From the standpoint of a traditional Conservative, Robert Blake looks at two converts

Robert Blake

  • We and They, Civic and Despotic Cultures by Robert Conquest
    Temple Smith, 252 pp, £12.50, April 1980, ISBN 0 85117 184 2
  • The Recovery of Freedom by Paul Johnson
    Blackwell, 232 pp, £8.50, August 1980, ISBN 0 631 12562 0

In reviewing one of these books, I must ‘declare an interest’. Paul Johnson’s is a volume in the Mainstream Series of which I am an editor, although I have had no connection with this collection of essays other than strongly approving in principle that he should publish some of his most pungent and vigorous articles, which would otherwise have remained buried in journals and newspapers. Mr Conquest and Mr Johnson belonged in their day to the Left. Mr Johnson edited the New Statesman, and Mr Conquest has not always been a Conservative. Both have swung far away from their earlier beliefs, with something of the enthusiasm, fervour, vigour, conviction and single-mindedness of the convert. The traditional Conservative who never has and never could have voted for any other party must firmly suppress a slightly smug sense of having known the truth all along. Just as Anglican converts can be more Papal than the Pope, so too there is a danger that neo-Conservatives will be more Thatcherite than Thatcher, more Reaganite than Reagan.

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