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POLITICS EXPLAINED

Who are the ‘National Conservatives’ and what do they stand for?

It is little more than crude populism and could fragment the Tory party, says Sean O’Grady

Tuesday 16 May 2023 14:02 BST
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A heckler is dragged away after interrupting Jacob Rees-Mogg at the National Conservatism conference in London on Monday
A heckler is dragged away after interrupting Jacob Rees-Mogg at the National Conservatism conference in London on Monday (Getty)

As the National Conservative Conference meets in London, already a couple of keynote speeches by Suella Braverman and Jacob Rees-Mogg have provided some controversy. For many in the Conservative Party, the National Conservative movement, which began in the United States, is another unwelcome faction in a divided party, with alarmingly fascistic overtones. To its supporters, it represents a rebirth of traditional conservative values after flirtations in recent decades with social liberalism, multiculturalism, diversity, equality and globalisation. Suffice to say it seems well-funded and, like the Conservative Democratic Organisation grouping within the Conservative Party, enjoys some popularity among the grassroots and rightist elements in the media.

What is National Conservatism?

In Britain it seems to be a kind of mash-up of Hard Brexit shibboleths, populism, nationalism, anti-globalisation, anti-immigrant prejudice, social conservatism and “anti-woke” beliefs, with a side-order of climate denialism, anti-vax crankery, Islamophobia, Sinophobia, transphobia, plus some optional mild racism and homophobia. They tend to like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Viktor Orban. As the Tory backbench MP Miriam Cates sees it, the UK arm of the movement grew out of the 2016 EU referendum and Boris Johnson’s 2019 election victory – “an instruction from the public that they expect us to govern with their interests, their values in mind. Not the values of the intelligentsia – the globalised elite whose loyalties are to everyone and no one”.

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