OPINIONSrnBest of British Conservatismrnby Derek Turnerrn”Hail, happy Britain! Highly favored isle,rnAnd Heaven’s peculiar care!”rn-William SomervillernA Bastard’s Talernby Sir George GardinerrnLondon: Aurum Press; 280 pp., £18.99rnThe Abolition of Britainrnby Peter HitchensrnLondon: Quartet Books; 351 pp., £15.00rnSalisbury: Victorian Titanrnby Andrew RobertsrnLondon: Weidenfeld & Nicholson;rn938 pp., £25.00rnBritish conservahve circles are awashrnwith books at the moment. Apartrnfrom the usual think-tank reports and surveys,rnwe have seen recently John Major’srnand Norman Lamont’s memoirs, JohnrnRedwood’s Death of Britain, and the latestrnmiscellany from Daily Telegraphrncolumnist Michael Wliarton (Peter Simple),rnto name several. Three books, however,rnare among the most interesting andrnusefril of this post-May 1997 oeuvre.rnA Bastard’s Tale is the autobiographyrnof Sir George Gardiner, former GonservativernMP for Reigate and briefly the onlyrnMP ever for the late Sir James Goldsmith’srnReferendum Party. Sir Georgernwas Chairman of the influential backbenchrnassemblage of MPs called the 92rnGroup, which is in many respects the arbiterrnof power within the Parliamentar-rnPart}’. During his tenure as leader, the 92rnGroup pursued a Euroskeptical linernwhich was often at odds —especiallyrnonce John Major became prime ministerrn—with that of the part)- hierarchy, culminatingrnin the famous revolt against thernMaastricht Treaty and Major’s descriptionrnof the rebel MPs as “bastards”rnDerek Turner is the editor of RightrnNOW!, published in london.rn(hence the book’s title).rnSir George has right-of-center opiirionsrnoir most issues, notably Europe, capitalrnpunishment, and the family, althoughrnhis views on immigration arernunsound. This, however, is true of manyrnGonservatives, who do not understandrnthat conservatism, if it is airything, meansrnthe conservation of a particular people inrna particular place. His political opinions,rnhis position in the 92 Group, and hisrnphysical appearance (he was once describedrnas “Dracula left out in the rain”)rnhave encouraged the growth of legendsrnabout him. “Were all the world a stage,rn[Gardiner] would be played by VincentrnPrice,” former MP Julian Gritchley hasrnsaid.rnMuch of Sir George’s book is consunredrnwith minutiae about late-nightrnconclaves in smoke-filled rooms orrnconstituency meetings on the “rubberrnchicken circuit” and will therefore daternquickly, but the author has included considerablerndetail concerning how the partyrnmachine works (or does not work).rnThere are many interesting anecdotes,rnand stark insights into the vaciiih’ of JohnrnMajor. “John Major had no deep convictionsrnand little conception of the kindrnof country he would like Britain to become.rnLeadership for him was essentiallyrnan exercise in manipulation to keeprnhimself at the top of the greasy pole.” SirrnGeorge was a political journalist andrncolumnist whose journalistic experiencernis evident in his lucid and unpretentiousrnst)”le. Those who have a basic knowledgernof the Conservative Part)- and arc interestedrnin the personalities involved willrnfind A Bastard’s Tale well worth reading.rnPeter Plitchens, broadcaster and DailyrnExpress columnist (also, ironically, thernbrother of Christopher Plitehens), hasrnproduced a well-written and thoughtfulrnoverview of cidtural trends in his Abolitionrnof Britain. British Tories, for thernmost part, shll do not realize the importancernof cultural politics, and their (oftenrnrather dreary) books reflect this.rnHitchens’ penetrating one begins to addressrnthis deficiency.rnHitchens starts by quoting Tony Blair’srnwords in 1997: “I am a modern man. Irnam part of the rock and roll generation —rnthe Beatles, color I V , thafs the generationrnI come from.” For Hitchens, diisrnsomehow encapsulates the difference betweenrnthe old Britain, which ran thernworld’s largest empire and defeated NazirnGermany, and the new “People’srnBritain,” which could elect a ludicrousrnfigure like Blair as its prime minister.rnLike many other conservative-mindedrnpeople, he found the extraordinaryrnscenes surrounding the funeral ofrnPrincess Diana curiously disgusting, sigrralingrnthe e n d – o r at least a nadir—ofrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn