Conservatives should beware of the dogma

Party thrives by absorbing the best of liberalism and avoiding strident ideology — a lesson today’s Tories must heed

The Times

In the late 18th century, William Wilberforce and his fellow evangelicals founded, among many other societies, the Society for Superseding the Necessity of Climbing Boys in sweeping chimneys. Their pressure groups had wonderfully specific names — my favourite being the Friendly Female Society for the Relief of Poor, Infirm, Aged Widows, and Single Women of Good Character, Who Have Seen Better Days. They would have found today’s brief slogans very shallow.

The pressure to stop young boys being forced up chimneys, including from Tory-aligned campaigners such as Wilberforce, ultimately led to the Chimney Sweepers Act of 1834, outlawing the practice. Some contemporaries no doubt saw this as what would now be called the “nanny state”, but it is one tiny example of how conservatives always