UK: A conservatism is spreading that the Tories can’t fathom

The party’s neoliberal leaders are out of touch with exactly the kind of values that look likely to define our future.

‘On foreign policy, Cameron is a Blairite… George Osborne is not actually a small-c conservative at all.’

A month or so ago, when the public’s opposition to any intervention in Syria was revealed, the stock explanation of their views was pretty simple – boiling down to Iraq, the unhinged premiership of Tony Blair, and people’s instinctive understanding of what is now known as “overstretch”.

But something else was in the air: a very British kind of scepticism, coupled with an instinctive belief that other nations’ wars are usually best left alone, and a general sense of people turning inward in pursuit of a quiet life. A conservative position, in other words, at which a certain kind of metropolitan commentator huffed and puffed, while others such as Paddy Ashdown pompously despaired of their own country, which is never the best look.

They should get used to it, because this is where a large swath of public opinion has arrived. Conservatism with a small “c” has always been ingrained in our politics, spanning both left and right – but it is starting to feel like its values may yet define the future. The shift is bound up not just with the wreckage of “liberal interventionism”, but something even more deep-rooted which, outside London, runs rampant: post-crash, a palpable sense of people having had a bellyful of globalisation, open markets, and much more besides.


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