T. E. Utley

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Thomas Edwin Utley (1 February 1921 – 21 June 1988), known as Peter Utley, was a British High Tory journalist and writer.


  • As an old-fashioned Tory, I have that instinctive sympathy for the Ulster Unionist cause which until recently was, and must now again become, one of the strongest characteristics of that great party.
    • 'Author's Foreword' (April 1975), in Lessons of Ulster (1975; 1997), p. 7
  • Here, then, is a random selection of the vices and fallacies which, I maintain, have distinguished British policy in Ulster during this period. The dominant vice has been an obdurate refusal to recognise the existence of any ultimately and incorrigibly unpleasant fact. Positively, this has taken the form of an assumption that in politics there can be no final incompatible aspirations; that there is never a point at which it must be recognised that the wishes of one man are wholly irreconcilable with those of another; that there is never a dispute which can only be settled by force. This particular weakness bears fruit in one of the most cherished convictions of British liberalism—the belief in negotiation. Negotiation is seen not as a means of establishing where differences lie or even as a method of persuading adversaries to change their minds: it is seen rather as a form of therapy which, applied with however little regard to the nature of the disease or the character of the cure which it is supposed to effect, has an intrinsic value.
    • Lessons of Ulster (1975; 1997), p. 12
  • Ulstermen knew that the conflict between the Civil Rights Movement and the authorities was largely a charade; that, just below the surface, the old gut conflict survived in the Province. On neither side was it seriously doubted that what was going on was a modern version of the old battle between nationalities, and the real issue was Irish nationalism versus Unionism.
    • Lessons of Ulster (1975; 1997), p. 35
  • Contrary to popular belief, maintained in the face of much historical experience, the danger-point in the affairs of any régime which is seriously challenged by a substantial number of its subjects, comes not when that régime is resisting all reform but when it has started belatedly on the path of concession.
    • Lessons of Ulster (1975; 1997), p. 36
  • One obvious and continuous function of the monarchy is to confer approbation by word and deed on those things which, in the common judgement of most men and women of British stock, are still deemed honourable – the bonds of family love and loyalty, care for the unfortunate, respect for human personalities as distinct from dedication to the abstract rights of mankind, even hard work and enterprise. To the various scruffs who assault the monarchy these things are anathema either because they are incompatible with the total transformation of society they want or, at the very least, because they tend to make that transformation less urgently desirable than it otherwise might appear.
    By upholding these simple pieties, which have worn thin among politicians, the Crown exerts a continuous subtle restraint on reckless and ruthless innovation. Hence the particular venom inspired among the dregs of radicalism by the Duke of Edinburgh, who can speak on such matters with greater freedom than the Queen and who wields that influence, not perhaps with unerring instinct, but with a beneficent effect which is the greater for not being muffled by immaculate conception.
    • 'Dyspeptic ghosts at the banquet', The Sunday Telegraph (5 June 1977), quoted in Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), p. 111
  • Suppose that a revolutionary junta of corrupt oligarchy were blatantly to use the machinery of democracy to try to compass democracy's destruction. Would the Crown be wholly impotent? I do not think so.
    • 'Dyspeptic ghosts at the banquet', The Sunday Telegraph (5 June 1977), quoted in Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), p. 112
  • The habit which exists among many of the advocates of sensible reforms in economic policy of speaking of their "mission" to the universities or middle management, and of the necessity to "convert" the electorate to capitalism is more suitable to the heirs of the nonconformist radicalism than to the Tory party. It also suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of what politics is about; for the political process is concerned not with the preaching and application of doctrines but with the management of prejudices and reconciling of interests.
    • 'The Significance of Mrs Thatcher', in Maurice Cowling (ed.), Conservative Essays (1978), p. 47
  • In the hands of some of the more zealous exponents of revisionist Toryism...criticism has been developed into a general attack on the whole concept of moderation as a political virtue. This sort of thing is most unnerving to the electorate and most damaging to the Conservative party. If moderation means a wish, other things being equal or approximately so, to govern with the consent of as many of those being governed as possible, even if it means a disposition to take into account the prejudices of large sections of the electorate in formulating policy, it is no bad thing. To set about trying to reform the economy without taking into account the real force of such sentiments as loyalty to a trade union would be to court disaster.
