The Making of a Conservative: Part Two

By Wright, Esmond | Contemporary Review, September 2000 | Go to article overview

The Making of a Conservative: Part Two


Wright, Esmond, Contemporary Review


Into Politics

FOR the next twenty years after the War, my base was the University of Glasgow: the obligation to teach modem history objectively, but also with some passion and concern. In my early years I lectured and tutored in modern British history; after I became a Professor I lectured on European and World History, including courses on the U.S. and on the Middle East. I tried to go down the middle of the road: it was - it still is - the historian's creed. I reviewed regularly for The Glasgow Herald, did occasional 'leaders' on American topics, and in the end was on the board of the paper as deputy chairman. I was a frequent radio and T.V. interviewer, and this reinforced the need for objectivity. To ask a succession of different political animals a series of searching questions requires a certain versatility, but done over a span of years you end up either as a political eunuch or as a chameleon, or, what is worst of all, just a performer. In the end, a man must choose - though it is possible, and it is very easy, for academics and cynics, cushioned in academic affluence, to say that the fence is also a point of view.

But why step down from it and into the ring? Was it only mounting distaste for the role of the neutral observer? Not quite. There were two dominant facts: alarm at what in practice the idea of Socialism was proving to be, and an equal alarm at the neglect of the major problems of our day and generation by Socialists and Conservatives alike. It became overwhelming with the emergence of Harold Wilson as Prime Minister. He dressed up his appeal to the people in the 1964 election as 'the white heat of the technological revolution'. In fact, he had spent the war as a civil servant in London, and as Prime Minister (like Blair) he became the prisoner of the often-repeated fancy phrases he or his speech-writers coined, and which he thought were 'policies'.

Mr Wilson's Socialism in practice meant bureaucracy: a bigger Government than ever before in British history; one in three of Labour M.P.s was given a job, as is also true with Tony Blair's regime, a legion of non-elected boards filled with jobs for the boys at fat salaries; at least 64,000 extra civil servants since 1964; those added up to a Government that was and is costly, inefficient and irresponsible. Far from being made efficient, government has been made top-heavy, unwieldy and expensive. It still is. There has been a shift of power at Westminster from the House of Commons, the 'elected' Government, to the Executive and the Civil Service, the 'permanent' Government, and now to the Labour Party's own elaborate P.R. men. This faith in government is rooted in the heresy that all problems can be solved by passing laws. But the laws, said Burke: '... reach but a very little way. Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the exercise of the powers which are le ft at large to the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state. Even all the use and potency of the laws depend upon them. Without them, your commonwealth is no better than a scheme upon paper; not a living, active, effective constitution'. Jefferson said it best: 'That Government is best that governs least'.

I was angered too by Shirley Williams' campaign against grammar schools (and her copying of American parallels), the relaxation of discipline and the attack on the whole structure of competitive examination and external examiners that ought to be Britain's pride, having undermined self-discipline and the notion that hard work and talent should get due reward. This has now led to the current crusade against Oxbridge 'privilege'. Add penal taxation of the honest, decent citizen, and now an alarming threat to his own insurance arrangements against his old age, and you get a rejection of responsibility and respect for worth, and an erosion of that mutual trust and regard for law without which civilisation itself becomes impossible.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Making of a Conservative: Part Two
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.