23 JUNE 1973, Page 11

parties and politics

We homeless onservatives

knthony Lejeune 01e need not be homeless oneself to apPreciate the plight of those who are. So it is

Perhaps not unreasonable for those of us (an

Increasing number, I suspect) who find ourelves politically homeless to ask for at least a 'atle more sympathy from people who, by sortie fortunate coincidence, find their own Political views adequately matched by the Palley-bundles of one or other of the parties. Mr Enoch Powell's celebrated recent sPeech about Britain and the Common Mart poignantly underlined for me the fact Iat I have no real political home these days not even with him. His aigument on that occasion (as, indeed; Pa all occasions) was perfectly clear and ,aherent. Given his premise that not only na'Ional independence, but in our case the 'overeignty of Parliament, is the supreme Political good, logic certainly demands that e should accept any other political disLdvantage, even the horror of a protracted abo Government, in order to preserve or leur cover it. But personally I cannot accept this :anple order of priorities. There are many °rig reasons for not waffling to see Britain sorbed into the European Community, but ".„Icss of total power by the House of Comcns does not seem to me very prominent :raong them. My affection for Parliament, or rien for the parliamentary, system, is much jess than Mr Powell's. I would see little point 'n saving my country from European bureaucracy at the cost of subjecting it to British SOCialism. Mr Powell would, no doubt, reply that the disaster must be permanent whereas the ner need be only temporary. But Mr Wedglood Benn talks about the " irreversible " t."„a,nges which would be made by the next 'mowGovernment, and our experience of hrevious Labour governments suggests that e le right. Each time the socialists have been rl Power, they have destroyed a little more a

the Britain I would fight to preserve: and the succeeding Conservative governments have never, in Evelyn Waugh's phrase, "put the clock back a single minute." If there were to be Labour governments for the rest of Mr Powell's lifetime (which we must hope will be long), I cannot believe that, at the end of it, much would be left that I would think worth fighting for. The European Community would very likely then seem preferable.

It is not uncommon, after all, or unreasonable to feel that we would rather see something dear to us destroyed than transformed or debased beyond recognition. I feel that way (as I should have thought Mr Powell might) about the House of Lords, and about Oxford and Cambridge, and about the public schools — all of which, in our time, are threatened by just such wrecking reforms.

Compromise, of course, is a necessary political art: but there comes a point after which compromise is not worth while, because it won't save the essence of what we want to save. Voting against, rather than for, is an entirely sensible procedure, since in this world the lesser of two evils may be the best we can achieve. But there must be a limit. If the two evils seem virtually indistinguishable, we may not find it worth voting at all.

This is the situation which I — and I cannot believe I'm alone — feel is fast approaching. I don't want Britain to be part of a bureaucracy-ridden, protectionist, over-regulated, essentially alien Europe: but neither do I want a Socialist Britain. I could never vote for Mr Wilson and his totalitarian-minded envious gang: but I am increasingly disillusioned (to such small extent as I was ever illusioned) about Mr Heath and his gang. Heath-type conservatism appears to be moving further and further away from anything I would call conservatism. A corporate state, a managed economy, appeasement of the unions, ' growth ' at the cost of inflation, more government spending, more civil servants, more subsidies, the hideous complexities of Value Added Tax, threats of compulsory purchase, no hereditary peerages, a continued vendetta against our friends and relations in southern Africa, continued expansion of state-run ' welfare ' in 13ritain. . . The list goes on and on, and none of it is what I voted for or would wish to vote for.

Even so, it's better than what I voted against. But there's something more subtle, more insidious, wrong with this Government from my point of view. The whole style and emphasis are wrong. Mr Heath and his ministers do not appear now even to be interested in the political goals and discussions which interest me. They are no longer trying to shift the centre of debate nearer to where it ought to be. If they said that they had been blown off course, it would be one thing: to boast that their present policies represent a desirable course, deliberatelSt chosen, is another.

For a great many conservatives, including me, this kind of Conservative Party simply does not look like home. Political homelessness, political alienation, is a familiar phenomenon in every age and every form of society. There are always discontented minorities. But what does perhaps make our plight unusual is that, far from being extremists or ideologues, we hold views which, until only the day-before-yesterday, would have been considered absolutely normal. There is surely nothing outlandish in preferring individual freedom to government interference; in thinking that honest money is more important than an artificial and redistributory boom; in disliking a cabal of big government, big unions and big business; in being less than enthusiastic about the vulgarities of

participation' and ' democracy '; in thinking thai.: civilised people are superior to savages; ir wanting to support our friends rather than cur enemies; in regretting the loss of the Brit ih and believing in a principal alliance of the English-speaking peoples. . . . Again, the list could be continued in

definitely, and it would have almost nothing in common with that other list.

These views may be wise or foolish: but the point is that nobody is seriously bidding for the support of those who hold them. The political auction is being conducted entirely in the coinage of collectivism. The parties compete by promising to do more — that is, to interfere more, to tax more, to spend more — never less.

That is why some of us feel, increasingly, like homeless exiles in our own country, Our plight is like that of the Soviet citizen, in one of the saddest of Russian jokes, who was filling in the questions on an official form: Where born? "St Petersburg" -Where educated? "Petrograd." Where living now "Leningrad." Where wishing to live? St Petersburg."

But we may not be potentially so helpless. We are a large constituency looking for a leader. And that could prove a dangerous, or at any rate a dynamic, situation.