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« Crispin Blunt MP: The Case for Malcolm Rifkind | Main | Editorial: Comrade Ottaway defends centralisation of party affairs »


James Hellyer

I'd seen this on BBCi. Predictably all they bang on about are George Bush and "faith". It's almost as if they want the boogyman of the religious right to rail against.

As for the rest of paper, there's no mention. So what does it say and where can we get a copy?

The Political Thinker

You can get it here:

I saw this on the BBC last night. Personally I think they're wrong - although few within the Conservative Party wish to see a "rainbow coalition" - to use the term Oliver Letwin used - as there was during Howard's time as leader.

James Hellyer

Thanks! It has to be said that drawing on President Bush as inspiration marks Cornerstone out as instant bad guys for the BBC, the Guardian and so forth...

The BBC story makes it look like all they said was "copy Dubya".

Ray Davies

The problem is, in a christian perspective, the US is a very religious country and the UK is quite the opposite.


If there is such a christian majority then how come church attendances run at about 2% of the population?

Graeme Archer

I like this article, but I can't get my head round the comments (posted below) about faith. Faith only supplies answers to great questions to the extent that it stops you asking them! That's why it's called "faith"!

Some of us atheists find the "accident" of existence one of the most empowering facets of life. So just a plea to this new group to be wary of not assuming that their views on revealed truth are shared by the rest of us. Because they are onto something very powerful and important about the defects in liberalism, and what we owe our state religion in terms of what it delivers for a stable society - but get the language or tone even slightly wrong and no-one will listen.

Have you read Andrew Sullivan's book about marriage? I can't remember what it's called, "virtually" something. It's excellent, and many of the theories in Edward Leigh's pamphlett about the contrast between liberalism (which sounds nice but is incoherent) and conservatism (which can easily sound nasty but is so vital for stable society) are gone into in great detail there.

Anyway - greetings from a rainy Philadelphia!

This was Edward Leigh's statement that set me off:

"Religious faith allows us to offer explanations where liberalism permits none. Liberalism on its own cannot explain human consciousness, whereas religion can. If atheistic liberalism is right, human existence is an accident of the material world."

The Political Thinker

I must say ... I was listening to this Leigh character this morning on Sky News (after posting my above comment), and he sounded a lot better. Interestingly, he talks about patriotism, flag waving, and so on – Funnily enough, just the other day Dr Liam Fox was talking about how all schools should be required to fly the Union Flag, and how our young should be more patriotic.

Graeme Archer

the andrew sullivan book I enjoyed, and which the Leigh pamphlet made me remember, is called "Virtually Normal".

"I like this article, but I can't get my head round the comments (posted below) about faith."

That point was that the BBC coverage had picked on "faith" out of the "faith, flag and family" triumvirate that MIster Leigh mentioned, in order to draw parallels with the US "religious right".

Ray Davies

God, this is depressing....

There is a way for the Tories to carve out a distinctive position, one that's both intellectually defensible and relevant to modern life. And in this - and the probable victory of David Davis - they're heading further away from it, rather than approaching it.

They could very easily become the party standing for a smaller state and market economics, while being massively socially liberal. Then, they could well be in power for at least a generation if they did so.

Instead, if we follow the Leigh view, we are heading ever more down the road of chasing our core vote - elderly, rural and in the Leigh agenda dare I say, bigoted.

What they don't seem to realise that these types will vote Tory pretty much regardless, so they simply don't need to be pandered to in this ridiculous way.

If I was an ambitious young Tory who wanted to see my party in Government, I would be worried - Leigh, Brazier et al are just like the the Militant Tendency in the Labour part in the 1980s and, if listened to, will hold the party back from having a real chance of ever getting back into government.

Mark O'Brien

I worry that this group would want to use the apparatus of the State as it is to pursue their social goals of faith, flag and family. In other words, they would continue in the vein of successive governments and use the tax code or other financial levers to practically compel people into a traditional lifestyle, whilst those who don't follow suit are consigned to the trash heap. There are two problems with this: firstly, it negates the core conservative principle of the freedom to follow their own lifestyle without any incentives for or disincentives against their way; second, there would be nothing to stop the liberals and socialists of tomorrow using that same apparatus of the State to support the 'alternative' lifestyles that many conservatives have a profound problem with.

