Saturday, January 01, 2011

Comment on Daniel Hannan, Telegraph Blogs:
Harold Macmillan's attack on Margaret Thatcher's ‘usury’ recalls his earlier comments about Jews

Harold Macmillan's attack on Margaret Thatcher's ‘usury’ recalls his earlier comments about Jews – Telegraph Blogs

There are multiple possibilities for confusion here. First because the word "Conservative" means different things in England and America and second because the word means different things to different people within each country.

To some, more in America than in the UK the conservative label implies a belief in a restrained government that provides the maximum scope for individual expression. This is expressed in America by the libertarian tendency on the Right and in the UK was once the province of the Liberals, although now largely as a memory. Insofar as Tory Conservatives in the UK have supported such positions it has been a derivative sympathy due to their perception that those most opposed to the Classical Liberal position are those in alliance with the socialism of the Labour Party. The hostility of Labour to the financial and social basis of Conservatism produced some sympathy for those encouraging entrepreneurship and individualism but it was not their primary motivation.

Another basis of conservatism in both countries but more singularly in the English tradition is the stress on social stability as a prerequisite for a effective but not tyrannical legal order. That is seen as resulting in a government that relies more on respect and compliance than coercion and therefor gives a greater scope to individual choice and creativity. In potential the ideal Conservative Sovereign may be reliant on agents who are judgmental and suspicious of innovation but in practice they emulate Elizabeth I who demanded public consent and then chose not to look into a man’s heart. This produces a relatively smaller and less intrusive mechanism for government.

That tradition of English Tory politics can manifest itself in xenophobia. Both roots of the conservative tradition can encourage a desire for a smaller government, although the second can also produce increased support for a stronger police and legal presence as well as an Imperial tradition.

In its anti-imperialist form social conservatism can display as a desire for a Little England, unencumbered by foreign entanglements and undiluted by foreign influences. Enoch Powell was the most promising voice for conservatism after WW-II but his career foundered on that reef. His instinctive suspicion of Americans was in accord with what had been a strong tradition within pre-war Britain. Macmillan expressed similar prejudices and a distaste for Jews but proved more intellectually adept at harnessing himself to political realities. Powell who was the greater intellect would have been more creative and adaptive at perceiving and guiding the UK through the challenges she faced. However he proved less capable of subsuming his own personality to achieve the first task of any politician, working with and persuading others. The wiki includes this appraisal of Macmillan by Powell,
At a meeting of the 1922 committee on 22 November Rab Butler made a speech appealing for party unity in the aftermath of the Suez Crisis. His speech did not go down well and Harold Macmillan, who Butler had taken along for moral support, addressed them and was a great success. In Powell's view this was "one of the most horrible things that I remember in politics...seeing the way in which Harold Macmillan, with all the skill of the old actor-manager, succeeded in false-footing Rab. The sheer devilry of it verged upon the disgusting". After Macmillan's death in 1986 Powell said "Macmillan was a Whig, not a Tory...he had no use for the Conservative loyalties and affections; they interfered too much with the Whig's true vocation of detecting trends in events and riding them skilfully so as to preserve the privileges, property and interests of his class".

No comments: