The Conservative Attack on Home and Hearth
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BY MATTHEW GROVES
The Conservative Party advocates the free market not only because it efficiently allocates resources and generates wealth, but because it is based on the belief that freedom is in itself a principle worth defending. The private company, the small businessman, the individual homeowner should all be set free from the overweening regulatory state. Different ideologies from Socialism to Environmentalism, considered of transcendent worthiness by their advocates, are used to justify assaults on freedom. It has been the Conservative Party’s vocation to defend ordinary people from the use of power in the name of whatever ideology is favoured by the time’s progressives.
Attacks on freedom can be dramatic and horrific, such as the murder of the Kulaks or the system of the Gulag. That does not mean we should overlook as trivial assaults on far smaller freedoms. The fact that a freedom is regarded by those with power as trivial or minor is no reason to override such a freedom or to presume overriding it does not matter.
It is for that reason that it seems a real travesty that the political party calling itself the party of freedom and indeed conservative, has launched a regulatory attack on that most intimate and traditional of places – the domestic hearth. The one place that should be most sacrosanct from state interference, in the heart of domestic life, is now under threat from a Conservative Government.
Opponents of the Conservative Party wrongly portray it as being on the side of the rich and powerful. In reality, if you believe in freedom you believe in the little guy and taking his side against the overweening monopolistic power of corporate capitalism and Big Government. The battle lining up now between Government and ordinary homeowners, particularly those who can only afford to heat their homes through “wet” wood and coal sees the Conservative Party abandon its key principles to side with the powerful and the ideologues against ordinary homeowners.
To be able to burn coal and wood is a sort of primordial right of being human and as Englishmen we rightly feel deeply affronted and violated when our home, our “castle”, is invaded by the bureaucratic regulator. One might have suspicions as to why the administrative state has launched this attack – there is something of self-sufficiency about the home fire, giving us independence from the big energy companies. One thing the bureaucratic state seems most to fear is that independent spirit.
The case has been put forward and so it must be answered that this ban is a necessary evil to save us from catastrophic global warming. It is common knowledge that industrialising economies like China and India are far bigger polluters than today’s United Kingdom. The aim of the Government’s environmental goals starts therefore to look more like virtue signalling than a necessary evil. If it is virtue signalling and will make little difference to the pollution being belted out by Chinese coal-fired power stations, then why take aim at the ordinary homeowner and the rural homeowner who relies on his own fuel to heat his home? It seems gratuitous at best, spiteful at worst.
It is also indicative of an entirely misplaced instinct on the part of the hierarchy of the modern Conservative Party. It is suggestive of an isolated cabal more preoccupied with the obsessions of the liberal elite than the ordinary voter. From immigration to Brexit, the Conservative Party has been slow to react to the concerns of ordinary people and has only found itself taking popular positions almost by accident. The assumption always seems to be that the minority obsessions of rich people at dinner parties is the vox pop of the nation.
Even worse is the picture this gives us of an urban elite completely disconnected from the concerns of rural people. It is as though they have assumed burning your own fuel is a self-indulgent privilege and not a vital way to heat the home economically for many people outside of the self-indulgent urban world.
Meanwhile building on floodplains as a response to the massive levels of immigration and as a response to the inflation of house prices caused by Chinese property acquisitions in London is considered no environmental problem at all. Whether the cause of the flooding is global warming or the solar activity, one way not to solve it is to concrete over the countryside. Nonetheless, oppose this environmental harm or the white elephant that is HS2 and the cabal at the top of the party will sneer at NIMBYs. The concern about protecting our environment is not a consistent principle, but is only rigorously applied when the little guy has to bear the cost. He can be flooded out or lose the benefit of the home fire to help the Government’s virtue signalling, but the environmental cost of building more and more homes or the destructiveness of HS2 is airily brushed aside.
Pursue this attack on the family home and the Conservative Party will come to be regarded as the party of the big and powerful and not the party protecting the freedom of ordinary voters. While the extremism of the Labour Party means voters have no choice but to take such attacks on them on the chin, there will be no love lost for the Conservative Party if it continues to side with the ideologue, the powerful and the bureaucrat in attacking ordinary people of the countryside.
Matthew Groves was a local Councillor for eight years in East Surrey, during which time he was vice chairman of the Planning Committee and Chairman of the Housing Committee. He stood for Parliament in the 2010 General Election in Plymouth Moor View. After this he worked for the Church House Parliamentary Unit liaising with MPs about education reforms and some other policy matters. For a time he wrote blogs for the Respublica thinktank and the British Monarchist Society. He is now completing a full-time postgraduate research degree in theology.