Thursday, 2 June 2011

Conservatism is a consensus of prejudices moderated by remorse

I had the pleasure of attending the Disgruntled Radical's birthday celebration last weekend. As part of his preparation to move house he was giving away some of his precious books. Each one was carefully chosen for the recipient. The creator of Vote Clegg get Clegg got Samuel Smiles 'Self Help' and a Labour politician Craig Murray's Murder in Samarkand. I was lucky enough to be given Elliot Doods 'Lets try Liberalism'.

I began to ponder where I first came across Elliot Dodds. I well remember a book launch at a party Assembly in the 1970s when Russell Johnson was the guest speaker. The book was written by Desmond Banks and Donald Wade and was written after Dodds death to bring together the essence of with writings. He was frequently quoted in those days-not least by Russell . I recently came across this speech to the Scottish Conference (which sounds to me to be by the Inverness MP)

I became a Liberal at university because I agreed with the writings of a Yorkshire Liberal, Elliot Dodds, who, in trying the impossible, to sum up Liberalism, settled upon three words: Liberty, Welfare and Responsibility. I have never been able to do better. The wish for the maximum freedom of persons to have their say which leads one to talk of proportional representation, of federalism (giving positive release to communal energies), of industrial democracy (closing the medieval gap between management and worker by creating a common commitment through co ownership and profit sharing to progress), to the right of each of us to live the kind of lives we want to live so long as they do not impose things on others, whatever our race or colour or sex. This is the heart of Liberalism. Because it is about the individual, it makes the assumption that if we concentrate on him/her, justice for the group of which he/she is a part will follow logically, while the converse is untrue.

In this it is fundamentally set apart from political philosophies like Communism, Socialism and Nationalism, which start from this converse, seek to better the group and believe that this will lead, in time, to the improvement of the individual’s lot. Conservatism is not a philosophy but a resistance to change, valuable in clarifying arguments about the way we are to go, but valueless in providing signposts. Conservatism is a consensus of prejudices moderated by remorse

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