Conservative Home's debate blogs


  • DVD rental
  • Conservative Books
My Photo

Conservative blogs

Blog powered by Typepad

  • Tracker 2
  • Extreme Tracker

« Hague to back Fox? Howard to abandon Cameron? IDS to stop Davis? | Main | Is David Willetts the contest’s ‘middle man’? »



The people who don't 'get it' are the ones who keep using empty phrases as some sort of badge for being 'modern'. So Alan Duncan says "We should take JS Mill as our lodestar, and allow people to live as they choose until they actually harm someone." Well, the argument is NOT about what people do but whether or not it harms someone. I'm happy for people to choose an exuberant gay lifestyle if they want. I'm not happy about the breakdown of the family.

Wat Tyler

Duncan's naturally feeling raw and disappointed. But by dropping out now he's done the responsible thing by the party. It would be good to see some of the other stragglers follow suit asap.

The Political Thinker

After reading the various articles on it, I must say that I'm rather disappointed, but of course in reality he didn't have any parliamentary support and therefore it was somewhat silly to stay in the race.

Although I believe what Alan Duncan has said is very true. The Conservative Party is too socially conservative, and this repels many voters. As he rightly points out, there are no Muslim MPs, and there are those who are appalled by Alan Duncan being openly gay, and others horrified at the fact there are two ethnic minority MPs.

Francis Maude has also previously talked about how many natural Conservatives voters were just unable to bring themselves to vote Conservative. It's true that we should support the family structure, but at the same time we shouldn't make out that we detest single mothers. And we mustn't forget that many Muslims and ethnic minorities support the same values as us.

It's not impossible to support the family structure, while at the same time not being homophobic and racist, and not detesting single mothers. As Andrew Lansley rightly said, we're seen as an extremist centre-right party, not a moderate one.

Even our natural allies in the United States – the Republicans – aren't as backward as many Conservatives.

James Hellyer

"The Conservative Party is too socially conservative, and this repels many voters. As he rightly points out, there are no Muslim MPs"

Aren't Muslims socially conservative?


On yesterday some asked what wing of the Tories Alan Duncan belonged on, and as part of arguing that he had as much claim to the right of the party as to the left, I quoted some of the chapter headings and sub-headings from the book 'Saturn's Children':

“The Destruction of the Moral Order”
“The Age of Moral Relativity”
“The End of Moral Absolutism”
“The Destruction of the Family by the State”
“The Family as the Nursery of Morality”
“Permissive Legislation”
“The Rise of the Divorcing Society”
“The Demoralisation of the Individual”
“How the Welfare State Shrinks Moral Opportunities”
“The Role Played by the Collapse of the Family”

Presumably it's MPs who could write things like this that Duncan is referring to as the 'Tory Taleban'. The author of 'Saturn's Children' shall remain nameless. :)

Sean Fear

I expect that if we did have Muslim Conservative MPs, they wouldn't take terribly kindly to Alan Duncan's lifestyle.

By taking a swipe at his own party, in the Guardian to boot, Alan Duncan proved that he is not leadership material.

Tim Roll-Pickering

Most Muslims in the Conservative party that I've encountered seem quite relaxed about gay members. It's the shire hicks that seem to have a problem.

Mark O'Brien

As far as I can see, the biggest division within the party at the moment is between the 'moralisers' who are tempted to think that the State should all but demand that citizens marry, have children and bring them up how it says; and those who do not believe the State should have that kind of power and that people should be free to chart their own destiny.

Anyone reading my comments on this site recently will know that I have been tempted to support Alan Duncan and so it will be no surprise that I think some other comments have been very unfair. The blog article itself claims Duncan attacked those social conservatives, but does its writer consider himself and those with similar views to be 'censorious judgementalists'. If that is where our party is heading - demanding that people do as the political elites say - then we would be condoning the Nanny State and we would be abandoning the first and last principle of the Conservative Party: Freedom.

Tory Reaction

A less surprising event in all of human history has never occured. Never mind little Alan's big ideas, whether the ones Dominic came up with for him then, or the ones rather more unpleasant people have scripted him with this time. Alan Duncan, to an almost Widdecombe-like extent is markedly unpopular with other Tory MPs. Those who accept his hospitality in Rutland leave sneering at the memorial library, the rest merely wonder how someone so pushy so pointlessly for so long hasn't yet fallen over.

As for 'Wat' up above, maybe those candidates claiming to have support when they don't have it *should* drop out of the race. I can suggest one he knows fairly well.

Michael McGowan

It's a great pity that Alan Duncan has dropped out of the race. He is a very stimulating thinker and the debate will be poorer for his absence. Instinctively, I have a lot of sympathy for where he is coming from and yet, and yet....

