Monday, August 31, 2009

The Progressive History of the Conservative Party

This is a rather impressive eight minute film tracing the progressive changes instigated by Conservative leaders through the ages. Guido thinks it proves how left wing the Conservatives have become. Nonsense. The Conservative Party has always had a progressive streak running through it, and I can't think many of the examples shown in the video anyone would seriously seek to reverse (apart from two - you can guess which I mean!).

The video forms part of Conservative History week on the party website. Politics is generally thought of being more about the future, but we need to be reminded sometimes of past achievements - and mistakes. Whoever said that if you don't learn from history you are condemned to repeat it got it spot on.


Anonymous said...

That video has been on YouTube for about two years but has recently been removed. Google:

And you'll see it.

Only difference was the music.

Anonymous said...

Saw you on the telly last night Ian. Are you putting on weight?

The Iron Duke said...

I notice they couldn't think of a single progressive thing to associate with Douglas - Home !!

btw, taking Britain into the common market is something to be deeply ashamed of. No mention of the Single European Act under Thatcher or Maastricht under Major ? Well at least they have the good grace to be ashamed of them !

DespairingLiberal said...

Yeah, right.

To name but a few. The Conservatives and their predecessor party supported slavery, sided with the South in the US civil war, opposed broadening the franchise, opposed giving the vote to women, opposed gay rights, repeatedy blocked attempts to introduce Right to Roam, opposed free medical care for all throughout the 20s and 30s (only allowing it through to the planning stages from 44 onwards due to Churchill's Liberal history) and so on. In modern times, they have until recent years always opposed constitutional reform. They attempted to block devolution, they opposed reform of the Lords for many decades, etc.

They also opposed the minimum wage, unionism, were for many years supportive of apartheid, often opposed de-colonialisation and generally have always sided with the wealthy and the powerful against those with no voice and limited access to resources.

What a strange definition of "progressive" you New Right Tories do have.

It is only when the tide of public opinion moves so decisively behind progressive causes that Tories must bow to the inevitable that they then falsely pretend to take on the colours of progressivism as their own, as it they had always worn them.

Anonymous said...

Even though I agree with its main theme and respect its objectives, I thought this video was a little on the vomit-inducing side (especially when it gets to Our Dear Leader!)

Everyone stop trying to be American!

Plato said...

I watched this earlier today and thought the most telling bit was the erm erm erm about the 90s and the Tories were in a complete mess.

I'm glad to see them getting some of their history back and as something to be proud about - the whole baby-eating meme got completely out of control for far too long.

Clever patriotic stuff without wrapping themselves in a flag. They need a stronger message at the end - it felt feeble IMO.

DespairingLiberal said...

Furthermore, the video makes it sound as though the factory acts and laws to prevent children going up chimneys and down mines were all the idea of benign Tory PMs like Peel. This is a laughable distortion of history. In fact, they were the result of long and bitter campaigns fought by working people who were often harried and brutally oppressed by TORY councils, parishes, MPs and Lords, not to mention the right-wing army.

I think you should try reading a few books about the 19th century workers struggles. Nearly all of the freedoms and privileges we enjoy as citizens now were wrested from Tories by overwhelming public discontent and, sometimes, brute force.

Anonymous said...

You say it like "Progressive" is a virtue and yet all it is is Socialism wrapped up in fuzzy logic. If the Conservative party considers itself progressive, then why would I vote for these new Socialists rather than the old ones?

Anonymous said...

Guido is wrong. Progressive isn't left-wing. The Tories have been progressive because they're the ones who opened universities to all on the basis of merit (while Bliar, of course, closed them off); Tories gave the poor the chance to own their own homes while Labour actively tried to keep them as tenants; Tories ended the subservience of working people to union fatcats and subsidised industries.

Look honestly at this history of this country over the past century and tell me where Labour has actually done anything that left the country better, richer or with more liberty than when they found it. There's a reason Labour keeps banging on and on (and on and on and on and on) about the NHS despite sixty years having past since its foundation: from 1945 to present, the NHS is the only thing that Labour has done. It is Labour's only achievement and, truth be told, it's just not that good.

What progress has Labour ever brought to Britain? None at all. You can't bring progress - which is necessarily about the future - when your whole worldview revolves around political theories that were outdated, impractical and inhuman even before Franz Ferdinand lost his head in Sarajevo.

Anonymous said...

Mr Dale , Thanks for the link for the ringtone .

The real debate here is that both parties are more closer on policy than i have known , In my view its the way we are governed , I wil lend my vote in the genral election to Mr Cameron all he has to do is be honest , If he starts to spin and bully like the current goverment then he will lose the trust of the electorate.

Anonymous said...

The Conservatives and their predecessor party supported slavery,

Liar. William Wilberforce was a Tory.

sided with the South in the US civil war,

Liar. No British political party recognised the Confederacy; no British political party endorsed the secessionist side.

opposed broadening the franchise,

A deliberate attempt to mislead. What extension of the franchise are you talking about? There have been more than a few in British history.

opposed giving the vote to women,

Liar. There were Tories, Liberals and various stripes of socialist on both sides of that issue.

opposed gay rights,

Liar. Wolfenden was a Conservative and his report was opposed by many Labour MPs who said, repeatedly, that homosexuality was a vice of the upper classes and that its legalisation would lead to the corruption of young working class men by gay toffs. I say nothing of the irony of attacking the Tories over gay rights on the blog of an ostentatiously gay Tory.

repeatedy blocked attempts to introduce Right to Roam,

Straw Man. "Right to Roam" has nothing to do with progress.

opposed free medical care for all throughout the 20s and 30s

And throughout the 20s and 30s, Nye Bevan was praising Stalin to the rafters and deliberately hiding information about the Holodomor.

(only allowing it through to the planning stages from 44 onwards due to Churchill's Liberal history)

That parenthetical statement is, in the most literal sense possible, meaningless.

and so on.

Yeah, Tories caused Hurricane Katrina and the Indonesian Tsunami. You're a vile little liar, aren't you, DL?

In modern times,

All the examples you've given (or, rather, lied about) are in modern times. Go back to school, foolish child.

they have until recent years always opposed constitutional reform.

Straw Man. Constitutional reform is unnecessary and has damaged this country very badly. Labour attempted these reforms for cheap partisan reasons; the Conservatives opposed them for sound reasons.

They attempted to block devolution,

And, since losing control of Holyrood, Labour has repeatedly attempted to sabotage the SNP administration for cheap partisan gain. How is that progressive?

they opposed reform of the Lords for many decades,

And did so for the right reasons. Explain to me how the cause of progress is served by allowing Labour donors to be gifted seats in the upper chamber of the legislature.


Oh, yes, more "etc" and more "and so on". When you don't know what you're talking about, just be sure to sprinkle your comments with plenty of "etc's" and "and so ons".

They also opposed the minimum wage,

How is progress served by pricing a large portion of the unskilled adult population out of the workplace?


You're a moron and therefore do not know what unionism actually is. Unionism is the commitment to the maintenance of the union of the four countries of the United Kingdom. The Conservatives supported this while your party, the Labour Party, refused to admit British citizens in Northern Ireland to the party. This is because your party is a racist and anti-unionist party.

What you actually mean, of course, is that the Tories allowed people to work without being members of labour unions. What I would like to know is how progress is served by banning people from working unless they join and contribute money to a private club that is, in effect, an adjunct of the Labour Party.

The freedom to choose is progress. Opposing the freedom to choose is not progress. Tories gave people the freedom to choose. Imbeciles such as yourself still rant and rave about this because you want working people to be slaves.


Anonymous said...


were for many years supportive of apartheid,

Liar. The Conservatives simply did not go around sticking their noses into other countries' internal affairs and did not believe that democracy could be brough to South Africa by screeching abuse and imposing sanctions.

often opposed de-colonialisation

A deliberate attempt to deceive and a straw man. Decolonisation (no hypen, genius) took place under all British postwar governments of both political stripes. It took place under Tories and Labour alike. You even admit as much by using the qualifier "often" (although, being a dishonest and repulsive person, you do not quantify exactly what you mean by "often" - this is because you know that your argument is untrue).

and generally have always sided with the wealthy and the powerful against those with no voice and limited access to resources.

