'It's Over': The Demise of Conservatism

In an inimitable review of the last 160 years of party politics, Richard Kelley argues that the Conservative party is like a marriage that has gone wrong.

This is the story of a marriage, one which has lasted for over a century and a half. It is a marriage which, despite some rocky patches, has been remarkably flexible, fertile and successful. It is a marriage which, only ten years ago, attracted the envy of other partnerships. Yet that marriage has now broken down, and it's probably irretrievable. It is a marriage known as the Conservative Party.

Some have said that the marriage always had shaky foundations, involving partners who were different in so many ways. The two partners, known locally as Whig and Tory, were brought together in the 1830s by that wily matchmaker Robert Peel. Peel was aware, though, that the two partners came from very dissimilar homes - the Whigs being 'new money' and 'trade', while the Tories were more 'landed' and aristocratic.

Peel was also aware that their instincts and general outlook differed sharply. Tory was rather gloomy, cynical and cautious, and somewhat sceptical of fancy notions like 'freedom' and 'progress'. Whig, meanwhile, was altogether more optimistic and occasionally quite radical, placing little value on stuffy old customs.

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