Once the Party of Stability, Conservatives Now Provoke Unrest

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

Kate Maltby argues in The Guardian that Britain’s Conservative Party has lost its way.

For centuries, Conservatives warned against the dangers of too much change too quickly, she points out. They argued revolutions leave children starving and adults bleeding. That stability leads to prosperity. That inequality is a price worth paying for economic growth.

Don’t rock the boat, don’t scare the banks and the middle classes get their quiet life.

Remember the “long-term economic plan”? It was only two years ago that David Cameron couldn’t stop talking about.

Then his party brought Brexit on the United Kingdom. Read more

British Conservatives Split Into Three After Election Defeat

British prime minister Theresa May delivers a news conference together with Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales, in Swansea, March 20
British prime minister Theresa May delivers a news conference together with Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales, in Swansea, March 20 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

Brexit, last month’s lousy election result and Theresa May’s deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to stay in power have divided Britain’s Conservatives into three camps, writes Matthew d’Ancona in The Guardian:

  1. Ideologues: Worshippers of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand who believe the Thatcherite revolution is unfinished. “Like all millenarian cults, they take for granted the manifest truth of their arguments and were offended by the supposed left-wing content of May’s manifesto.”
  2. Explainers: They blame the party’s disappointing election result not on principles or priorities but on communication and strategy. They are right to an extent, according to d’Ancona: “distracted by Brexit and corrupted by a sense of entitlement, the Tories must recover the art of communication and elucidation.”
  3. Adapters: Modernizers who do believe the party needs to change its policies. “They understand that the world is changing at an unprecedented pace and that the old solutions are running out of road. In a century of automation, globalization, new forms of inequality and shifting assumptions about the role of the state, it isn’t enough for Conservatives to sound like a retro 80s show.” Read more

Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz and May

Sebastian Kurz is seen leaving an Austrian People's Party meeting in Vienna, May 14
Sebastian Kurz is seen leaving an Austrian People’s Party meeting in Vienna, May 14 (ÖVP/Jakob Glaser)

Center-right parties in Western Europe are responding to competition from the nativist right in radically different ways.

Whereas Dutch prime minister and liberal party leader Mark Rutte argued against the “pessimism” of the nationalist Freedom Party in the March election and won, conservative leaders in Austria and the United Kingdom have chosen to appease reactionary voters. Read more

National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

France’s National Front will have to reinvent itself after a disappointing election result on Sunday.

The nationalists were hoping to get 40 percent support or more in the presidential runoff, but Marine Le Pen got stuck at 34 percent. Still double her father’s performance when he qualified for the second voting round in 2002, but a letdown nonetheless.

In her concession speech, Le Pen promised voters “profound reform” of her party in order to create “a new political force” for all French “patriots” who oppose the globalism of Emmanuel Macron, the incoming president.

Whether this means starting a new party or rebranding the National Front remains to be seen, but change is in the air. With it could come a struggle for the movement’s identity. Read more

Conservatives Need to Rethink Whose Side They’re On

People sit on the steps on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC, April 17, 2009
People sit on the steps on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC, April 17, 2009 (Chris Kelly)

Now that Donald Trump is president, right-of-center commentators who opposed him during the Republican primaries are falling back into the habit of criticizing the left. Read more

The French Far Right’s Family Feud Explained

French lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaks at an event in Mayenne, September 1, 2012
French lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen speaks at an event in Mayenne, September 1, 2012 (FN)

Politico reports that a long-simmering dispute between the two most prominent women of the French far right is getting out of hand.

There is even a risk of a split in the Front national, the website argues: between the faction of leader Marine Le Pen and the socially conservative wing that has rallied around her 26-year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The fact that it’s a family feud, in which the Le Pen patriarch and Vichy apologist Jean-Marie inevitably resurfaces, makes this a headline-grabbing story.

But there are deeper, geographical and political divides at play that have less to do with personality. Read more

François Fillon Leads Revolt of France’s “Discreet Bourgeoisie”

Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1, 2012
Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1, 2012 (EPP)

François Fillon’s unexpectedly strong showing in the French center-right’s primary last weekend has send shockwaves through the French political establishment.

Fillon’s remaining opponent, Alain Juppé — another former prime minister — has lashed out at what he calls a “brutal” economic program and a “conservative, backward-looking” vision for the country.

Fillon isn’t shying away from the label “Thatcherite”, which was once toxic in France. He wants to cut benefits and public-sector jobs in order to bring government spending down from 57 to under 50 percent of gross domestic product. He is also campaigning on longer working hours, a higher retirement age and €40 billion worth of tax cuts for businesses.

That’s more radical than what Juppé has in mind, but both men want to roll back the French welfare state and eliminate taxes and restrictive labor policies that make the country less competitive than its neighbors.

It’s on social issues where they truly diverge — and the differences between them reflect a divided France. Read more