Liar. This is just a succession of crappy, dishonest Labour slogans with not a jot to back it up. The Tories let working class people like me go to university for free and gave us grants to support us while we were there; Labour closed the gates of universities to all but the rich and then dumbed down the system so as to ensure that rich idiots could get degrees denied to the meritorious poor.

I know who's on the side of the poor and I know who takes backhanders from Bernie Ecclestone. I know who makes deals with Libyan princelings aboard luxury yachts in the Mediterranean. It isn't the Tories.

Labour is corrupt and rotten, just like you, DL. The dishonesty and ignorance of your party is mirrored in you.

Neil Ward said...

A great video Iain. Unfortunately I foresee many many comments from the narrow minded constituents who like nothing better than to criticize and throw scorn on every blog post you write. Do you not get tired of the endless criticism you face on a daily basis.

Tapestry said...

Yes. I approve of suppressing the workers and ruining peoples' lives. Great idea,Despairing Liberal.

Maybe you despair because you cannot match reality to your political theories.

Mr Angry said...

There is a major difference between being progressive, even radical, and being just left wing Iain and sadly Guido is absolutely right about what is happening to the Conservative party.

Very very unfortunately, and especially under Cameron, there is no understanding of that key difference in philosophy and simply an ill thought through mass adoption of left wing thinking, approaches to issues, ideas and shibboleths.

We may rid ourselves of the appalling Labour government but we won't see the back of their failed take on things under the Heir to Blair. It is not enough for an incoming government to be Conservative unless it is also conservative as well, especially on economic matters and issues of freedom.

Raedwald said...

Politics is always reactive, that is, politicians espouse reform only after the need for such reform has already been widely accepted amongst the voters. To this extent politicians can never be 'progressive' in terms of an endogenous quality - it's the people that are progressive, and the wise politician who climbs on the bandwagon.

With more than 16m voters set to boycott the next GE because they feel politicians aren't listening and don't get it, the most 'progressive' thing any politician can do is to accept the public hunger for party political reform.

Bl├╝cher said...

Anonymous of and 2.33 and 2.34 pm, you beat me to it. DespairingLiberal is a historical illiterate, but of course he knows that.

Tom Ogg said...

Its pretty good, until Cameron's bit! The powerpoint style goes all over the place!

Looking forward to Labour's version...

Thomas Rossetti said...

Firstly, I would like to echo Neil Ward's comment: do not get tired of the daily criticism. If it's from people like Sunny Hundal, it shows them in a bad light, rather than you.

In terms of your comment about history,

(Whoever said that if you don't learn from history you are condemned to repeat it...)

I agree with you, but it's so difficult to determine what lessons we should learn from history. Chamberlain's experiences in Munich might teach us that we should never negotiate with evil men, but Britain's experiences with Ireland might teach us that negotiation is sometimes the best option. (Galling as it is to have men like Martin McGuinness appear on television condemning attacks on immigrants, I'm sure people in Northern Ireland would much rather be galled by him than blown up by him.)

ken from glos said...

Anon @

Wonderful piece of Fisking, if I may say so.!!

Tom said...

"DespairingLiberal said...

To name but a few. The Conservatives and their predecessor party supported slavery, sided with the South in the US civil war"

It was Lord Palmerston, a Liberal Prime Minister who, outraged over the Trent Affair, despatched 3,000 troops to Canada and nearly intervened in the War on the side of the South.

Also, as Apu in The Simpsons would have told you, The US Civil War had a number of long-term causes other than slavery.

Dick the Prick said...

Anon - 2.33 - it's pointless debating woth Despairing fascist; it gets tiresome immediately.

Allan said...

Just a couple of things:

re: apartheid

"Liar. The Conservatives simply did not go around sticking their noses into other countries' internal affairs"

When something as heinous as apartheid is going on it is the duty of all free, moderate socities to speak out and act against it. An utterly shameful statement on your part.

Also the video makes out it was the Tories who brought in the pension. It wasn't. It was the Liberals. If people want to read about a truly Progressive leader, Henry Campbell-Bannerman's premiership is a fine place to start.

Yes, Churchill did stand up against facism but he was nearly a lone voice in the party at the time. He was laregly side-lined and never forget that people like Nye Bevan were calling for military action against Hitler long before the Conservative party.

I am though more than happy to say that Robert Peel is one the greatest PMs this country has ever had and it is a terrible shame that he is not remembered more than he currently is.

In regard to the comment made by Neil Ward: Iain, I greatly respect this blog. I can't say I agree with most things you say, but as a fair and balanced view of politics from a Conservative perspective it is always a pleasure to read it. Keep up the fine work!

Tweedledum said...

Very impressive: guaranteed to infuriate the left.

But the Conservative record is far from perfect: Thatcher as Education Secretary destroying hundreds of Grammar Schools - an act of vandalism for which thousands of our children are still paying. Whatever good she did later this was singularly wicked and cannot possibly be described as 'progressive.'

Anonymous said...

How on earth was the balfour declaration "progressive"? Or is ethnically cleansing Arabs now a progressive policy.

As for major housing schemes I'm sure John Wheatley would have something to say about that.

Peel? Didn't the Peelites become part of the Liberal party?

Also omits to state it's opposition to Irish Home Rule by allying with secessionist and bigotted Ulster paramilitaries.

Anonymous said...

First time posting on Iain's politcal blog, I only checked it as his football site seems to be down, but I have to say I got a good laugh from DispairingLiberal. I thought all Liberals were dispairing, mostly for a focused ideal.
Say what you want about Conservatives but they do tend to have a very strong core sense of who they are and what they stand for.
Liberals seem to get swept along at the forefront of politcal correctness and knee jerk politics. To me they look like someone adrift in a river grasping anthing that looks like it will float.
They swept Obama to office based on a campaign consisting of one word "change", so obsessed were they with proving how liberal minded they were that they ignored the glaring issues with his past, not least his choice of associates.
Now that a decade of liberal government has left the country on the brink of ruin the only response they have is to attack Conservatives for policies that predated most of their births! While you're at you may as well point out that pre-historic Conservatives were in favour of cavemen clubbing women over the head and dragging them back to their cave!

Old Holborn said...

Terry Hamblin said...

It was George Santayana wot said it.

The Grim Reaper said...

Well, that wasn't worth getting the popcorn out for.

Who is this person who thought it would be a good idea for the Tories to start trying to claim that "progressive" is a word that belongs to them? This person is a complete prat.

Dick the Prick said...

I dunnnnnooooo - it'd work I guess for non Tories. Anything that gets Simon Schama away from telly would be brilliant - the man lost the competitive on the US election Question Time - shame really, showed himself up disgracefully. Nice music, nice pictures which gives rise to a sort of twee image - complete twaddle but....

WV: Strap - ay ay!

thespecialone said...

Allan @ 4.30pm. Yes Nye Bevan may have been arguing against Hitler, but that was only because as a socialist, he broadly supported Stalin.

Andrew said...

Iain, I fear you do Tories an injustice by the slack way you include this video without any attempt at appraisal or context. Okay, Tories have had some wonderfully progressive ideas but then so have all parties in their time and our inability to acknowledge that demeans and diminishes us.

The comments you gt only echo a Yah-boo strain in politics that you, with your blog have chance to change. But, on this occasion you have singulalrly failed to do so. A proper debate on progressive politics cannot be had by a party that puts out this stuff without context. It makes us Tories look a bit desperate and too eager to chase a PR slickness.

Come on Iain, you're a talented, creative chap, can't you do better? Of course you can.

Iain Dale said...

Andrew, Tell you what, why don't you get your own blog, seeing as you obviously can do it so much better than me!

Nowhere in this video did it claim that the Conservatives are the only party to do anything for this country. You seem to be (deliberately?) reading things into it which just aren't there.

In my judgement, it spoke for itself. So I didn't write an accompanying essay. But feel free to yourself!

Keith Elliott said...


I've asked you this a few times and don't think I've had an answer...

Of the 'progressive' gay equality legislation passed since 1997, which, if any, would have been passed by if the Conservative's had been in government?

I was a (Tory) student when the Tory Campaign for Homosexual Equality was founded and campaigned in support of Edwina Curry's attempts to equalise the age of I'm not denying that there are progressive voices within the Conservative Party...just that the party as a whole tends to be, well, conservative.

True Belle said...

I have a problem with the present Tories and PPCs, are they really made out of the right stuff?

We are not about to embark on a Grand Wishy Washy pantomime season I hope.

Iain Dale said...

Yes, indeed, you keep asking the same question. I answered you once and I don't intend to keep repeating myself.

no longer anonymous said...

Rent control - stupid idea.

Keith Elliott said...

Well Mr Dale, I think your answer speaks for itself.

I'm pretty certain I haven't missed it, actually. You've never addressed the actual specific question...perhaps you'd provide me with the link?

Have a good one! lol

Iain Dale said...

No Keith, your repetitive question speaks for itself. Can't help it if you missed my answer.

And believe me, I always have a good one. Or two.

Tarquin Toff said...

As a historian, I agree- the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was far from progressive- it actually worsened the Arab-Israeli conflict! Good old Balfour! Also no mention of the destruction of the 1926 General Strike and the 1984 Miners' Strike and all of the social damage caused when the Tories pick a fight with the old enemy of the trade unions! To claim the 1944 Education Act as Tory is an outrageous piece of political thievery- like the NHS, it was proposed and shaped by Liberal and Labour members of the wartime coalition. Also, the Tories were not even in power in 1966- so how could Heath be passing trade reforms as claimed?? Check your facts Tory researchers!
Ps- and the Tories did condone the disgrace of apartheid in South Africa!

Krebs said...

Good God!

What's next, a guillotine in Piccadilly and the Marseillaise as the national anthem?

Luke Akehurst said...

Stirring stuff but even my rusty memory of A level History suggests there are some bits of Tory history missing from the video:

Pulling together a coalition of every reactionary monarch in Europe to oppose the French Revolution
Pitt's suspension of habeas corpus, Seditious Meetings Act, and Combination Acts banning groups supporting political reform
His introduction of Income Tax
Lord Liverpool's Corn Laws, yet another suspension of habeas corpus, the Peterloo Massacre, the Six Acts limiting free speech and gatherings, his opposition to Catholic Emancipation
Wellington's opposition to the Great Reform Act and any expansion of suffrage
Peel's reintroduction of Income Tax
The split in the party over Corn Law repeal, with most Tories wanting to keep protection despite the horrors of the Irish Famine
Opposition to Irish Home Rule
Joe Chamberlain's campaign for Tariff Reform (i.e. more expensive food!) and attacks on free trade under Balfour
Mass unemployment in the '30s
Appeasement of Hitler by Baldwin and Chamberlain
Voting against the creation of the NHS
Ending free school milk
Two recessions in the '80s and '90s
Increasing VAT
High interest rates
Cuts to education and housing spending in the '80s
Destroying manufacturing industry
Closure of 150 mines, devastating whole communities
The GCHQ union ban
Thatcher's opposition to sanctions against South Africa
Abolition of the GLC and Mets because the voters elected Labour councils
City de-regulation
The Poll Tax
Black Wednesday
Cash for Questions
Infighting over Europe under Major

Jimmy said...

"guaranteed to infuriate the left."

On the contrary. It shows that even though we may lose the election, clearly we won the argument.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the liberal posters on here who are so quick to highlight the past actions of Conservative governments are just as quick to ignore those travisties carried out by non Conservative governments. It was a Liberal Prime Minister who ruled over the execution of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising including James Connolly who was so badly wounded they had to be tied to a chair so they could shoot him. The same Liberal party rounded up thousands of Irish citizens and held them without trial. Asquiths Liberal Party successor Lloyd George over saw the massacre of 14 civilians who were attending a Gaelic Football match at Croke Park. So if you are going to examine history to hand pick events to attempt to damn a current party then at least look at history with both eyes.
No current party can be held responsible for the actions of individuals from decades or even centuries ago.
The point of history is that we learn from it so that we do not repeat it.
To attempt to hold the current Conservative Party responsible for events of the past only goes to highlight the weakness of your current arguements.

Allan said...

