Quote of the Week: Roger Scruton, “Gentle Regrets”

Roger Scruton

Roger ScrutonIdeas, in the Tory vision, are fleeting by products of the social and political process, which are no sooner produced than forgotten. In this and other respects the Tory Party behaves as though Marx were its principle mentor: it treats philosophy as ‘ideology’, and economics as the motor of social life. This means that there is no such career in England as that of an intellectual Conservative. The Conservative Party takes exactly the same attitude to conservative beliefs as Lady Antonia Pinter (as she now is): they should be inherited and ignored, not acquired and defended. And never should they take the form of convictions.

I had an inkling of this in 1978 when, after four years of the Conservative Philosophy Group, and by now a barrister, I applied to join the Conservative Party’s list of candidates – the first step towards representing the Party at a general election. A veteran member of Parliament, Dame Something Something, who conformed exactly to the old image of the blue-rinse maiden aunt, and who looked me up and down with angry sniffs as I answered her questions, demanded what I had done for the Party. Had I been a local councillor? Had I worked in my local office, canvassed at elections, attended functions, organised tea parties and speakers’ events? Had I joined the Young Conservatives, spoken in Union debates, attended Party Conferences? And if none of those things, then what on Earth had I done for the cause and in what conceivable respect did I regard myself as qualified?

I mentioned that I had funded the Conservative Philosophy Group. She made it clear  that the conjunction of the two words ‘conservative’ and ‘philosophy’ was so absurd that she could only doubt the existence of such an organisation. Under her withering stare I began to feel that I was as much a fake as she believed me to be. She asked me whether I wrote in the press, since that at least was useful, and I replied that I had written book reviews for the Spectator, so confirming her suspicion that if my name ever did appear in newspapers it would be in the wrong parts of them. I added that I had also written a book.

‘A book? On what subject?’

I hesitated.


Her stare became suddenly vacant. She closed the file containing my application and turned to her colleague, a young MP who had remained silent throughout, occasionally sending out a pitying glance in my direction.

▪ Roger Scruton, Gentle Regrets – Thoughts from a Life (Continuum, 2005) extract from pages 50 through to 51.

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