    • 'The Significance of Mrs Thatcher', in Maurice Cowling (ed.), Conservative Essays (1978), p. 47
  • It would be equally disastrous to ignore the truth that the theories of classical liberal economics, for all the truth they contain, appear to the average British elector to be profoundly shocking. The notions that a man's wage should be determined entirely by the law of supply and demand, that distributive justice has no place in the organisation of the economy and that the pursuit of profit is not only legitimate but the only proper motive of economic activity, fly in the face not only of modern egalitarian prejudice but also of all the assumptions of a society which is still largely based on the idea of status.
    • 'The Significance of Mrs Thatcher', in Maurice Cowling (ed.), Conservative Essays (1978), pp. 47-48
  • Internally, the State is menaced not only by a powerful Fifth Column, strongly represented in the trade unions and in politics, but also by new social divisions more potentially destructive than any it has known before. Massed immigration has saddled it with a "racial problem", to which it has still given no systematic thought and which is being sedulously exploited by people on both left and right who are openly committed to overturning our political and social arrangements. The rule of law is threatened from above and below, by arbitrary bureaucracy and by a steady increase in crime... In these gloomy circumstances, it is mysterious and a scandal that the energies of the Tory party should still be so largely employed in debating the merits of an incomes policy which, at any rate for the moment, has become obligatory. It is certainly not that the electorate has been unwilling to hear about such matters as immigration, terrorism, and violent crime generally; on the contrary, the political establishment has used all its influence to divert attention from these issues, incurring a good deal of unpopularity in the process.
    • 'The Significance of Mrs Thatcher', in Maurice Cowling (ed.), Conservative Essays (1978), p. 49
  • On Thursday, I went to a party of the Primrose League, founded 100 years ago in favour of the constitution, patriotism, decency and all that. The members are mostly very old and they have not got much money; but they speak more accurately in the voice of British Conservatism than anyone else. I know rather more young Conservatives than most people do and I think that this sort of thing strikes a stronger chord in their hearts than Monetarism v. Keynesism. What a wonderful thing if someone would try to revive the Primrose League to its former eminence. Think of the patronising remarks from Brian Redhead and other media connoisseurs of Tory antiques. And think how reassured Britain would be!
    • 'Bewildered but still loyal', The Daily Telegraph (19 October 1981), quoted in Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), p. 71
  • There is...the...argument that under PR extremist minorities, like the Front Nationale in France, get a look in which otherwise would be denied them. But is it thoroughly unhealthy to pretend that such minorities do not exist?
    I am no fascist, but I represent a brand of Toryism, at once traditionalist and populist, which holds sway in every public bar in the kingdom and is almost entirely denied parliamentary expression by the Establishment.
    Above all, PR would increase the independence of MPs both from their constituency associations and their party machines. I would give it a try.
    • 'Why PR might be worth a try', The Daily Telegraph (25 August 1986), quoted in Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), p. 135
  • Had the British electorate ever been asked plainly whether it wanted to belong to a European state or to remain British, it would have said, with unmistakable emphasis, that it was in favour of an independent Britain. What is more, it would have consigned to perdition any political party which proposed the opposite. Yet, under the conditions of parliamentary democracy, the opposite is plainly coming about. A political élite has so far imposed its views on the people.
    • 'Duped by a European smoke-screen', The Daily Telegraph (10 November 1986), quoted in Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), p. 136

Quotes about T. E. Utley[edit]

  • Few people have possessed such a complete understanding of the central tenets and principles of Toryism as Peter Utley. Certainly no one has articulated them with more eloquence. He stood in the tradition of the great Tory philosophers—Hooker, Burke and Lord Salisbury. Drawing on that tradition, he delivered powerful and incisive judgments on leading political, social and moral issues over a period of more than forty years. Though his range was remarkable, questions affecting the Anglican Church and the unity of the nation always had pride of place in his work. He was, quite simply, the most distinguished Tory thinker of our time.
    • Margaret Thatcher, 'Preface' (17 July 1989), Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), p. ix

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