It is a measure of how things look for the Conservatives that many of the party’s leading lights are already planning what comes next. A Tory think-tank is running a project on the future of conservatism, with MPs publishing a pamphlet on the right way forward. Now comes a troubling import into the mix.
Next week London hosts the National Conservatism Conference, an event organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a group led by American and Israeli rightwingers dedicated to building a new movement across the Western world. Viktor Orbán, the authoritarian Hungarian leader, spoke at an earlier conference, as did Giorgia Meloni, the popular Italian premier.
of the project, along with faith in the nation state and free enterprise 10 founding principles Also includes a central role for religion and family values. He called “unbridled individualism . . . which encourages more radical forms of sexual license and experimentation”. No nation, he adds, “can last long without humility and gratitude to God”.
Support for free enterprise also includes warnings against global markets and international companies that “allow hostile foreign powers to corrupt America”.
A number of British Conservatives including Suella Braverman, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lord David Frost and Michael Gove Speak at the event. Not all participants share the agenda of NatCons. But the speakers also included prominent culture warriors who portrayed their nations as victims of a godless, globalist liberal agenda.
One can overstate the importance of the conference, but this is timely as many Tories are considering post-election transfers.
The financial meltdown and the collapse of the liberal economic system destroyed the modern conservative open model of the Cameron era of global free trade that brings prosperity to all. Brexit offered a competing narrative of national self-renewal and many leading Tories see a lasting future in a populist model built around nationalism and the defense of traditional values.
Yet while it may appeal to many MPs and activists, the importation of the US Netcon model is off-putting for two significant reasons.
The first and most obvious is that the US is a superpower. It can unilaterally change the global terms of trade and remain separate from multilateral institutions without risking its influence. Britain does not have this luxury.
The second is that the religious right is not, nor likely to be, a force in British politics. in Recent Census In England and Wales, less than half the population, 46 percent, classed themselves as Christian, while 37 percent said they had no religion. Nations in which the NatCon agenda has taken root often boast a powerful religious identity or a leader who is able to mobilize the religious vote. The UK, by contrast, largely keeps matters of religious conscience out of partisan politics – although, as the recent Scottish National Party leadership contest shows, this separation is becoming harder to sustain within progressive parties.
The lack of a strong religious caucus limits the scope of the culture wars. There is room for conservatives to push back against what might be characterized as progressive over-reach in social policy, but Britain is not and does not want to be as polarized as the US. For example, enjoying the right to abortion Overwhelming support in the UKEven among conservatives.
The UK is hardly immune to racial injustice and public opinion supports limits on immigration. But the US Nor can the division of Britain be compared, whose politics to this day are tainted by the federal cause. A carefully calibrated nod to immigration may work, but overplaying racial politics risks losing centrist voters. Conservatives should be the voice of the comfortable and the angry.
Clearly, the British NatCon offering will be different. It is possible to see mileage in more support for families, but this cannot be limited to the nuclear type. A hard line on immigration may also work with target voters. Yet the Tories already know all this. Still, some strategists believe the party’s new voter base demands a deeper embrace of culture wars and nationalism.
But the insular NatCon model does not propose a solution to break the nexus between free-market Tories and the more active position sought by new supporters. It has little to offer on climate change or the impact of new technologies. Rejection of multilateral institutions is also difficult for a post-Brexit UK. Prioritizing less important issues is more important to voters than household income, housing and the state of public services. Economic development avenues are where the Tories need to focus.
So mainstream Tories should be very wary of grafting on US-style cultural conflicts, especially those supported by movements with dim visions of independence and undue respect for leaders with shaky records on democracy.
A degree of social conservatism combined with pro-development policies can be electorally attractive. But historical success has been built on balancing the old with adaptation to the new.
The move from this proven approach of mild modernity to angry backlash is death for conservatives in a country that is ever less religious, ever more tolerant of non-traditional lifestyles, and which mostly wants to find a middle-ground rather than burn it down.