Why Radical Conservative Leaders Are Rare
*This blog post is just general thinking. It does not relate to any specific body or individuals.
This thought experiment came about as a result of a conversation I was having with a friend who lives in America. The gist of the debate was why it is that, a few obvious exceptions aside, it is so rare to find Conservative leaders who are ready to enact radical change.
It’s not that Conservatives don’t want radical change. Although its a broad church, conservatism is a political movement that believes, like all political movements believe, that the world would be a better place if it operated under the structures they prefer.
But still it seems that organisations, councils and Governments slip, over time, ever left-wards in their policies. The “norm” which is “accepted” also drifts relentlessly to the liberal left, leaving long-time Conservatives asking questions like: “Where are the real Conservatives?” of their leaders, or even: “What is the difference between the parties?”
I believe the truth comes down to the very nature of what makes those on the left, and those on the right, “tick.” The Left is absolutely comfortable with radicals. In fact, the rise of Momentum and Corbyn is a clear demonstration of how the party and its supporters react if it perceives there has not been enough radicalism.
The political right-of-centre, on the other hand, has a real problem. It is uncomfortable and wary of change. Now this can be a good thing, for preserving what is best about society, for taking a careful view of proposals, for not just changing for change’s sake. But it does also lead to a fear of anybody who might in any way “rock the boat.”
By their very nature, radicals will always rock the boat. They challenge, argue, propose and throw ideas out. Many of those ideas are bad ones. Some of them are very good ones. But any Leader and institution that is too wary of change gets stuck, institutionalised, afraid of its own shadow.
Time and again we chose leaders who we perceive as a “safe pair of hands.” Which translates as meaning “somebody who won’t do anything too scary.” Or somebody who’s appetite for risk is very limited. Like the epitome of a middle manager, happy to serve their days doing just what needs to be done and no more.
Now to be completely fair, in the normal political swing from left to right and back, a new right-wing administration often ends up spending an inordinate amount of time just fixing the problms the previous Left-Wing administration made. This is always politically-difficult, as the left are famous for giving away free stuff that can’t be afforded and then leaving it to those who come after to take that free stuff away and be branded for it.
But here’s the problem. Unafraid of being radical, left-wing leaders will push their administration hard to the left. They will plough on, ignoring warning signs, borrowing, spending and enacting constitutional and administrative changes at very fundamental levels. When they inevitably get booted out, all this must be reversed. In order to just get back to the status quo, the right-wing leader would have to be at least as radical as their predecessor, which they seldom are.
And so the cycle continues, with the left-wing pushing hard to the left, and the right-wing gentle correcting the course. Never enough. So with each decade we drift further towards left-liberal dogma and further from any opposing ideas.
The only way for this to change is for Conservative politicians, at every level, in every organisation, to be more courageous in their convictions. To choose leaders who articulate a common-sense view of conservatism and are not afraid to put those views into practice. This is not a low-stakes task. Because Conservatives believe that following fundamental principles of liberty, justice, free markets, family, tradition and fair play – is the best way to build a safer, stronger, healthier and more prosperous community for everybody. We can’t do that if we allow a relentless leftward shift to take place. We have to shake our natural concern in regards to change and be ready to embrace old ideas and new ones. Or we are simply ceding victory to the socialists, marxists and communists. That’s a dark place and a hard place to return from.