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The comeback of Old Tory

23 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Jacob Rees-Mogg

Ed Straw, writer and activist on systems of governing

If you should ever wonder why today’s Conservative Governments are doing the next inhuman, anti-democratic, corrupt X or Y, look no further than Old Tory.

Old Tory has made an almost complete comeback in today’s Conservative party.

There was a time when this tendency appeared to have gone forever. In the main, ‘One Nation’ Conservativism ruled. These were people on the wealthier margin of inequality but with human characteristics and a social conscience.

They accepted the social norms of the purpose of housing being to house people, caring was good and ‘we’ no longer rule an empire.

Our bad luck, Old Tory has returned with a vengeance.


Perhaps vengeance is the wrong word. It’s more that this mindset, underlying the attitudes of many of those that term themselves lifelong conservatives, has found fertile ground in the essentially exploitative methods of neo liberal economics.

Here we see power and wealth enormously contorted. This is all justified by it apparently being good for us.

But as it is played out in the hands of today’s Conservatives, it is experienced as a return to the class order and power distribution of a century ago.

Then, the wealth- and landowners hired and fired as they pleased – no annoying employment law to get in the way. Paid the absolute minimum. Dragged labour (aka people), that the new businesses of the industrial revolution needed to prosper, from one end of the country to another. Banned protest. Used the police as its enforcers.

Expected and got deference and gratitude for the pittances handed out. Filled with domestic servants. Made vagrancy laws to keep the unsightly spectacle of dire poverty out of sight. Educated in exclusive ‘public’ (Old Tory euphemism for private) schools, well away from the hoi polloi, demonstrating just how much better they were than others, and thus born to rule.

Ditto travel – no public transport for them. Served up education for the masses with all of the trappings of the aristocratic lineage. Proper healthcare for the rich only – the rest can be ill. No welfare state – OTs don’t need one. Used charity as a conscience-salve – my word how generous they are.

Valued the presence of the poor for reminding themselves of their qualities as people whose diligence, intelligence and all-round superiority had made them rich – not birth, luck or crookedness.

It was their God-given duty to govern the country. Which of course they did so well. And often, as they did all they could to rig elections, gerrymander boundaries, and skew elections in their favour. And laws, of course, applied to others, not them.

Humanitarian cries about the poor, equality and fairness fell on deaf ears. It’s the way of the world. There’s nothing we can do about it. And anyway, it’s their own fault.

They made most of their money from the extractive businesses of finance and of land and property.

Enclosure acts

Using money and wealth to make more money and wealth. They stole often, most notably via the Enclosures Acts, displacing the commoners, who had made a basic living from the land, as they were less profitable than sheep.

With the exception of Michael Heseltine in the modern era, none of the Old Tories have an interest in or knowledge of generative business. That takes hard work, real entreprise and a broad education.

Their mental model of government remains the empire, running the colonies from Whitehall/Westminster on a command-and-control basis, except today the empire is the UK.

Centralisation rules. Devolution is for wimps.

Today, this is the Old Tory playbook. It’s their comfort blanket – or teddy at boarding school.

Casualisation of the workforce, squeezing welfare, neutering regulators, rigging election laws, disabling public services, teaching in schools based on the whims of one person, criminalising protest, establishing in law the primary purpose of housing being to make money, privatising anything that moves even in the face of abject failure, ignoring environmental imperatives, gagging charities from politics, etc, etc.

Read Sasha Swire’s Diary of an MP’s Wife to observe their current lifestyles aping the old. Observe its poster boy – you know who, the one with the nanny.


Out it, ridicule it and use it. Remind people what Old Tory is and what it wants. None of it is in the interests of the silenced majority.

Labour has often been on the back foot about its history and about its part in the fine print of the culture wars.

Turn the tables. Go for the heart. Switch from defending the latest instalment of how people should live – a virtual battle – to dishing the dirt on Old Tory and all of its real consequences.

Attack is the best form of defence.

As it is experienced today, the real enemy of most people is Old Tory.

Don’t let them wriggle out of their responsibility for the state of the country.

Nail them to the mast of their underlying attitudes and psychopathology.

You can read more from Ed Straw here

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26 days ago

All of the above is true. That is as good a description of the Tory State as any. The problem is that Starmer’s Labour has absolutely no interest in changing the economic, political or constitutional models upon which the Uk is founded. In fact they are VERY conservative of them. Labour, wanting power on Tory terms have had to make themselves acceptable to the Tory establishment and the grasping middle classes. In doing so, they become what they say they want to change. And on reaching that point, they find that they fear changing anything in case they don’t get… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Annibendod
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
26 days ago

Plutocrat Jacob Rees-Mogg typifies what it is to be an uncaring arrogant selfish corrupt Conservative. His voice is akin to someone scraping their nails down a chalkboard. His entitled born to rule attitude ducks. If any good is to come out of this general election want this peice of obnoxious Tory detritus flushed out of office where he belongs. Who wants a bet? No doubt many wagers have already been placed on his demise by Conservative HQ.

Martyn Rhys Vaughan
Martyn Rhys Vaughan
26 days ago

This article is brilliant. It shows how Neoliberalism has driven us back to the Eighteenth Century and how money is driving the compassionate society into extinction. This will only ramp up when Trump returns to power and Rightwing millions start flooding in from the USA. Do not be deceived: these are dangerous times.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

Body Language…what a naughty child; nanny give him a good thrashing at the polls…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Even when they call the company ‘Bute’ people still don’t get it…forelock tuggers…

Bless, he is dreaming Nanny is sucking his thumb…

Last edited 26 days ago by Mab Meirion
Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
26 days ago

Its simple the Tories have an attitude WE ARE BORN TO RULE YOU ARE BORN TO SERVE and for the likes off Mogg and Eton Maffia its True that this is their attitude

26 days ago

The photograph depicts reality!! Tories lead a life of luxury while everyone else strive to exist. After he’s had his siesta he’ll be off for a feast and wine at a top restaurant which will leave him needing another snooze. Plain lazy and living off the fat of the land!

Last edited 26 days ago by Frank

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