A Scrutonian Manifesto

Covenant: The New Politics of Home, Neighbourhood and Nation, Danny Kruger

Covenant: The New Politics of Home, Neighbourhood and Nation, Danny Kruger, Forum, 2023, £20.

Before becoming MP for Devizes in 2019, Danny Kruger enjoyed a long and fruitful political apprenticeship as thinktank researcher, conservative policy adviser, Telegraph leader writer, and special adviser and speechwriter to David Cameron before he became prime minister. One of the results was the 2007 Civitas pamphlet On Fraternity, in which Kruger lamented the “social desertification” that had occurred under successive Conservative and Labour governments in the name of “the cult of individual freedom”. What ought to lie at the heart of conservatism, he argued, was the fostering of civil society, a sense of community and a culture of belonging – the true ground of freedom. It is a pity that Kruger left politics shortly after to work for various charities, because he might have lent Cameron’s admirable “Big Society” initiative some impetus and intellectual ballast. In fact, it fizzled out after only a few years in government, leaving nothing behind but the haze of “compassionate conservatism”.

Kruger’s new book develops the themes of his earlier pamphlet, but instead of the nebulous term “fraternity”, he employs the more appealing formula of a “social covenant” in which a common conception of the good is founded on the cultivation of the virtues. He explores in practical detail the social and political policy implications. And he writes throughout with style and verve.

For Kruger, the polluted rivers of his Wiltshire constituency are a metaphor for a society that has lost its bearings. We have lost our sense of the things that matter: “our sense of ourselves, our relationships with one another, and our place in nature”. Instead, we are prey to a shallow consumerism, an addiction to progress and growth. Meanwhile, the local associations and institutions that mediate these relationships, reinforcing our local loyalties and attachments, are crowded out by an all-powerful state that ministers to our every need.

 

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