The great weakness of the Soho Modernisers is that their ideas work fine if you are well-off and well-connected. In that case, you stand a reasonable chance of being able to cope with the disasters of life. That is the only reason they can afford to be so blase about family breakdown, sexually transmitted diseases and drug abuse. Preaching an uncritically libertarian message to people who live on council estates or who are unemployed is not just irresponsible but cruel. For people on average earnings, divorce on demand is often a short cut to poverty and homelessness, as well as the inevitable trauma and bitterness. For people from such backgrounds, there is often no effective treatment if their children become psychotic because of sustained drug abuse.

The Soho Modernisers have also lost sight of why the left is so keen on discarding the contraints of "bourgeois" morality. It has nothing to do with liberalism and everything to do with creating a vacuum of social decay which is an easy pretext for state intervention.


Michael McGowan, what an excellent post.

Last week I was chatting to someone who talked about how people he knew managed to hold their lives together despite a cocaine habit, how everyone he knew had smoked pot and so on. He stressed how successful some of these people were - that the cocaine user is a barrister - as proof that people can cope with lax laws and morality. The obvious point that it was precisely because these people were wealthy barristers that they have the money and education to cope with problems in a way unavailable to nearly everyone else hadn't seemed to occur to him, and he wouldn't be persuaded that the circle of friends and acquaintances common to people heavily involved in politics is frankly very selective indeed. If you only ever meet the other half of society on the tube, it's not surprising if you think they can cope as well as anyone else with drug habits, family breakdown and the rest.

Simon C

Alan Duncan clearly hasn't got "it" yet. Which is a pity - he has some interesting ideas & lots of energy. But his exit from the race has undermined all that.

Trite platitudes about a "Tory Taleban" serve the party's enemies well, but do nothing to change or advance the party. He needs to explain in detail what attitudes and which individuals he means by that - is he for example fulminating against the growing consensus in the leadership pre-campaign that marriage needs to be fostered and strengthened? If so, are Damian Green & David Cameron part of this "Taleban"?

As to his complaint that the party is saying nothing about Foreign Affairs - Liam Fox has been making a series of interesting & thoughtful speeches as any fule kno - certainly any reader of this blog would know, & any member of the Shadow Cabinet, as Duncan is, should certainly know.

It really is time that the liberal wing of the party stopped indulging in lazy utterances that only reinforce Labour's caricature of Conservatives, and which take no account of what is actually happening.

Final question: who will Duncan now support?

"Michael McGowan, what an excellent post."

Entirely agreed. We make a huge mistake if we look at social policy through the lens of middle-class prosperity. It is the poor and disadvantaged who have taken the brunt of the damage.

Alan Duncan cited JS Mill - but Mills drew a clear distinction between liberty and licence. The point being that liberty is not an absolute good in its own right. The measure of the mettle of an individual or a nation is how wisely their liberty or freedom is used. Cry freedom, certainly, but freedom must be used well.

I have yet to hear a "moderniser" seriously engage with this issue: where does liberty descend into licence? How can freedom be used to sustain healthy and prosperous individuals families & communities?

William Norton

I think on the whole it's a shame that Duncan has dropped out - I could suggest a few others who should go also. Perhaps he could have gone in a different manner.

The really interesting question now is: how will the Editor adapt the banner at the top of these blogs? I would suggest that Duncan's picture stays in, but with a large X superimposed. Like scratching off the days on a prison cell wall, it would give us some sort of measure of how we're progressing.


Good idea, William. When I get access to Photoshop - probably at the weekend - I'll add a fat red cross!


I think I understand Mr. Duncan's one-way view of "tolerance". He demands that his point of view not be criticized by those who are appalled by it, while he is free to label anyone who disagrees with him the "Tory Taliban". The freedom to choose to be "gay" (which no serious Tory disputes) is the same freedom to choose to stand up for the traditional family.


Any conservative who wants the liberal J S Mill for his lodestar... probably isn't a conservative, really.

(This isn't a tribal argument about who's in or who's out, just against the sloppy brandishing of Mill as if we're all supposed to kowtow.)


Yes, Michael, but in trying to get the state to uphold traditional "bourgeois" moral values aren't we just having a different kind of state intervention to the socialist statists? Don't we help pave the way for them?

Graeme Archer

People might choose lots of things - not to reveal their identity on a website for example. But one thing they do not choose is whether or not they're gay. Something we DO choose is how to respond to that fact ... I've always been astonished at the language used to describe gay politicians; one doesn't have to be Derrida-esque to deconstruct the language to hear the real sneering underneath. The party's got a long way to go before it's grown up about homosexuality. It astonishes me as well that this sort of Moderniser agenda is dismissed as irrelevant on council estates: do you imagine that there are no marginalised gay folk on council estates?!

