One Nation Conservatism: A Note
One Nation Conservatism is determined to prevent into a narrow class-interested based politics characterised by self-interest. In that sense it is the Conservative Party’s philosophical device for accommodating change within an essentially hierarchical political system. Social exclusivity was not to stand in the way of social improvement. One Nation Conservatism addresses the challenges wrought to the traditional ties which bind society by industrial and technological revolutions. Disraeli’s One Nation Conservatism was an attempt to reconcile industrial democracy with economic and social inequality. At its heart is the notion that you use the wealth generated by capitalism to tackle the social problems of the day. Disraelian Conservatism addresses the dilemmas of coming to terms with an industrialized society characterised by rapid change and technological progress. For Disraeli One Nation meant that there existed no fundamental conflict of interest in British Society. Disraeli believed profoundly that Britain should be One Nation and not Two. He recognised all too well the divisions between rich and poor, particularly in an oft quoted passage from his novel, Sybil
In his famous Speech at the Crystal Palace in 1872 he claimed that the Conservative Party were a National Party and were opposed to narrow radicalism. He argued that this could only come about if the party avoided oligarchy and became a truly national party.
Implicit in this is the concept of a bargain between the government and the governed that in return for their support and loyalty for the institutions of government, the government would represent and protect the interests of the population. Implicit in this in turn is the notion of paternalistic welfare – a vision of conservatism based on improving the lot and condition of the people – a vision encapsulated in the building of Post War Conservative Governments of the Welfare State.
A key element of Disraeli’s thought was the concept of responsibility especially on the part of the ruling elites who he believed should be united by a social idealism. The Conservative Party he believed should be a party of high principle, social reform and devotion to the interests of the people. He warned of the dangers of the party becoming dominated by what he called concessionarists and place seekers whose only goal was to hang onto the spoils of office come what may. It is why he pioneered an activists and social reforming agenda in office between 1874 – 81. He believed the state should play a positive role to alleviate the suffering caused by the unplanned and unforeseen effects of industrialization.