This has been a great week for the way we think about the Conservative Party.
Politics is so often so obsessed with the here and now that we forget about what the past can teach us.
Alistair Cooke has done an important service in bringing together so many excellent articles about the development of our party. And I’m delighted that from now on there will be a new History Section on the website, celebrating the huge part that this party has played in this history of our country.
In his introduction to the History Week, Alistair Cooke quoted Disraeli. “In a progressive country change is constant.” I think that’s a good way of thinking about the Conservative Party – its past, its present, and its future.
Take the past. What really stands out when you look at our history, and what’s striking about some of the articles posted this week, is that our Party has served Britain best when we have understood the pace of change in our country and pursued progressive conservative ideals.
That was Peel’s aim in the Tamworth Manifesto. That’s what he put into practice by repealing the Corn Laws and bringing cheap bread to everyone. It was what Disraeli meant when he spoke out about the deep rift in nineteenth century society, of a country divided into two nations, the rich and the poor.
The same spirit of progressive, inclusive change was there with Stanley Baldwin through the tough years of economic depression and social strife. It helped Eden and Macmillan as they solidified a property-owning democracy. It drove Margaret Thatcher forward as she refused to accept decline and gave people unprecedented power over their economic destiny.
And as we rightly remember this week, it was the way Winston Churchill thought about Britain. He adored history but, as Michael Dobbs wrote in his article, he saw it as an inspiration for the present and a guide to what the future could be.
It’s that rich, progressive legacy which drives the Conservative Party today. We want a country that is safer, fairer, greener and where opportunity is more equal. And we have said that we will achieve it through Conservative means – decentralising power and strengthening the institutions of civil society like the family.
I believe that it’s our faith in progress that will determine the success of the Party in the future. Conservatives should never try to turn the clock back. Our history teaches us that we succeed when we are the party of everyone – respecting our past, seizing the present, and confident that the best is yet to come.
David’s post is part of Conservative History Week on the Blue Blog. This is the final day of articles looking at various aspects of the history of the Party. Find out more on the history section.