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For Queen and commerce: the Tory Party owes much of its success to synthesising opposing values. Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Conservatism: the longest view

Nationalists might appear to be routing Tory liberals. But it’s just the continuation of a centuries-long struggle between two tribes 

By David Willetts   April 2021

Too many books on conservatism fall into one of two categories. First, those where true believers set out their faith. Tradition, national identity and the deep wisdom of unreflective instincts are celebrated. These works have an incantatory quality and rarely engage with critics. They are based on reverence for a particular country’s history and institutions, especially in the form they took before liberals (and worse) got at them. There is a strain of utopianism in this conservatism—with the past as the utopia. The lack of critical thought in such works makes them fair game for those who see conservatism as hocus pocus, bereft of principle beyond the ruthless pursuit of power to further the interests of the rich, all disguised behind a rhetoric of nostalgia and patriotism. Then, of course, there are the books by those who regard conservatives as their enemy, which make exactly this case more directly.

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