To the dismay of many in his party, he is reviving a pre-Thatcherite Toryism that could soon dominate English politics
A couple of days after a Conservative party conference in which the nature of conservatism was the subject of fraught discussion, the Wycombe MP, Steve Baker, sought to have the last word. Visible in a tweeted image of books from his library were editions of The Constitution of Liberty by Friedrich Hayek, Anarchy, State and Utopia by the libertarian American philosopher Robert Nozick, and Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies. “This,” wrote Baker, “is what we believe,” echoing the reputed words of Margaret Thatcher as she waved a copy of Hayek’s work in front of a Tory wet in the 1980s.
But this brand of old-time religion no longer holds absolute sway in the Tory party. The approved reading list of the former chair of the ERG received some swift and high-profile pushback. “No no no!” responded Danny Kruger, recently appointed to the renamed Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. “THIS is what we believe.” Kruger’s selection included The Upswing, recently co-authored by Robert D Putnam, the communitarian author of Bowling Alone, and Postliberal Politics by the British-based academic Adrian Pabst, who has been prominently associated with the Blue Labour movement, which some Tories fear has gained Boris Johnson’s ear.