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The two types of Toryism: grocers and grandees - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The two types of Toryism: grocers and grandees

I’ve been meaning to get around to this for yonks.  Comments in my last two posts have prodded me into doing so at last. 


There are two primary strains in the Conservative Party: grocers, and grandees.  Now, I am a grocer.


I shall explain. 


By ‘grandees’ and ‘grocers’, I am not referring to social class or any of that; nor do I refer to the Worshipful Company of Grocers, all cloves and camels.  I refer rather to two fundamental positions within the Conservative Party, regardless of one’s antecedents.  SuperMac, to be sure, was a grandee; as were Douglas-Home, Eden, and so on.  So is Dave Cameron.  But so also was Ted Heath; so also had been Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, and, though he at least was never PM, thank God, Joe Chamberlain.  Margaret Thatcher was a grocer; so was Salisbury. So was Peel.  So was Winston.  So was Dizzy, and so – perhaps because he was the master of logistics and of the Materielschlacht – was the duke of Wellington, bullock-train and all.


What, then, is a grandee?  A grandee Conservative sees the country as a village: a village of which he and his party, when in government, act the Squire.  As the Squire, the grandee moves jovially amongst his tenants in their tied cottages, dispensing largesse and reproof….  There are two problems with this model.  The first is that HMG is not the Squire and the subjects of the Crown are not the smocked tenantry of the government of the day.  The second is that these principles – or instincts, as one can hardly call them principles – however different they may be to the fiercely held maxims of Labour old and new, lead in the end to the same statist solutions as those the Left proposes, and to accepting and ‘managing’ statism when a Conservative government succeeds a Labour one.  It is the grocers who will always and rightly attempt to roll back the State and its reach in favour of liberty.


It may readily be seen from this that the Cameroon ‘green Conservatives’ are – like most Greens, with their pull-the-ladder-up-behind-them, we-’ave-ours, we’re-all-right-Jim attitude – natural grandees, statists.


The grocers, by contrast, are classical Liberals.  In my own case, I could well have been a Liberal at least as late as Lord Rosebery’s premiership, or even as late, perhaps, as Campbell-Bannerman’s – until 1901.  We grocers are followers of the Manchester School in economics, the heirs of Hayek and von Mises, firm believers in economic liberty as a foundation for personal liberty, the liberty of the subject.  And it is the liberty of the subject – the idea of a village of free traders and freeholders, not tenants in tied cottages – that drives the grocer Tory.


It is a commonplace to say that American Conservatives are all Liberals, there being no ‘blood and soil’ Rightism in American politics.  There isn’t really any such strain in Toryism, either (that is why God created the BNP), and hasn’t been, actually, since that renegade Radical, Joe Chamberlain, served under Lord Salisbury.  ‘Soil’: yes; thus the Countryside Alliance.  But not ‘blood’ – not even if you recall the furore over the probably misapprehended remarks that effectively ended Enoch Powell’s career.  Grocers and grandees alike are, it is rashly believed, equally attached to the monarchy, the Established Church, and the traditions; but those of you who have read Dr Thorne will understand me when I say that the romanticism of the grandee leaves off, as a general rule, where the romanticism of the grocer begins: the grandee, like the duke of Omnium, does not much care what happens to the country, or the Church, or the Crown, save as it affects the grandee’s position, privileges, and emoluments; the grocer has the innate, Burkean loyalties of Lord De Courcy.  But these are Burkean and organic, and are justified to the grocer as being bulwarks of, yes, the liberty of the subject.  And these classical Liberals are nowadays in the Tory party – and there is no real Liberal Party as historically understood – for two reasons: firstly, that the Conservative Party is the Conservative and Unionist Party; and, lastly, the Conservative Party is the only available political home for them.


And this is where the grocer Tory, whatever his background, finds himself actually preferring actual grocers to actual grandees: for the High Street tradesman is far more likely to apprehend the relations between economic and personal liberty than are any number of dukes.  Grocer Tories – whether an actual grocer’s daughter or the grandson of the duke of Marlborough – can and do grasp the romance of commerce as part of the epic of liberty.


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9 comments or Leave a comment
shezan From: shezan Date: January 6th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
So was Daubeny a grocer?

And terrific explanation. Margaret Thatcher was a grocer; so was Salisbury. So was Peel. So was Winston. So was Dizzy, and so – perhaps because he was the master of logistics and of the Materielschlacht – was the duke of Wellington, bullock-train and all. Alas, it points out everything that's WRONG with Dave. So are there ANY grocers among today's Tories?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 7th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)


The East Barsetshire constituency was very much a stronghold of grocer-Toryism.

As for today? Well, Michael Gove. Basher Davis. There are a few (I shall draw up a list).
shezan From: shezan Date: January 7th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Naturally.

Love Michael Gove to bits. About NO chance of seeing him replacing Dave, though.

(I'd missed Dizzy in your enumeration, which would have been a strong indicator for East Barsetshire.)

Have you an opinion on Oliver Letwin?
velvet_tipping From: velvet_tipping Date: January 9th, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
seems like grocer-ness would be the dominant strain, as grandees would be laughed out of existence--but i could be wrong!
shezan From: shezan Date: January 9th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Would that you were right, but alas....
froganon From: froganon Date: January 7th, 2008 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)

I understood that!!!

And it was better than any explanation I ever got in any History class.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 7th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

Kind of you to say so. Glad to hear that it was useful.
From: seneska Date: January 7th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you for this

I found this really insightful. I've often wondered how the two philosphies of toryism can be held by one party. I've often felt it difficult to understand why the majority of my family are conservatives when they seem so different in ideals to the people that are stood in front of the camera on screen.

My personal favourite approach was original conservative party motto. Just leave it alone. We were taught at school that the original party made a policy of not doing anything unless something absolutely had to be fixed. I like that idea quite a lot.

Of course the other side of the family was old labour (catholic) and had simply gone on to be new labour because they're taken in by a white smile and young face.

(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 9th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Not at all rude or intrusive.

If I weren't loopy with medicaments, I might have an answer. I'll come back to it later, but did not wish you to seem to be ignored under the circs.

GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT TO ALL: Am past seedy, beyond off-colour, and well into the area of desperately ill. Normal communication will resume when I'm not coughing up blood.
9 comments or Leave a comment