Conservatives against Celebrity - James Cullis

by The Editor

The decision by the Chief Whip to suspend Dorries is, I feel, a good start, but also I believe the party can use this episode to set out an alternative understanding of conservatism.

By James Cullis

The decision by Nadine Dorries to fly off to Australia to appear on ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here’ was roundly condemned by all sections of the Conservative Party. On the grounds that, Dorries should quite widely be concentrating on her job representing the people of Mid-Bedfordshire.

Although this is a justified attack, I believe there’s a deeper criticism that can be drawn out from this episode, which strikes a chord with traditional conservatism. That is, as conservatives we have a natural scepticism towards ideas of the modern celebrity and in particular the belief that a famous person automatically has a special status in society, and therefore because of this status they are worthy of our respect and adulation. This is due to the fact that for conservatives all individuals are flawed, and thus the ideas of celebrity culture serves only to offer individuals a materialistic idea of societ. Therefore celebrity has a negative impact on society’s fabric through eroding it’s organic structures by undermining the individual’s obligation to their community.

In stating this, it becomes apparent that Nadine Dorriess’ actions are totally out of step with our values. The fact that she proclaims that going on this television program she was aiming to reach a wider audience than she normally would obtain, demonstrates her commitment to a certain kind of populism, one which conservatives must be weary of. Namely the idea that the views and opinions of ‘the people’ are all that counts in the political realm, and any recourse to tradition or institutional guidance must be rejected.

So how should the Conservative Party respond? Well, the decision by the Chief Whip to suspend Dorries is, I feel, a good start, but also I believe the party can use this episode to set out an alternative understanding of conservatism. That is one based on a communitarian vision whereby the individual feels part of their local and national community, where the idealization of ‘celebs’ is challenged by an emphasis on local by civic values: pride in your town, your county and yes, your nation. If we as a party can embody these ideas and can take them forward into our manifesto at the next election, we can not only present a radical alternative to Labour’s liberal ‘one nation’ ideology but more importantly can offer a distinct wholesome brand of conservatism, that can mark us out as a party from others on the right, that envisage it only to be a narrow homo-economic free market ideology.

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