes very well with Cameron’s desire to mend the broken society.
2.The era of Whig supremacy did not date from the Glorious Revolution. James II was doomed once most of the Tories turned against him. The Glorious Revolution was a joint Whig/Tory enterprise. The Tories were still dominant in the latter years of Queen Anne’s reign. The Whigs became dominant under the early Hanoverians. They were linked to a Continental intervention in British affairs: cf the EU.
3.The propensity of the French to riot owes more to the Revolutionary tradition, which was a violent departure from its Catholic past. Also, we had the Gordon Riots, the King and Church riots of the 1790s, Peterloo, Cable Street and the Poll Tax riots. Catholic collectivism had nothing to do with it.
4.Did the Whigs really favour small traders rather than large accumulations of wealth? I thought the Whig grandees owned vast estates while the Tories were the party of the country squires.
5.If you find the people’s will oppressive, why would a representative assembly be any better? Both have the capacity to tyrannise minorities if they want.

Andrew, what you describe as modern Whig virtues is fine. Just defend them. Don’t try to locate them in the past; it doesn’t work. People in the past had different values and eighteenth-century Whigs would probably be scandalised by modern society.

Andrew Lilico

Another [email protected]:51

1. I didn't suggest that Catholic social and political thought is monolithic
2. I didn't claim that the era of Whig supremacy dated from the Glorious Revolution
3. I didn't claim that the reason the French riot is because they are Catholic collectivists
4. This was a position that varied through the eighteenth century, but certainly by the late eighteenth century the view of Adam Smith were to the fore in Whiggish thought - and Smith was very much against vested interests.
5. A representative assembly is far superior to the people's will, since in a representative assembly acting through a constitution democracy can be tamed and subjected to checks and balances.

On your last point, Whiggish Conservatives have always striven to place their beliefs as an organic continuation of the past. I am no different.


Andrew I agree with the arguments put forward in your article, however in your principles of modern conservatism you leave out the nation-state entirely, when Whig history was heavily nationalist and the Conservative Party has always been the national party, the party that actively promotes the national interest against internationalism. One of the divisions between the Pittites and the Foxites is that the Pittites stressed defence of King and Constitution against the Foxites belief in Tom Paine-style universal/international liberty derived from abstract principles rather than tradition.

Another view: The Whigs' favouring British intervention on the Continent was to maintain the balance of power in Europe, to prevent any single power dominating Europe. The EU is exactly what the Whigs would abhor, the unification of Europe into a single power, which British statesmen have nearly always sought to prevent.

Another view

Andrew,back from dinner. Apologies if I did not express myself clearly.
1. You referred to Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno as if they were much the same. My point is that there are many crucial differences between these two. You created a straw man called Catholic collectivism which I don't think existed in the form you described. Rerum Novarum in particular expressed a number of views
different from NuLabour -on the family as I outlined. Incidently, the small traders you mentioned elsewhere also received praise in the encyclical.
2. I did not mean to imply that you stated that the Whig supremacy began in 1689. Making the Glorious Revolution central to the Whig interpretation of history was a legacy of Macauley. However, the Revolution was a Whig/Tory entreprise as I mentioned. Specifically,it was not just that the'Whigs favoured Parliament against the King under Rome.' Most of the country, including the Tories by that time, did so, too.
3. I was mislead by your comment that on the Continent, where Catholic Collectivism has dominated, there has been a tradition of bloody revolution and the rise of the mob. I assumed you were implying a causal relationship, which I dispute. Did you mean it was just coincidental?
4. I think we can agree that Walpole, Finch etc were not against accumulations in wealth. I'm indebted to you for the information that Adam Smith was specifically a Whig economist.
5. I still don't see the difference. There can be checks on the people's will (eg 60% need to agree) just as you can have checks built into representative institutions. Both can be hostile to minority rights if they have a mind to be

I don't deny your right to look for historical precedents. It is just that our history is so varied you can find one to legitimise almost any current view. I'm more interested in the ideas you are putting forward than their alleged provenance.

Simon Newman

"Interesting article but it would be very foolish of some readers to come to the conclusion that there is some inherent mismatch between Conservatism and practising Catholics"

Many of my favourite Conservative American thinkers & writers are Catholic, they seem less inclined to temporary hysterias (eg war fever) than many Protestants. Growing up an Ulster Unionist I was naturally suspicious of Catholicism, but Catholicism's being rooted in the ages can give a very valuable perspective. Many of the best British Conservatives are Catholic (as noted above) - and I think genuinely religious left-wing Catholics like Ruth Kelly have an integrity that makes them worthy of respect. OTOH many of my least favourite Labour politicians are Catholic, too - but generally like Cherie Blair they're Marxist first, Catholic second.

Andrew Lilico

Another [email protected]:01

1. No. I said that Corporatism was explicitly inspired by these two encyclicals. (Do you dispute this?) I said that Corporatism was the major expression of Catholic Collectivism at that time. But Catholic Collectivism is a much older idea that Corporatism. Indeed, like many ideas that are really *that* big, it is more like a picture, which has interpretations/applications that vary through the ages. My painting of that picture was (for reasons of space) brief and incomplete, but I feel did point at what I was saying adequately enough for the purpose.

2. I don't dispute that the Tories, also, were involved in the Glorious Revolution. Nonetheless, it remains true that the Whig/Tory division arose precisely and specifically over the Exclusion Bill, and that the question concerned whether a Catholic could ascend to the throne - a Catholic that, in the Whig view, would inevitably and as a matter of conscience, attempt to by-pass Parliament and rule under Rome (and they were right!).

3. I did not say that Catholic collectivism made the French riot. But it did not prevent disorder, sustained and repeated over centuries, on a scale and frequency completely unknown in England-and-Wales.

4. I didn't suggest that Smith was a specifically Whig economist. And accumulations in wealth are not the same thing as vested interests (albeit that Smith might sometimes have veered perilously close to thinking so).

5. I think that arguing the case for a Whiggish as opposed to Democrat constitution would take us well beyond the scope of the present discussion. Suffice it to say that I believe that representative democracy is a friend of order - it allows a smooth exchange of government - but that popular democracy is an enemy of liberty, for the will of the Mob is unstable, by nature ill-informed, and often unpleasant.

I'm pleased that you are interested in my current ideas. That is of course the key - that we must understand what we believe and be able to give coherent expression to it, and stay authentic to it as we reach out to others.


I completely disagree with this article. I think we are now reprising the early eighteenth century with metropolitan Whigs aided by big business and involved in european engagement against insular country Tories.

I think your analysis is clouded by your being too enmeshed in the metropolitan elite yourself and generalising from the particular. An historical analysis based on the personal political travels of individuals, which you use as a justification, is a sanitised history myth that conceals with the mysts of time the sort of behaviour of Miraj and Woodward. The Conservative Party has never been Whig although it has certainly had some Whig refugees and has had its Whiggish figues. These have often been over-represented at the top of the Party. Historically, the Conservative Party has often been lead by oddballs, bolted on to a Party they scarcely like, as a vehicle for their personal ambitions.

Another view

This is my last shot today as I have a job to do and a family to support. I agree that the confines of a short article means that we all need to simplify and compress. I don’t deny the existence of Corporatism. It’s your identification of Catholic Collectivism with the third way and Blairism that I dispute: the attitude of Labour to the family being a noted example I cited. Also, the virtues (and vices) associated with the Whigs – urbanity, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, enjoying the good things of life – fit more easily with NuLabour grandees than modern conservatives ….unfortunately. Indeed, given the current stress on social cohesion by IDS and DC I think you could make a better identification of catholic collectivism with conservatism and New Labour with Whiggery.
Incidentally, one of the interesting features of the eighteenth century was the realisation that that society was broken then, as well. We could do a lot worse than look at Coram and his work for foundlings and the work of others on prison reform and drunkenness.
Nothing that you originally wrote and subsequently clarified demonstrates that ‘favouring the interests of small traders over concentrated wealth’ had anything to do specifically with the Whigs. I think your comment is based on a wish not evidence.
Regarding the rule of law, beware of seeing something uniquely special about English history. – a very Whig trait. Eighteenth-century commentators like Voltaire regarded England as rather unruly. We also have a long history of popular disturbances from the Gordon Riots to the Poll Tax Demonstrations. Luckily, the British political class had the skill and self-interest to accommodate social and political change in recent centuries and the proponents of change have had the forbearance to accept ameliorative reforms rather than revolutionary upheaval. However, it was a close call at times and I hope our luck continues. Respect for the rule of law is, I believe, an outcome, not a cause of this. More important is what happens today. Is the rule of law and liberty better protected in the UK than in countries touched by your tradition of Catholic collectivism?
I hope I never seemed picky. I did enjoy your article and the subsequent debate.


So what is the Conservative Party for now? Being conservative, the need to deal with today’s problems does not mean that we cannot look to the past for a guide to the way forward. I would suggest that the Conservative Party does have principles, a philosophy, which can be identified and applied to the current situation to analyse the social and economic problems of Britain in 2007 and to enable a 21st century politician to advocate new policies for an old Party. I believe that there are five principles that are fundamental to the Conservative Party. They have been constant in its philosophy since Harley first formed the Party in the early eighteenth century. Obviously, throughout that time, the order in which the principles have been expounded and their relative importance has changed. They have, of course, been differently nuanced over that period and have therefore led to hugely different policies. Nonetheless, I would argue that those core principles, which are what the Conservative Party is really for, have not changed. That in every election over the last 300 years, the Conservative Party has always stood more for these five principles than its main opposition, whether that has been Whig, Liberal, Old Labour or New.

The five Conservative principles are: -
1) British (or more specifically English) nationalism. The Conservatives have always been the patriotic party. It has an uncomplicated, if often unarticulated, pride in being British (English). The Party opposed to a German King, the Party of Empire, the Party against Home Rule for Ireland, the Party of Wellington, Disraeli and Churchill.
2) A hatred of foreign (i.e. European) entanglements. Flowing from the first principle, the Conservative Party has always treated Europe with disdain. The Party that ended the Whig wars with Louis XIV, the Party that sought a balance of power in Europe, the Party of “splendid isolation”, the Party of appeasement, the Party that hates the EU, the Party of Harley, Liverpool, Salisbury, Baldwin and Thatcher.
3) A belief in the virtues of small government and a distrust of Whitehall. Paradoxically for the patriotic party, the Conservative Party has always distrusted government from Whitehall and believed, subject to their duties to the State and to their local community, that Britons should be as free as possible from central government interference. The Party opposed to a standing army, the Party of country gentlemen, the Party that set up London Boroughs, the Party opposed to Socialism.
4) Low Taxation. Flowing from or indeed towards the third principle, the Conservative Party has invariably argued for low taxation or at least for less taxation than its rivals. It is strange that, although this is the principle that has most often been observed in the breach, it is also the most universal. Even the Parties of Macmillan and Heath, whose support for the other four principles was iffy at best, passed this test.
5) Individual Liberty with Personal Responsibility. Actually the summation of the other four principles, the Conservative Party believes that on average a Briton can be trusted to make the right decision for themselves, their family, their community and their country. That they have the right and indeed the duty to exercise that judgement free from Whitehall or EU interference, using as much of their own income and capital as is not absolutely necessary to support the public services. As a corollary, they have the responsibility to accept the consequences of those choices.

The Huntsman

To what extent is the Tory Party unique in Europe?

How many other "right-wing" parties that follow the Christian Democratic tradition can be compared to it?

I have a theory which disavows the Europhile mantra that we and Continentals share "common values": my work as counsel at the Yugoslavia Tribunal led me to believe this to be so. The Civil Lawyer's mindset concerning human rights is actually quite different from ours and the way in which their concept of civil rights has become part of their law is utterly different from ours - there is a whole new article out there on that!


I'll vote for that Jonathan.

Matt Wright

Jonathan, thank you for making a stab at what Conservatism is in this debate. I'm glad you did this. I've been saying for a long time now that many people find it hard to understand what we stand for. I think this is becoming more of an issue.

I think in the past this didn't matter as much because voters perceived that while we might be a bit harsh we were business minded people who could be trusted with the economy and "managing things". I think this is true and still true (although the ERM debacle certainly didn't help) but that people expect more than this in the 21st century.

Your list is similar to other descriptions I have seen about Conservatism. The problem with them is that they are invariably just lists that appear like menus. I think for activists in the party there is an "acquired taste" understanding of how these lists hang together but voters find it hard to see the coherence.

The early items in your lists tend to be English-centric notions of what it is to be British which is a) not very helpful for Conservatives outside of England and b) not of itself a philosophy. I think only item 5 begins to shed some light on what we are about. In many ways life is about how you unite to apparently opposing notions of freedom and responsibility. In fact the two are related and Conservatsim is the working philosophy for balancing them.

I think it is vital that we really understand what golden thread there is that holds together what we believe in and that we create a very strong narrative that brings this to life for people today.


Andrew Lilico

Jonathan gives a tale of (part of) what it is to be a Tory - indeed he draws his inspiration fron the Tory Party, not the Conservative Party. A Tory should add various other elements, but I shan't quibble. The key thing is that I never claimed to be a Tory. I am a Conservative. Tories are part of our Conservative coalition, but are by no means typical of Conservative thought (indeed, I think they are rare among thinkers, being more popular amongst those that do not think - I don't mean to include Jonathan here). Whigs dominate today, with Paternalists also important and becoming more important. True Tories are significant in number but becoming rarer - and are clearly unelectable; and the number of Corporatists is dwindling.

So, to be sure, I am happy that Tories such as Jonathan support the Conservative Party, but I don't believe that his set of principles is in any way a complete representation of mainstream Conservative thought. Neither, crucially, do I believe that his set of principles speaks to the needs of our age. What we need is a coalition between Whigs and Paternalists. Cameron offers that, but for the moment the focus is on the Paternalist rather than the Whiggish element - and that is a mistake. But I believe he can adapt...


But Andrew this was never about you but about what you consider to be the principles of Conservatism. I am very happy to accept that you are a Whig. I am a good deal less happy to accept that a Whig is a Conservative.
I suspect that DC is a Tory of the 20th century guilt ridden kind and as you say a prisoner of paternalism.

Gorgeously sweeping assertions like "clearly unelectable" are not argument. My examples of Conservative principles are in no sense wholly Tory and span 300 years. Mrs Thatcher would answer an unequivocal yes to all five and she was scarcely unelectable. If you are saying that the last 10 yrs reverse and negate the last 300 yrs then I ask for proof or indeed any evidence at all. The missing 20% of the electorate are IMHO waiting for someone from the Conservative Party to enunciate some of these five principles that they are not getting from the three party fix.

What is unelectable is Whiggery and has been so for the last 150yrs. No one in the 21st Century gives a fig for the Protestant Constitution or mercantilism or government by nobs for nobs.

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