Young Conservatives were on manoeuvres over the weekend, with the launch of a new youth pressure group calling itself the Orthodox Conservative Group. Led by Dominique Samuels (formerly of Turning Point UK), its inaugural Twitter thread announces that it is “aimed at promoting traditionally conservative values, which we believe has [sic] been lost within the Conservative party”.
Many will agree that the Conservative Party is long overdue an outbreak of conservatism. And there is much of interest in the group’s ten ‘fundamental tenets’, which celebrate (among other things) the importance of family, the ‘imperfect known’ over the ‘imperfect unknown’ and the need for change to be ‘cautious and reversible’.
But these tenets are as notable for what they omit as much as for what they include. For one thing, environment is conspicuously absent. A social conservatism that is reluctant to tackle vested interests around subjects such as ecological degradation and land reform will struggle to gain traction beyond the kind of undergraduate young fogeys who eventually get jobs in hedge funds.
We must hope that more will follow on this topic and that it has the courage to challenge some of the entrenched battle lines defended vigorously by the more Whiggish end of the Right.
More fundamental, though, was an absence of any comment on the economy. I wrote last year about how the idea of GDP growth has become as sacred a value to the Right as diversity is to the Left. Under the rubric of growth über alles, every value formerly held by conservatives has been steadily marginalised as incompatible with growth.
Families cannot have stay at home parents, for growth means everyone has to work; the environment comes second to farm consolidation and efficiency; even nation state democracy is facing the fight of its life against the exigencies of global markets.
My question for the Orthodox Conservative Group: are they willing to challenge their party’s devotion to free markets above all else? Its predecessor, Turning Point UK, toed the free-market line; will the OCG do likewise? If so, it is unlikely to have much success in changing the fundamental parameters within which institutions they wish to defend — such as family, nation and democracy — have become sidelined in pursuit of ever more ascendant markets.