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‘Fighting the Enlightenment?’: What Do Danny Kruger’s New Conservatives Really Want?

Among all the new forms of Conservatism springing up in the run up to the next election, Kruger’s New Conservatives appear to be the most religious in their “holy war against the Left”

Danny Kruger MP in Downing Street. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Images/Alamy

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Conservative MP Danny Kruger has been described as “one of parliament’s leading thinkers”. He was described that way by whoever wrote the dust jacket to his book Covenant: The New Politics of Home, Neighbourhood and Nation (Forum, 2023).

Kruger leads the New Conservatives, one of the many factions chewing on the liver of the Conservative Party. He helped lead the right-wing “rebellion” against the government’s Rwanda bill, and could shape the fate of Rishi Sunak and what comes next. But what does Danny Kruger think, and what do his New Conservatives want?

In Covenant, Kruger argues that the UK has forgotten three pillars of society: Home, meaning family; Neighbourhood, meaning one’s local community; and Nation, meaning one’s country of residence. These bonds have been diluted (Kruger likes his metaphors faint) by material and ideological changes, resulting in general strife and decline.

Kruger describes this as a conflict between the (capital “O”) Order and the (capital “I”) Idea. The Order is the “traditional normative dispositions” which “reflect the truth of things”, while the Idea is “a religion of individual self-creation that unpicks the connecting fibres of society and ruins the person”: “In replacing the Order with the Idea we replace the centrality of relationships with the centrality of the self.”

What follows is a familiar attack on the excesses of liberalism. Kruger dislikes the word “woke” (“too trivial, too mocking for such a powerful and resourceful enemy”), but embraces the term “culture war”. What makes him novel in a UK context is to make this case in explicitly religious terms.

Fighting the Enlightenment

“The culture war”, Kruger writes, “is a religious conflict about the right gods to worship. […] It is a battle for the strongholds of society itself”. Here Kruger echoes US reactionary Pat Buchanan’s 1992 speech declaring “a cultural war for the soul of America”. (Buchanan rather tellingly painted the culture war as a successor to the Cold War against “godless” socialism – a point to keep in mind.)

As this suggests, Kruger is more reactionary than your typical Tory MP. He believes things started going wrong in the 18th century with the Enlightenment, the “exaggerated rationalism” of which was the first rebellion against the Order. This led to something worse: the Idea, which, “having killed liberalism from within, has animated its carcass with a different philosophy, and this zombified monster now rules instead”. 

Here’s the first big problem. Kruger portrays this modern, post-Enlightenment Left as a surrogate religion – a cult of the individual, with the arrogance to believe humans are infallible. But if humans are fallible (as we surely are), how can he claim to know that the traditional Christian Order “represents the truth of things”? 

Throughout the book, Kruger makes grand assertions like this – “We were born to worship: This is our essence, as primary as our existence” – without providing a shred of evidence to support them. He assumes what he needs to prove, and writes as if Christianity is outside the realm of man-made ideas. 

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You can’t really attack the “woke” Left for resembling a religion if you think the secular Enlightenment is the problem to begin with. Not, that is, unless you argue that modern Leftism is a false god, which would simply be a call to replace one set of pieties with another. Thus Kruger robs his critique of its potential sting, and fires an arrow directly into his own foot. 

Second, Kruger fails to name his enemy except in abstract terms (“the Idea”). The book oddly has few if any quotes from the modern progressives it attacks, relying instead on second-hand accounts from the Left’s critics. He does quote some radical thinkers from the 20th century – Jean-Paul Sartre, Herbert Marcuse, Simone De Beauvoir – all of whom are long-dead, and whose influence he comically overstates. (Example: “Sartre’s essay was published in 1946. It was not until 2020 that his principles became an official doctrine.”) 

In Kruger’s telling, the West was led astray by these writers, whose ideas transformed society and shaped our modern world. This is not so much bad history as a ‘Just-So Story’, and with about as much explanatory value. It’s Paradise Lost, with Sartre in the role of Lucifer. 