I'm mentioning homosexuality here because I think there are certain canonical aspects to the conversation a party has with itself: homosexuality is used as such a totem, not just as an end to itself. We will start being even worth paying attention to by the 30something professional class when we are truly comfortable with gay people.

Michael McGowan

I think that there may be some misunderstandings here. Like Alan Duncan, I think that the Conservative Party should on the whole be championing the thinking of Mill. Mill was an authentic liberal. A lot of people who nowadays style themselves as "liberal" or "social liberal" are, beneath the politically correct surface, secular authoritarians. This is true of a number of Tory "modernisers", with their hectoring brand of "totalitolerance".

I don't think that the state should use the force of the law to "uphold" bourgeois morality, whatever that means. I simply think it should not actively seek to undermine social institutions of proven worth which provide nurturing, role models and security: such as two-parent families. There are many one-parent families where the single parent is trying, and often succeeding, in doing their best by their children. I am a single parent myself. That doesn't alter the fact that it is not an existence which I would wish on others. My children would agree that their lives were richer when they had two parents living together and supporting each other, as well as them.

Graeme Archer has simply parodied my views. I didn't even mention gays. Of course there are many marginalised gays on council estates. I was making the entirely different point that a number of the Soho Modernisers' recklessly libertarian ideas on drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and divorce exacerbate poverty, deprivation and incurable disease, especially among those sections of society least well-equipped to deal with the consequences. Too many Soho Modernisers seem to draw their inspiration not from Mill, but from Marie Antoinette, who was famous for telling the peasants to eat cake.


Agree with MM.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were a social libertarian willing to discuss the issues properly rather than by parody? I'd be very tempted by such a character. Alan Duncan is not capable of that. I'm very glad he's gone. I look forward to the Editor's big red cross.


Bruce, people don't "choose" to be gay.


How exciting to have Bree visiting this blog. My favourite Desperate Housewife. I wonder if any of the leadership contenders resemble other housewives?

The Political Thinker

Aren't Muslims socially conservative?

As has already been said, the majority of Muslims have no problems with homosexuals or ethnic minorities. In fact, they themselves are ethnic minorities.

And I never said that social conservatism is wrong. I simply said that I believe the Conservative Party to be too socially conservative. I believe a mixed balance of social conservatism and social tolerance is needed – somewhat like what Michael Howard pursued during his leadership.

I myself am moderately socially conservative – Although being a man and therefore believe it's up to the woman, I am against abortion, and I'm also against the legalisation or decriminalisation of drugs, and I do believe that the government should support the family structure and two parent families (although I differ here slightly by not believing it should be restricted to heterosexual couples).

By social tolerance we should accept, and promote the rights of women, homosexuals, ethnic minorities and Muslims. We should embrace our multicultural society. And, also by social tolerance, although we may not agree with abortion or single parents, I think it's very wrong to treat them like criminals. Abortion isn't an easy decision, and single parents are doing the best they can and need our support.

So, you see, there is a difference between being overly socially conservative and moderately socially conservative – And IMO, the majority of Britons are the latter.

Final question: who will Duncan now support?

My guess is David Cameron. Davis is too socially conservative, even though they share the same views on economic policy.

He needs to explain in detail what attitudes and which individuals he means by that

I think it's pretty obvious what attitudes he is talking about, and it doesn't take much hard work to realise the sort of people he is talking about. I'm not entirely sure whether he is talking about Davis or Fox, although I wouldn't be surprised if the likes of Brazier and Howarth were in the group he is talking about.

Yes, Michael, but in trying to get the state to uphold traditional "bourgeois" moral values aren't we just having a different kind of state intervention to the socialist statists?

Of course.

Simon C

"I think it's pretty obvious what attitudes he is talking about, and it doesn't take much hard work to realise the sort of people he is talking about. I'm not entirely sure whether he is talking about Davis or Fox, although I wouldn't be surprised if the likes of Brazier and Howarth were in the group he is talking about."

Er... don't you contradict yourself here? Clearly it's not obvious to you precisely who he's talking about, and as to which attitudes - as I asked in my earlier post: is he complaining about support for marriage?

All that remarks about "Tory Taleban" do is generate headlines against the party, without offering any serious or rigorous analysis. If that's the best he had to offer, it's a good thing he has withdrawn. Sadly, though, I think he could have done better than that. Nothing has so unbecome the manner of his campaign as his leaving of it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About Conservative Home


  • Conservative Home's
    free eMailing List
    Enter your name and email address below: