A few weeks ago, David Cameron addressed the 2014 Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. The Message? Patriotism. The Medium? The Budget. As Cameron’s new coinage so emphatically brought home: ‘In a Britain that everyone is proud to call home, people are employed’. David Cameron’s ideal home is a house kept in order (the metaphor alludes to Margaret Thatcher’s ‘household’ budgeting). Now few would not question Conservative custodianship of the economy, though fewer, one hopes, than that of Tony’s Tax-and-Spend or his whelps, and none, at all, would question the fundamental assumption that patriotism and economics go hand in hand.

Early on in the speech, Cameron sums up what our country stands for: ‘Freedom’, and ‘Justice’. Yet, freedom to David Cameron is economic freedom; justice, ‘social justice’. This is the bedrock stuff of modern Conservatism: Liberty = Economy = Patriotism. An idea closely linked with what both Democrats and Republicans call ‘Economic Patriotism’. So when the shadow of Mark Reckless’ withdrawal from the Conservative Party to join UKIP rose that evening, panic and fear fell upon the conference. As everyone is aware, the Conservatives reacted badly. The media picked up on this story, which only served to heighten the paranoia, whether or not this fraying at the edges marked something more serious. Whether or not it is serious, the anxiety felt by most conservatives was telling. How could a party, (according to Cameron) composed of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’, suddenly be in line, (again in Cameron’s own words), for bedding much of the Tory base? The answer is, unfortunately, that UKIP in some respects embody a more authentic British conservatism than the one currently espoused by the Conservative Party, one almost unintelligible to most modern politicians, which perhaps makes the fear of the ‘Reckless’ Shadow’ all the more frightening.

Despite a whole host of conservative tutelary spirits conjured during David Cameron’s conference speech, one name, now almost a curse, seems to have been forgotten, that of Enoch Powell. Many remember Enoch Powell as the man of much blood. Many Conservatives remember Enoch Powell as the man who went out for Harold Wilson. Many more do not want to remember him at all. Yet if the defection of Mark Reckless is to be understood, they must first understand this other great defector. Enoch Powell’s philosophy, from his earliest career in parliament, was spent in defence of a single cause, the defence of the absolute unity of the realm. His political philosophy rejected any notion of the duty of state as being the defence or promotion of liberty, with or without the economy. It is from this single idea that Powell’s opposition to immigration, international bodies, and devolution stemmed, as all of these were, in his eyes, against the integral unity of the State.

Powell further understood any attempt at placing ethics, any ethical code or principle, as the ideal of government as fundamentally flawed. The State, like any creature, existed only to perpetuate its own survival. This philosophy, obviously, has thematic connections with the Hobbesian social contract, but its true birth as an idea originated in the aftermath of the American War of Independence. This conflict may well be interpreted as a conflict between two nascent strands of conservatism. The American patriots understood government as being limited by their natural rights, an idea even then associated closely with economic rights (as has been shown, the War of Independence was not waged over taxation, but over the idea of taxation). The latter conservatism, which would predominate in England through the Tory party of William Pitt the Younger, was based ultimately on the idea of the sovereignty, and integrity, of the Realm

Both the former and latter ideologies have undergone many of the same changes, yet their motivations could not be more different. Both sides of the Atlantic developed the idea of laissez-faire, yet for completely different reasons. American conservatism understands government as only existing between the cracks of individual freedom, while British conservatism understands the activist state as rooted in a contradiction of the very idea of the State, that the State should view ethics as its own end. Man treats others as ends in themselves, but states exist in anarchy, so cannot be burdened by ethical commitments. Any attempt to impose order upon this anarchy will fail.

This idea is at the heart of the UKIP message to Conservatives, and David Cameron’s response to it has been anything but resounding. On the core issue, that of the EU, the basic problem is that the modern Conservative leadership, particularly David Cameron, fail to see the EU through the lens of High Tory Politics. What they see in the EU is a mixed bag of undemocratic policies and major financial incentives.  For the High Tory, the financial incentives simply do not register. They see the EU as stealing sovereignty from Parliament. This is at the very heart of the disconnect between High Tories and the newer, post-Thatcher, politicians in the Conservative Party, and explains why the EU is such a big issue in this country compared to others.

Furthermore, threatening High Tories with the Labour bogeyman under (or in, as David Cameron suggested) the bed did not work with Enoch Powell and will not work now. The simple reason for this is that the High Tory bogeyman is not Labour, but its very own doppelgänger, that American brand of conservatism imported to our shores by Mrs Thatcher. More than this, no amount of jibes at the expense of UKIP on the one hand, or shameless pilfering from their manifestos on the other, will change the fact that many thinking Conservatives find something alien at the basis of the modern Conservative Party, and bringing back those who’ve gone astray cannot be done without putting England fundamentally at odds with the Western World on issues like devolved governance, supranational governance and international power politics.

I have come not to praise Farage, but to bury him. I do not wish to vindicate UKIP. The Party is, for the most part, cobbled of odd Bobs, Sods and Spivs, and Farage himself elicits no confidence from me. But if we are to understand the threat UKIP pose to the organised establishment, then we must begin to think about how they are appealing to voters, not as protest votes, but as an ideology. It is simply erroneous to suggest these are merely the ravings of ‘loonies’. To do so would be a worrying sign of the blindness of our current political leaders. Particularly on the matter of the EU, many UKIP supporters believe that economic instability is small price to pay for sovereignty. All of this is to say that, far from being irrational, there is sense even to reckless actions.

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