Do people want a different conservatism?
I asked them -and the results are striking
If Britain’s Labour Party win the election next year then the Conservative Party will most likely descend into civil war. Having lost an eighty seat majority in only a few years, having failed to stay connected to the post-Brexit realignment which propelled Boris Johnson into power, the Conservatives will finally be forced to reckon with questions they have so far been avoiding —who are they and what do they believe?
This debate, this philosophical tug-of-war over the nature of conservatism, is already raging elsewhere in the world. From America to Europe, the British Tories are being left behind by a new generation of conservatives who have sensed how the tectonic plates of politics are on the move and are changing accordingly. Having come of age amid the global financial crisis, the revolts of 2016, and the ‘Great Awokening’ of the cultural left, these self-styled ‘national conservatives’ reject both the ‘New Right’ conservatism of the 1980s, which was symbolised by Thatcher and Reagan, and the liberal progressive conservatism of the 2010s, symbolised by David Cameron.
Those earlier conservatives, they argue, fundamentally failed. And on this they have a point. As I outline in my new book, those earlier conservatives prioritised a disruptive ‘hyper-globalisation’ at the expense of the national economy and domestic workers. They prioritised mass immigration and relentless social change at the expense of stability, order, established social norms and the national community. They prioritised rampant individualism at the expense of strong communities and strong families. They empowered a managerial, technocratic and democratically unaccountable elite whose failures were later exposed by the global financial and sovereign debt crises, the Covid pandemic, and now the energy crisis. They became so obsessed with serving the market and withdrawing from the state that they allowed the state and the institutions to be captured by a radicalised cultural left. And, in turn, they ceded an enormous amount of political territory, allowing traditional conservative issues such as national identity, national borders, national history, and the rights of women and children to be repackaged and stigmatised as socially unacceptable ‘culture wars’.
Instead of returning to this broken model, national conservatives argue that if it’s to be successful, if it’s to fully mobilise the realignment that’s now visible in most if not all Western democracies, then conservatism must reinvent once again. It must, in short, make an unabashed case for things that are genuinely conservative -for less immigration, for strong and controlled national borders, for a serious and sustained pushback against political correctness or radical ‘woke’ progressivism, for strong families, for the protection of children from pornography, harmful social media, and belief systems which are being promoted in classrooms yet have no serious basis in science, for the principle of national preference, for sovereign, independent, self-governing nations, for the rule of law, and for protecting citizens, workers and businesses from the bewildering effects of hyper-globalisation.
So far, only a few of Britain’s Conservative MPs are making this case but their number is growing as more of them grasp just how weak their intellectual infrastructure has become. Instead of launching a new movement in a majoritarian system, which is a hopeless task, they are focusing their efforts on trying to replace the ‘dominant faction’ within the Conservative Party, on trying to marginalise the liberal conservatives, libertarians and donor class in the City who were handed the post-Brexit realignment on a silver plate but then consistently demonstrated they had no idea what to do with it. Rather than lean into it, rather than reshape conservatism around a completely different lodestar, many of those who have dominated the party until now did the exact opposite —they ran back to their comfort zone, pushing the pedal down on hyper-globalisation, unleashing a new and even more destabilising era of mass immigration, doing little if nothing at all to overturn the advance of radical progressivism within the institutions, continuing to treat mothers and fathers as economic units whose main job is not to look after their family but get back to work, and generally wanting to rewind the clock to the Nigel Lawson budget of 1987.
What national conservatives want, instead, is something very different. They want to push Britain’s Conservative Party, like some of its counterparts elsewhere in the world, in a fundamentally different direction, to bring about a radical, clean and permanent break from the old consensus, to rewire its offer so that it’s much better aligned with the deeper currents that are sweeping through global politics.
All of which raises the obvious question —would it be popular? Seriously? Would a large number of voters, especially those who flocked to Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party at the last election, in 2019, be receptive to national conservatism?
Well, I asked them. And the results, as I’m about to show you, and which I know for a fact have been discussed in and around Westminster, are striking. Here’s where British conservatism could go in the next year or so and how voters might respond.