Conservatism, Character and Constitution

Musing on Conservatism

Age rather than class appears to be the new fault line of British politics, writes Christopher Harries.

Polling by YouGov in the wake of the election last December indicates that for every ten years in age a voter is, their chance of voting Tory increases by around nine points. That polling also suggests that the tipping point – the age at which a voter is more likely to have voted Conservative than Labour – is thirty-nine.

Other polling by Ipsos Mori indicated that at the last general election the Labour Party enjoyed a forty-three point lead over the Conservative Party among voters aged eighteen to twenty-four.

Are we to accept that younger voters are out of reach of conservatism and the Conservative Party?

In light of the lack of support for the Conservative amongst younger voters, it is crucial to articulate conservatism. With articulation, it could be that younger voters come to realise that they have such an outlook.

To start with, we should understand conservatism and the Conservative Party are not the same. Conservatism is not a codified ideology but an instinct that manifests itself in different ways.

As a guide it accepts society as a contract, as Edmund Burke remarked in ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’: “[Society] is a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

The idea that we are mere custodians, committed to preserving our inheritance to pass on to the future generations certainly fits with the concerns espoused by those at the climate change protests.

All of us, individually place store in the concept of conservation albeit we may disagree about what should be preserved for future generations be it buildings, environment or even institutions. In this sense, all of us have the potential to be conservative in behaviour.

Similarly, the conservative instinct is pragmatic. Acknowledgement that perfection is not of this world, the conservative seeks to preserve what is good about society placing faith on tradition and reform only where appropriate.

As the philosopher, Roger Scruton noted in How to be a Conservative “Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.”

The conservative instinct is not fully averse to change, however, it seeks to moderate change so it only occurs when truly necessary.

As an instinct conservatism may be separate from the political party, however, if individuals come to recognise that they hold such instincts that could lead them to them coming to vote for the Conservative Party.

Christopher Harries is the Chairman of the Cardiff Central Conservative Association and the co-founder of The Prydain Review.

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