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Why then did the Conservative Party survive? Precisely because the Tory Party's function in British Parliamentary politics as it had developed in the 19th century had been to maintain that the status quo was the most desirable state of affairs and any change would not only damage the social fabric but also be hypocritical for a Conservative Party to uphold (Disraeli was able to win the Tory's heart when Peel supported the repeal of the Corn Laws by appealing to this sense of principle). This Tory stance has the effect of forcing the progressive social forces to develop and argue their case for change thoroughly within the society as a whole before any change is enacted. It is the "minimum of stability and order" referred to in the British Road. By the time the forces for change have influenced "public opinion" enough to get a serious Parliamentary hearing the forces of reaction have fought and lost all the battles except the last; their strength and ability to resist have been defeated. The Parliamentary battle is the last; in it a 'principled protest' is registered and the change then goes forward.

The Conservative Party developed this ability to resist change and yet be able to enact and implement change when necessary because it has always had a radical wing who have recognised that progressive forces are inevitably bound to force change. Amongst the radical wing have been the Pitts and Disraeli (to an extent), and also Peel and the Peelites while they remained within the Party (Gladstone as Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer not only tore down duties and protective tariffs but also delivered a straight challenge to the House of Lords about their right to tamper with the Commons). When the working class became politically conscious, the Liberal Unionists (notably Chamberlain and Dilke) brought forward measures which Keir Hardie was forced to take seriously and call "Bismarckian socialism".

In the interwar period this radical wing was composed of Boothby, Macmillan and Butler amongst others. Because these Tory Radicals always [act? - PB] strictly within the bounds of party discipline and propriety they are not looked on as Reds Under the Bed or hostile; they merely hold their own opinions, which, when society is stable and not forcing change, they keep to themselves as their own opinions. However, when progressive change is forced up to Parliament, it is the Radical wing which enable the Tories to cope with the change and remain a coherent political body capable of survival because it can not only accept but understand and be able to administer the change.

"In attempting to analyse the principles of Conservatism, we must at least avoid the error of too close an approximation to precision or to dogma. The historical continuity of any party appears to the modern reader to be of the most slender description." (Industry and the State, a Conservative View, by Boothby, Macmillan, John de V. Loder, MP and Hon Oliver Stanley, MP.) 

"The Conservative point of view may be defined as being made up of four ingredients; symbolism, empiricism, continuity and realism [...] We have, as a nation, a particular predilection for inductive as opposed to deductive reasoning [...] The fact that we always have responded to necessary changes in our political or social organisation has confirmed us in the view that the imposition of a theoretical system is both wasteful of the evolutionary possibility of existing institutions and a positive bar to further progress. This belief leads us at once to recognise the necessity for continuity, for using fully existing materials in any scheme of further building [...] thus avoiding the dangerous interregnum between total demolition and the completion of reconstruction. Finally, we rely on reality; we take the world as we find it today and not as we think it ought to be, not as we hope it will be in time to come, believing that only thus is it possible for each succeeding generation to leave it, in fact, a little better. It is an obstinate blindness to reality and a pathetic faith that it is possible to make human nature approximate to their ideal simply by wishing, and thus to dispense with the slow and painful process of evolution, which waste the noble enthusiasm and generous sympathy of so many Socialists today." (pp.11-12. The book advocates an industrial syndicalist and planning organisation.) 

In 1925, Ernest J.P. Benn, whose father had been a progressive Radical, wrote Confessions of a Capitalist. In chapter 1 he states: 

"But the political agitation against my class is not to me so serious as the greater mass of middle class opinion which [...] adopts with unanimity an attitude of mind definitely unsympathetic to commerce [...] There seems, in, fact, to be little doubt in the mind of anybody that the accumulation of big fortunes in individual hands is bad for society. Public opinion has accepted almost without question the fallacious theory that riches are made at the expense of others [...] It is not necessary in England to declare oneself a Socialist to adopt the view that there is something wrong with the system, for Socialist agitators and Christian preachers vie with one another in denunciation of the existing scheme of things. Socialism has grafted itself on to our public opinion so completely that even at a Tory meeting it is possible to raise a laugh at the expense of a man like myself with £10,000 a year [...] In case it may be thought that I am unduly sensitive, or am exaggerating in this matter of public opinion and wealth, I quote an answer which was given in the House of Commons as recently as February, 1924, by the then Lord Privy Seal, Mr J.R. Clynes (Labour); 'I should have thought [...] it was the aim of all political parties to effect by means of social legislation a more equitable distribution of wealth.' [...] That reply was received by the House with general agreement, and shows how completely we have accepted the notion that it is the duty of our legislators to effect this 'more equitable distribution of wealth'. [...] I venture the opinion that there were not more than a score of persons present in the House of Commons (and I do not forget the whole of the Conservative Party) who felt that this statement of Mr Clynes was a tragedy instead of a pious expression of the opinion of all parties [...] Unlike the ordinary anti-Socialist agitator, I blame quite definitely the business community for the state of mind into which the public has been allowed to drift." (pp.12-14) 

Samuel Brittan made the same comment recently in the FT (quoted in December Communist, 'Tripartite Talks') and like Benn had no idea where capitalism's defenders would come from. Peter Walker, Minister for Trade and Industry in the Heath Government spoke on 19th January 1973: "The purist arguments for capitalism no longer apply. Capitalism has a contribution to make, but in a changed form. Those of us who seek for our society advantages of a free-enterprise system must examine objectively a number of major spheres and eradicate the disadvantages. We simply cannot allow our economic growth to flag with consequent effects on the quality of our lives while we stand on ceremony and bow towards nineteenth century views of the proper division of responsibility between management, labour and government." (Sunday Times, 21.1.73, p.60) 

If we hold that ideas and "public opinion" do not simply come into people's heads, that consciousness is indeed a matter of reflection of material reality and not metaphysics, then, we can understand the significance of the volte face which British society has gone through since the development of the political consciousness of the working class. From the time when the ideology of bourgeois political economy was a natural law which gave rise to political and social change to 1890 when no one could be found to defend it anywhere. For those of us who have given [sic. grown? - PB] up in the time when that "dogma" was already indefensible it will be difficult to understand the change which Froude records and which Engels also lived to see and register.