Is it ethical to be a Tory?

Conservatives can be wonderful environmentalists - after all the planet is not a political football.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

I have always hated the Tories since that witch Thatcher snatched the milk from the nation’s schoolchildren, sacked all the miners and more or less destroyed the entire country in the Eighties. But now I see that David Cameron says we should vote blue to go green, and what’s more they have put out Zac Goldsmith’s Quality of Life report full of sensible ideas about consuming less and the evils of modern capitalism. I’m confused! Can we be on the same side as super-rich snobs like Goldsmith? Is it really OK now for an environmentalist to be a Conservative?


Dear Dave,

Let’s get this straight from the start. The environment belongs to no man – or even woman. The planet is not a political football. Like all true eco-warriors, I believe that it is far too important to be polluted by politics. And like all right-minded folk, I hate football anyway.

It’s not what plastic party badge you wear on your chest that matters; it’s what is in the heart that you wear on your organic hemp sleeve that counts. Was it ethical to be in the Nazi Party? Probably not. Actually, it definitely wasn’t, now I come to think about it. But could somebody who called themselves a Nazi still hold ethical beliefs? Well, even Hitler was a vegetarian, an animal rightist, an organic farming man and an anti-smoker! Whereas that Himmler was a chicken farmer – the fascist!

So let’s not be blinded by corporate brands like ‘Tory’. And while we are de-junking our minds, Dave, you might want to challenge some of your more macho assumptions about Margaret Thatcher’s government. It turns out that she did our kids a favour, banishing all that free milk from the schools – now we know just how much damage that product of the toxic dairy industry does to their young bodies. As for closing down the British coal mines, such a blow against the evil fossil fuel could well have extended the life of the entire planet for a fortnight. What are a few thousand miners’ livelihoods when set against that?

It turns out that lots of Conservatives have always been big on conservation – the clue is in the name, it seems. So let’s try to look at the party’s new Quality of Life report you mentioned, authored by Zac Goldsmith and John Gummer, without the political blinkers. Seen in that smog-free light, I think we can safely say that their report represents the most brilliantly justifiable waste of paper resources this year.

It is packed full of the sort of fresh ideas that only come from serious thinking outside the bio-degradable box, the best of which some might think had been recycled from a taboo-busting ethical living columnist (who shall remain nameless, and who would be too modest to mention it myself). These proposals do not stop at the familiar green no-brainers – like no more road-building, stop airport expansion and tax the fat pants off cheap flight terror-tourists. No, they go on to suggest: getting rid of white lines in the middle of the roads (brilliant! Soon most roads will all be impassable thanks to wrecked cars, and people with have to find another way to travel); switching off street lights (which will keep all the scared citizens indoors instead of going out bingeing on booze and carbon); and charging shoppers to park at out-of-town supermarkets (great, so long as the charges start at a sensible level – say, £50 an hour). And they say we green-thinkers are against big innovations!

You see Dave, your prejudices about ‘greedy’ Tories are so last decade – they have embraced the spirit of self-sacrifice and austerity. But perhaps we should have expected nothing less from John Gummer, a deeply misunderstood martyr. When he was agriculture minister in the last Conservative government, he was ridiculed for feeding his child a beefburger at the start of the BSE crisis – or ‘Mad Cow disease’ as it was called in the typically bovine-phobic language of the times. Yet what Mr Gummer was clearly doing by force-feeding his child such toxic ‘food’ (ie, red meat) was spreading the word of vegetarianism. To me, it seemed like the biggest show of commitment since Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac, and a lesson that we parents shouldn’t allow our selfish affection for our children to get in the way of the Bigger Message

The Tory report even contains a lengthy chapter entitled ‘The Darker Side of Wealth’. And you thought they were all fat capitalists! But of course, what else should we expect from my favourite green genius, Zac G (did I mention that I was at his wedding?). He does not understand these things in spite of his personal wealth, but BECAUSE of it. Who better to see through our addiction to wealth than the Man Who Has Everything? His inherited fortune means that he can rise above grubby consumerism and see the damage it is doing. If only the credit-sucking working classes could see things as clearly!

Avert your inverted snobbery, Dave, and you’ll see that many of the best green thinkers come from so-called ‘posh’ backgrounds: Lord Melchett, Sir Jonathan Porritt, George Monbiot, and my latest hero David de Rothschild (who wrote the brilliant Live Earth global warming handbook on how to save the planet by wearing a woolie) to name a few. Their vantage point on the high ground allows them an admirably clear-eyed green view of the world, immune to the temptations of city life and consumption. Thus they really ARE superior to the rest in ethical terms – it’s not their blood, but the fresh air and appreciation for nature coursing through their lungs and hearts. The ethical rich know better than anybody that the greed of the masses is absolutely ghastly, and can threaten all that they hold dear.

I have long used Zac’s writings as a bible for everyday life. For example, I am fighting a (theoretical) struggle with Sheba the Unbeliever over the argument put forward in his Ecologist magazine, that plastic vibrators are destroying the environment. The article rightly points out that glass sex toys are more ecologically sustainable. My wife says that if I were more ‘sustainable’, the footprint of the ‘Rampant Rabbit’ would not be an issue. Sometimes, I am not sure what she is talking about; it’s like we live on different planets.

But of course we don’t. There is only One Planet. And there is only one (non-party) divisive issue that matters: do you Put the Planet First, or are you a genocidal maniac? So don’t be a party hack for anybody, Dave. Be an individual and think for yourself. Just make sure you choose to stick firmly to the green path of pioneers like Zac on everything – or we’re all doomed!

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today