Salma Shah reviews Danny Kruger's 'Covenant'
Danny Kruger, March 2023 | Image by: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Dense and occasionally confusing, Danny Kruger’s deliberations on the politics of home and identity read like the musings of a progressive Victorian
There is a problem with modern Conservatism. Whilst still an electorally successful force, this once broad church of ideas has become unmanageable without a central theme to bind its unwieldy factions. It’s hardly surprising when you consider how many Conservative leaders we’ve had in recent times and how varied their own personal Conservative brands have been.
A year out from an election, we are at an inflection point: what is the message to the party faithful and can it be translated into an electorally winning campaign? Perhaps this is the reason for Covenant, Danny Kruger MP’s attempt at his own “reset” of Conservative values.
Most Conservatives will read the sentiments in this book and nod in appreciation. The focus on family as a defining support structure and the benefits of marriage are all solidly Conservative principles. Kruger hones in on the theme of self-worship, a social ill that has come at the expense of Christian belief and community bonds. Again a regular and recognisable complaint of many social conservatives.
Danny Kruger is a man of integrity, I can say this from personal experience. He is thoughtful and honest and he cares about the circumstances of his fellow humans. Public life is richer for his presence but that isn’t translated into the prose. His dense and occasionally confusing thoughts read like the musings of a progressive Victorian not a modern politician looking for credible answers.
Public life is richer for Kruger’s presence but that isn’t translated into the prose
Whilst his diagnosis of the problems of the state is prescient, with criticisms of local government “cliques and cabals” unable to engage people in their local decisions, it lacks any clear pathway to rectifying them. The book is good at pointing out what is not working in the social contract but provides little on how to fix it.
Traditional Tories will cheer his demand for reform of the bureaucracy that is “impervious” but there is no detail on what particular reforms are required beyond people thinking more humanely – a challenge in a world of systems and procedures, targets and accountability. Governments cannot work with gut feeling alone; we need administrators who are sometimes devoid of emotion to make hard decisions.
To his credit, he talks about freedom and how “we have grown used to the principle that the answer to a threat is the government enforcing universal solutions”. He is of course referencing lockdowns and admonishes himself for supporting such restrictive measures. Indeed what is Conservatism if not being deeply sceptical about the encroachment of the state? But it isn’t unpacked in any meaningful way nor does he present an alternative in a world where intrusion of the state and of businesses is an accepted norm and little contested.
A sense of pride and belonging, and individual freedom, is something we can all strive for but without the technical ability to translate complex policy into these outcomes we are left with mere feelings.
Covenant could easily have been double the length and perhaps it would have assisted in understanding the very complex canter through the author’s thoughts. It represents an important belief in the Conservative movement and that social conservatism and the politics of home and identity are still important – but it has to work alongside the different parts of conservatism in order to create an offer the British public understands or indeed wants. There is still much to consider if Conservative thought is to find its equilibrium again.
Salma Shah is a political commentator and former Conservative special adviser
Covenant: The New Politics of Home, Neighbourhood and Nation
By: Danny Kruger
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