What does it mean to be a conservative? | Josie Pagani

JOSIE PAGANI

STRAIGHT AND TRUE

What does it mean to be a conservative?

Britain’s Conservative Party is the oldest and most stable parliamentary party in the world. The origin of ‘’Tories’’ dates back to the English civil war and the previous King Charles.

The definition of the ‘’right’’ of politics has its origins in the French Revolution of 1789. The National Assembly met to draw up a new constitution. Those who thought the King should have an absolute veto over policy sat on the right, while those who didn't sat on the left. Put another way, those who wanted stability, tradition and incremental change were ‘’right’’. Those wanting radical change quickly were ‘’left’’. Ever since, the right has stood for institutions and order, the left for change.

Austerity-practising libertarians, populists and nationalist culture warriors don't leave much room for traditional conservatives who believe that tradition is a source of wisdom, while change, if needed, should be careful.

Classical conservatives believed in a transcendent morality represented in a stable and predictable social order, backed by customs and bolstered by institutions like the rule of law and nationhood.

The new conservative voter is less likely to believe that private property is inseparable from freedom and must be protected, and less likely to be mistrustful of concentrated power, whether in government, business, church or unions.

In her Stuff column, Josie argues that conservative voters are left with few options. Neither side of politics is home for them.