Best of British Conservatism

        "Hail, happy Britain! Highly favored isle, And Heaven's peculiar care!"—William Somerville

British conservative circles are awash with books at the moment. Apart from the usual think-tank reports and surveys, we have seen recently John Major's and Norman Lamont's memoirs, John Redwood's Death of Britain, and the latest miscellany from Daily Telegraph columnist Michael Wharton (Peter Simple), to name several. Three books, however, are among the most interesting and useful of this post-May 1997 oeuvre.

A Bastard's Tale is the autobiography of Sir George Gardiner, former Conservative MP for Reigate and briefly the only MP ever for the late Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party. Sir George was Chairman of the influential backbench assemblage of MPs called the 92 Group, which is in many respects the arbiter of power within the Parliamentary Party. During his tenure as leader, the 92 Group pursued a Euroskeptical line which was often at odds—especially once John Major became prime minister—with that of the party hierarchy, culminating in the famous revolt against the Maastricht Treaty and Major's description of the rebel MPs as "bastards" (hence the book's title).

Sir George has right-of-center opinions on most issues, notably Europe, capital punishment, and the family, although his...

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