Conservative Philosophy Group

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The Conservative Philosophy Group was founded in 1975 by Jonathan Aitken, Hugh Fraser, Roger Scruton and John Casey. It met at Aitken's homes at 47 Phillimore Gardens in Kensington, West London [1] and then at 8 Lord North Street in Westminster. [2] The Group's three other founders had all supported Hugh Fraser in the 1975 Conservative Leadership Election (won by Margaret Thatcher). Jonathan Aitken recalls that:

Three youthful enthusiasts who had played an emanuensis role in helping Hugh Fraser to set out his stall were Roger Scruton (then a lecturer in philosophy at Birkbeck college), Dr John Casey (a Cambridge don), and myself. When drinking sorrowfully together in the aftermath of Fraser’s defeat we had talked hopefully about keeping his ideas alive. To do this we formed a supper club which we called the Conservative Philosophy Group. [3]

Roger Scruton writes that its ‘first decision was to create a board of four members. John Casey and I were to search the intellectual world for conservatives; Hugh and Jonathan Aitken were to search the Conservative Party for members who could think.' [4] According to John Casey:

There was an eclectic variety of speakers. A clutch of political philosophers and economists from the LSE were members, as well as philosophers and historians from Oxbridge. Over the years, papers were given by Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Michael Oakeshott, Elie Kedourie, the Archbishop of York (Habgood), Shirley Letwin, Peter Bauer, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Robert Blake, Edward Norman. Hugh Thomas, Maurice Cowling, Tony Quinton, T.E. Utley, Peregrine Worsthorne, Paul Johnson, Frank Johnson, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Norman Stone, Charles Moore, Oliver Letwin, Noel Malcolm were members. So were very many of those who went on to serve in the Thatcher Cabinets, and some on the present Tory front-bench. Enoch Powell never missed a meeting. [5]

Jonathan Aitken writes that Thatcher 'pounced on a throwaway line' from Michael Oakeshott that 'de-nationalisation' should be called 'some thing more attractive like privatisation.' [6]


  1. 'Lady Aitken: Political hostess and loyal mother whose army of admirers spanned generations', The Times, 9 February 2005.
  2. Jonathan Aitken, Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) p.373
  3. Jonathan Aitken, Heroes and contemporaries (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) p.131
  4. Roger Scruton, Gentle regrets: thoughts from a life (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) p.45
  5. John Casey, 'The revival of Tory philosophy', The Spectator, 17 March 2007.
  6. Jonathan Aitken, Heroes and contemporaries (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) p.131