There are many strands of thought which flow through the Conservative Party’s rich history and have contributed to it throughout the centuries, but none have done as much to define it as One Nation Conservatism – and it has found its home in the Tory Reform Group for over thirty years.
One Nation Conservatism can trace its roots back to Edmund Burke, who emphasised the organic nature of society and its reliance on social and political institutions, and Benjamin Disraeli, who imbibed this vision with a social conscience. Since then it has influenced many of the party’s greatest statesmen, such as Lord Randolph Churchill, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, R.A. Butler, and Harold Macmillan. As a political compass, rather than a rigid set of rules, One Nation Conservatism helped pave the way for Britain’s transition towards embracing the welfare state and universal suffrage without compromising the fundamental social and political institutions our society depends upon.
When the TRG was founded as the modern home of One Nation Conservatism, Peter Walker put it very well when he said ‘My objective as a Tory was to get the correct balance between efficiency and compassion. The trouble with compassion devoid of efficiency was that it never provided the means to exercise compassion. The trouble with efficiency devoid of compassion was that it created a society so divisive that efficiency itself was destroyed’.
During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership the TRG lived up to this mission by supporting the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, with its 1976 publication supporting the sale of council houses to tenants; Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 austerity budget; Michael Heseltine’s Enterprise Zones and Development Corporations; and Ken Clarke’s budgets which helped deliver low debt, low inflation, and high growth. It was crucial that the failed socialist experiment be scrapped without undermining the state’s ability to help the most vulnerable in society.
Their example has continued to inspire senior Conservative figures, including both David Cameron and Boris Johnson! Today in government One Nation Conservatives are helping deliver the Coalition’s much needed public services reforms at a time when the finances are once more in dire straits because of Labour misrule. As a party we are now having a vibrant and dynamic debate about how to change the state so that it is more economically efficient and more socially compassionate. In this exciting political climate it is the Student Tory Reform Group’s aim is to inspire the next generation of Conservatives to explore the One Nation tradition and to take it into the future so the vision of Burke and Disraeli can live on.
If you want to learn more about STRG or get involved then please feel free to join our Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/studenttrg/, follow us on Twitter at @ToryReformGroup, or email me at email@example.com. You are also more than welcome to come to our events later this year, which includes our Student Reception at this year’s Party Conference in October and our Autumn Reception with Michael Heseltine in November.
This article was originally published on Conservatives Student.
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