Cardinal Sins

What are Kruger’s pieties? The MP for Devizes argues (at length) that “marriage is the safest and best place for sex”. He calls transgender rights “the latest attempt to attribute evil to creation”. He frets about new tech and AI, (or “robots”), asking: “Will the machines belong to the Order, or to the Idea?”

Then there’s this: “the dissolution of families also leads, just as naturally, to the great disaster that is impending in the West: the deliberate killing of the old, the ill and the disabled.” Kruger is referring to euthanasia, or assisted suicide, which he considers central to the progressive scheme:

“Death is the externality of the Idea. When we live for ourselves, others must die. If we think we are good and creation is bad, we end up killing people. Instead of a pleasure dome, we make a hecatomb, a mass sacrifice of human life to the gods of our culture. This is the deathworks.”

It’s curious that Kruger gets so animated about this. For one thing, euthanasia has been illegal in the UK since 1961. For another, Kruger writes that he feels “ashamed” of voting for Covid restrictions when the alternative would have been more deaths among the old and the infirm.

Despite the alleged scale of the threat posed by the Idea, Kruger’s proposals are incredibly weak: compulsory council work, insurance-based parental leave, and so on. On economics, Kruger writes that “a free market […] depends on the proper moral orientation of businesspeople” – in other words, nice capitalists. If only we were to create a “more purposeful commercial sector”, Kruger writes, we could “realise the conservative vision of a low-tax, light-regulation economy”. Perhaps we could arrange for Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos et al to be visited by three ghosts… 


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There are other contradictions. Why, for example, does he not extend his argument about family, neighbourhood, and country to international communities like the European Union? Kruger was an active Leave campaigner and recently named Brexit as “the great standing achievement of our time in office”.

On the national question, Kruger again veers into dark fantasy. As he writes in the book: “The ‘enemy’ for Brexiteers was and is the anti-identity of globalism, the doctrine of international allegiance that has infected not just the EU but progressive elites across the world, and in the UK especially.” 

At last year’s Tory conference, Kruger opined that “the penny is dropping among people in Westminster that the Government doesn’t run the government”. He went on to warn of a “huge movement” to create “a world government that will have power to dictate to national governments what they should do in anticipation of another pandemic.” This isn’t a modest plea for a return to “traditional values”. It’s the worldview of the radical Right, in its most internet-crazed conspiracy theory form.


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Material Realities

Let’s bring Kruger down to earth. Before entering parliament, he was a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, a pro-Brexit think tank run by the Legatum Group, the UAE-based investment firm behind GB News. The Legatum crowd has mastered the art of preaching national populism while being funded by millionaires based in Dubai. Anti-globalism is a funny business.  

Kruger spoke at the launch of Legatum’s churchy Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) project last year, which is led by self-help culture warrior Jordan Peterson. Kruger’s New Conservatives (a limited company) received £50,000 from Legatum in December.

And the hits keep coming. Since joining Parliament in 2019, Kruger has worked as a senior advisor to Boris Johnson – surely the embodiment of godless individualism, and not a great one for the sanctity of marriage. During the pandemic, Kruger defended Johnson aide Dominic Cummings (an “old friend”) over his breaking of lockdown rules, on the grounds that he was doing what was best for his family. 

In the 2022 Tory leadership race, Kruger endorsed Suella Braverman to be Prime Minister. Last month, Kruger was one of only 11 MPs to follow through with their threat to vote against the government’s Rwanda bill – though not exactly on Christian grounds. As he explained, “It still allows for migrants’ lawyers to claim that their removal to Rwanda would breach their human rights”. Did I mention that Kruger describes his new covenant as “the politics of love”? 

Kruger has warned that the Tories face “obliteration” in the next general election, which given the polls hardly counts as a prophecy. Whatever happens, he and his Legatum backers will be there to pick up the pieces and will continue their holy war against the Left. 

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