A fair point thespecialone, though he still argued for military action after the Nazi-Soviet pact. His beliefs were more rooted in anti-facism than pro-USSR in that regard, as shown by his views on the Spanish Civil War.

Though, back on to the broader themes of this thread: Yes, the Tories have done progressive things. That is undeniable, but the main engine-rooms of progressive politics have been the Liberal and then the Labour Party.

Though he rightly says he was wrong about it now, Cameron did initally argue against Civil Partnerships and lowering the gay age of consent (though not when he was leader). I'm glad he has changed his mind, but it is a clear example where there Tories have lately played catch up on progessive policies and in truth they have very rarely led the way progressively speaking.

I'm also very glad the Tories are now (seemingly) strongly behind the NHS, but would we have ever had one if it was left to them? I doubt it sadly, certainly not to the extent we have now.

Hopefully I'm not coming across as some left-wing zealot (Major certainly deserves greater credit on Northen Ireland), but I do think it's a bit much for the Tories to present themselves as progressives, especially compared to the abolition of the death penalty, the NHS, decriminalisation of homosexuality, changing the abortion laws, female sufferage, the state pension etc. etc. This seems a pretty limp attempt at triangulation...

Manfarang said...

More to the point-the progressive failure of the Conservative Party.
It's the future that counts and what does that future hold?
History shows growing national decline.That will not change without much deeper fundamental political reform.

An Activist President said...

That video is full of contradiction, on the one hand praising the philosophy of Disraeli and Heath and then trying to put Thatcher in the mix of progressive politics. Any idiot could have a field day in disecting the video.

The video forgets the one thing that was behind major social change in Britain: the people. Every genuine progressive policy sought by any government has done so either because of the popular will or because of popular movements. As for 'democratising trades unions' how come no serious trade unionist has ever come out in favour of supporting the Tories?

Bunch of bollocks in my opinion.


Newmania said...

I see no need to defend the Conservative Party in these terms . Without it this country would have looked like East Germany which was the explicit aim of the Labour Party until relatively recently .
Labour have progressed but in a direction most people find abhorrent.

I like the way , by the way, Luke blames the up-shot of the failed socialist governments of Callaghan and Wilson on the Conservative Party . I daresay he wil blame the cuts and tax rises to come on Conservatives well

Jacq Kelly said...

Oh my god. What a boring video. They could have made a bit more of an effort.

John B said...

Climate change
Social Justice

Another Socialist Government ahead.

Anonymous said...

I've started to watch it twice, tried to speed it up at 2:00 minutes, given up entirely at 6:00 minutes.

It's charming in its way but as dull as dishwater. There are people who can do these things well. This is like wallpaper.

Keith Elliott said...

I am astonished that people commenting here consider the current Conservative Party and its policies to be contradictory...just incredible...

Hope you're having a good 'two' Mr Dale.

BushBaby said...

I read your pathetic rant and was all set to disparage the gobbledygook you have penned when an Anonymous destroyed your prattling.
No wonder you are despairing if you believe the rubbish you have written.

Quietzapple said...

I'm sure Iain Macleod is dead, and such a contradiction with him.

Anonymous said...

Short version-
Conservatives GOOD. Labour Cr@p.
Conservatives SMART. Labour supid Conservatives INSPIRE.Labour stifle
Conservatives HONESTY.Labour lies
Conservatives CLEAN. Labour dirty
Conservatives GOVERN Labour dictate
Conservatives IN Labour out
Well maybe not that short,you get my drift though.

Anonymous said...

There is an excellent article about the 'the Marxist Tories' on the 'Home of the Green Arrow' website.

The article draws on the work of the historical sociologist Leah Greenfield and Prof John Gray to show that the Tories share essentially Marxist assumptions with other progressives.

john.little21 said...

What these comments miss is the schizophrenic nature of the Conservative party. Robert Peel could speak of pragmatism in his approach to social concerns because he was a Conservative. In the same party Tory Mps could write to each other warning of the dangers of Democracy, which must be resisted. The split between Tories and Conservatives has always been there. Sometimes the nice ones are in the ascendant, like now- and sometimes the nasties, like Thatcher. It's a party forged from progressive reaction.