Amoral Conservatism

Friday, 13th August 2010 at 22:30 UTC 1 comment

I’ve been pondering some of the motives for Cameron’s exuberant welcoming of the Lib Dems into coalition with his party. Apart from the obvious (who couldn’t really govern without them), I’m left wondering whether he hasn’t in part played a very shrewd move when it comes to the socially and morally conservative elements in his party.

The Conservative Party, like any party with a reasonable track record in First Past the Post elections, is a party with diversity amongst its ranks. Like the Labour Party, who’s front line members sometimes differ very little from your average member of any left-wing, reformist campaign group (and who occasionally appear to differ only a little from the least dogmatic members of the SWP), the Conservatives have a fair spread, from business people who think what they do can only ever be considered to be “in the British interest”, to people defending a vision of Britain where women and children know their place, and people behave all proper all the time.

Where Cameron comes in is at a peculiar point. No longer is it an electable position to be the party of public decency if that means Section 28 and the harassment of gays and lesbians by the state. And the majority of people do believe that women have the right to seek an abortion. The Conservatives also opposed making divorce easier, making rape laws apply even if the man is married to the woman amongst other things. Such a party is no longer electable, and rightly so. Indeed, for whatever reason, and one would hope it was human decency, many Conservatives today do not agree with the actions of their forebears on such moral and behavioural issues.

But for Cameron, the sigh of relief probably went deeper than either a ruling Man-date with Clegg that swung the arithmetic in the voting lobbies or simply bringing in the party that happily promotes both Gay weddings and ultra-free markets and deregulation of everything. By forming a coalition, Cameron could effectively discard the concerns of the “Moral Conservatives” lingering around the fringes and already feeling fobbed off with talk of £15 a week tax breaks for married couples, and instead present a united front in the supposedly amoral world of “let the market decide”.

The problem is that the market never decides in favour of humanity. It usually decides in favour of a small group of individuals, and it most often chooses to act against those who seek a dignified life, and against communities. This Amoral Conservatism, freed of its need to appeal to social conservatives in the party, can now focus more clearly on ending the welfare state and community safety net that has been developed over the last 150 years.

This has one particularly noteworthy effect: the environment. The Conservatives have always had to balance the very worst of NIMBY-ism and Conservationist attitudes with the desires of big business to build on every square inch of land and consume more fossil fuels in more dangerous ways, for which deregulation was required. Those who want to keep hold of their romanticised England where white people dwell in leafy suburbs and rural meadows are no longer centre stage – enter the Dave and Nick show, where deregulation is the name of the game.

But it does have a problem for anyone expecting to live, rather than survive and subsist under this government: markets, whilst supposedly amoral, always favour the easy way out. And this is not America, where a government that deregulates sees power stations with poor safety and emissions records concentrated to the most deprived areas of the country, far enough from the rich to ensure only the poor suffer. This is a country which is so small, where a power affects the poor, it affects the rich too.

But deregulate they will, because people should be free to seek wealth without government getting in the way, and because self-interest is unquestioningly good (unless, you know, we’re talking about benefit cheats). And besides, future generations can deal with the mess, can’t they? As the film Food, Inc explains, in America, there is no longer a means by which government can close an abattoir that regularly gives people food poisoning, because of deregulation has tied its hands so far.


Entry filed under: Conservatives, Culture, Development, Environment, Ethics, Freedom, Materialism, Politics.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  Monday, 16th August 2010 at 9:26 UTC

    Your first couple of paragraphs made me think you thought politics and the primary business of the house was all about sex, particularly gay sex. That would be quite odd, I thought they were meant to run the country. However, my initial surprise was eclipsed when I saw this:

    “This Amoral Conservatism, freed of its need to appeal to social conservatives in the party, can now focus more clearly on ending the welfare state and community safety net that has been developed over the last 150 years. ”

    That’s right Graham, the end of the world is nigh and we’re all going to die. I’ll grab my tin foil hat and run for the hills.

    Alarmist, moi?


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