I, on the other hand, believe that conservatives should seek to tear down the labyrinthine system of tax credits and social benefits so that nobody is incentivised or deterred from pursuing their own lifestyle. If that were to happen - with everybody paying a tiny amount of tax for what they earned and spent, and with as little as is reasonably possible spent on raw, simple social security benefits like unemployment insurance, I believe that Edward Leigh and his crew would be the winners, because people would no longer be disincentivised from marriage and the 'traditional' lifestyle. Meanwhile the social liberals should have no problem as it would mean nobody is victimised for being gay, a single mother or having three heads!!

Am I being too ambitious in thinking that this is the platform that might bring together all wings of the Conservative Party in that 'change alliance' we all dream of?! That's the O'Brien Plan - take it or leave it!

Ray Davies is the link for the pamphlet.

Faith is very much, excuse the pun, the cornerstone of the document. It is prefaced with two quotes from the bible and carries out with a christian interpretation of "reaching" out to the electorate.

Donald Burling

These look like the kind of policies that will gain our party the respect of principled working-class people - without whose help we will never get elected.

Ray Davies

"These look like the kind of policies that will gain our party the respect of principled working-class people"

What about the majority of the population who aren't working class, let alone "principled-working class" people?

Barry Graham

I agree with Ray, Edward Leigh’s vision would be a complete disaster for the party.
It is not the role of the Tory Party to, effectively, tell people how to live their lives.
I heard Leigh on Radio Five Live today and my heart sank. He came across as a sanctimonious old bigot — not too mention smug.
God — who appears to think he has a direct line to — help him (and us). WHEN will the penny drop that it's attitudes like his that explain why we are still dismissed by so many potential voters.
He finished off by telling presenter Victoria Derbyshire that because he had held his seat for 22 years, it showed the electorate shared his views.
So, it’s nothing to do with the fact that he was lucky enough to represent a constituency so safe it was immune even to a Labour landslide. Does he think voters really took the decision to endorse his personal view of morality (that's assuming they were even aware of it) rather than merely voting for a Tory government.
I would vote for Leigh if he was my local candidate, but in no way would it represent an endorsement of his views.
Incidentally, am I wrong or wasn't Leigh a member of John Redwood's Barmy Army (Theresa Gorman et al) who voted against John Major in 1995? That would say it all really.
As one of the above posters rightly pointed out, the extreme right don't require pandering to because they have nowhere else to go. Just as Blair upset his left wing in the pursuit of power, we should be ignoring our own loony faction.
Apologies for the rant, but Leigh's school of thought is profoundly depressing.
So many people I know who don't — but should and could — vote Tory, including my wife, would run a mile from this doctrine.

James Hellyer

"am I wrong or wasn't Leigh a member of John Redwood's Barmy Army (Theresa Gorman et al) who voted against John Major in 1995?"

He was indeed.

Graeme Archer

I'm agreeing with so much of what the libertarian-tended are saying, it's my instinct also to want a substantially smaller state with less interference etc - honestly. And I don't like the idea of the state using policies to determine particular social outcomes -- and yet and yet -- I also think it's worthwhile thinking about the fundamental issues/problems with the liberal standpoint. As a gay man (I think that's the most sick-making phrase isn't it?) but anyway, as a gay man I most definitely do NOT want to be in the business of subsidising "normal" families - I get damn all out of my "contract" with the state, except for institutionalised prejudice (most notably over inheritance laws and partnership rights) BUT BUT BUT actually where we've ended up since the state decided to withdraw from moral judgement over alternative lifestyles is an explosion in teenage pregnancy, fatherless households etc - all of which I end up subsidising MUCH MORE than I would had these families stayed together.

