Thursday, 14 August 2008

Conservatives Need a New Name

The perceived wisdom is that - sooner or later - Gordon Brown is on his way out and the Conservatives will win the next election. This may or may not be true. What certainly is true is that I will never vote for any party associated with the word `conservative'.

Conservative - what does it mean? The dictionary I consulted offered `favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change'. Now `traditional' has positive connotations for me when applied to, say, beer or cheese; but people who claim to espouse traditional values are often those whose idea of traditional is the transient social norms of the 50s. And those who `tend to oppose change' are close cousins to the those such as creationists who deny its existence. To`tend to oppose change' is irrational, cynical and often born of self-interest.

The head of an organisation to which I once applied for a job explained that his organisation was clearly successful by any of the accepted measures. He did not know why, but he was not about to change anything: `if it ain't broke, don't fix it*'. At that moment I lost interest in the job. He should have said, "I don't know why it works so well, but I am going to find out. Then I am going to figure out how to make it even better." But he didn't - he was a conservative.

If the Conservative Party seriously wants to attract new voters like me, it needs a new name, one that embraces change, optimism and generosity of spirit. Any suggestions?

* H L Mencken defined a platitude as `something that everyone believes to be true, but which is in fact false'. This phrase is a good illustration.

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