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.
It was his profound Toryism which led him to the conclusion in the late 1960s and early 1970s that the Conservative party should strike out in a new direction in order to reverse the nation's decline. He was one of the first to appreciate the need for a ‘a radical policy of economic liberalism’, as he put it. He always said that the ultimate test of a Tory in politics is not his ability to frustrate change, but his capacity to recognize the need for change.
He was a man of immense intellectual generosity. He was always ready to put his knowledge and insights at the disposal of politicians, fellow writers and personal friends. I remember particularly vividly our last meetings just before his death last year when we discussed at length the ideas which I intended to use in my speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
I was greatly honoured when the Utley family asked me to become Patron of the fund which has been established in his memory. Every year an award will be made to a political writer, aged under 35, whose work shows particular promise. That is a fitting memorial to a man who gave such generous encouragement to young journalists throughout his career. I am very glad, however, that Charles Moore and Simon Heffer, two of the younger writers who learned so much from him, have provided this further memorial by compiling a selection of Peter 's own writings. This volume shows why Peter Utley made such a profound impact on the discussion of political ideas in this century.
17 July 1989