So it's possible to find a lot of worthwhile "meat" in the fundamental conservative position, even if one is liberal-minded (like I am). Sick-making too is this pathological urge I have to look for win-wins in this debate, sorry.

Obviously what won't work at all is if edward leigh goes on tv and radio, mouthing off about how representing Gainsborough gives him the right to be dismissive of atheism, humanism etc ... that's about two mm away from ranting away like a Daily Mail editorial innit. As someone above said, all that does is confirm prejudice, both in the minds of those who share it (and who will vote Tory anyway) and in the minds of those who find it repulsive (thus making it less likely for them to switch).

James Hellyer


While I agree with your sentiments, I think we have ask whether marriage is the cause or result of stable relationships.

If it is the result, then incentivising it will do no good. Then the real problem is that we incentivise, or fail to disincentivise, less successful models.

Mark O'Brien

"Then the real problem is that we incentivise, or fail to disincentivise, less successful models."

But if the next Conservative government went about incentivising marriage at will, the structure would still be in place for a future government to go back to incentivising those less successful lifestyles of which you talk. Failing to tear away the structure which allows governments to engineer society will mean that one day we'll wake up to a socialist or liberal government which pays people more than ever before for living those lifestyles which worry some and truly anger other conservatives.

James Hellyer


All I'd want to do is take away the disincentives to marriage and the incentives for less desirable models.

While there are many wonderful lone parent familes, for example, they should have no extra claim to be wards of the state.

Mark O'Brien

"All I'd want to do is take away the disincentives to marriage and the incentives for less desirable models."

In that case, you and I are in agreement. I'm very suspicious, however, that Edward Leigh's group want to take it a lot further than that.

Mark Harris

I know I am from across the pond, but as a total anglophile and a devoted follower of Edmund Burke I am alittle confused by all the libertarian -rah,rah- going on. Now, maybe no one has made this point well enough yet, but there is a reason why for so long strong, common sense social policy was tied with free market economic policy.

Libertarianism in the sense of open markets and a total disregard of society leads to socialism. Social liberalism leads to economic liberalism and vice-versa. If marriage falls apart, guess who picks up the tab, the taxpayer. If the family falls apart guess who picks up the tab, the taxpayer. Social liberalism combined with fiscal conservatism is simply impossible and the libertarian dream falls apart.


I agree with you Mark.

Something I call sixties socialism is the inevitable destination of democracies that embrace social liberalism. Sixties socialism combines tolerance of expensive 'lifestyle choices' (on drugs, family etc) with an ever larger state to 'pick up the pieces'.

James Hellyer

Mark Harris says:

"If marriage falls apart, guess who picks up the tab, the taxpayer. If the family falls apart guess who picks up the tab, the taxpayer."

That's why the state shouldn't disincentivise successful models, as it does now through the benefits system, but we should be careful about actually incentivising any model.

Marriages may be stable and enduring relationships, but wen should ask if whether marriage is the cause of that stability, or whether marriage is the effect of stable relationships.

If it is the latter, simply not placing any barriers in the way of couples, should be enought o help them.

Tim says

"Something I call sixties socialism is the inevitable destination of democracies that embrace social liberalism."

No, it's the inevitable destination of democracies that subsidise lifestyle options. As Ronald Reagan said, "governments don't solve problems, they subsidise them."

Traditional familes can be strengthened simply by not disincentivising them and incentivising other models.


James: the choice is not between neutrality and bias, but between which form of bias. The system you favour starts from a presumption that living unmarried is 'natural' and that the choice to marry is an incidental factors. But historically, marriage is a natural way of living too.

Even in the heyday of classical liberalism, marriage was heavily supported. The idea that the state can be neutral with respect to 'lifestyle options' is pure liberal illusion. The state inevitably has an interest in making sure people live their lives in ways conducive to future order and prosperity, including the best upbringing of children.

The best comment on this thread is one by Graeme above - however much you might agree with Leigh et al, you have to give them credit for not cringeing in the face of a failed doctrine. (I say that as one who's probably closer to the Cornerstone mob than Graeme is, but I think his position shows there's ample room for consensus here.)

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