In May, London was home to the National Conservative Conference, NatCon, an event which gathered an international group of nationalists and socially conservative politicians together with the intention of advocating for various, and rather concerning, aspects of far-right ideology. It is crucial to acknowledge the inherent dangers associated with such events. Engaging with far-right discourse implies prioritising one’s own vision of society over the well-being and rights of others. Often advocating for the protection of a specific group of people at the expense of marginalised communities.
With the social progress made by various communities in recent history, far-right ideology tends to provoke leaders and dictators to resist and undermine such advancements. This results in exclusion, unfortunately often in the form of violence or manipulative changes to laws and policies. By advocating for exclusion, far-right believers obstruct social progress and perpetrate a dangerous cycle of discrimination and hate.
Engaging with far-right discourse implies prioritising one’s own vision of society over the well-being and rights of others.
Conservative MPs who attended the NatCon event are also those who backed the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum, they demonstrate staunch support for extreme nationalism. Figures such as Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, and Miriam Cates exemplify politicians who oppose essential steps in social progress, shaping the debate around what it means to be a nationalist conservative.
What is a nationalist conservative, you may ask? Someone who upholds a conservative ideology who emphasises the preservation of national identity, culture, and sovereignty. They often intertwine elements of traditionalism in their political beliefs and are considered to be on the right side of the political spectrum.
Who are the nationalist conservatives in the UK? They are still a part of the Conservative Party as some of its core values align with their beliefs. They believe in the preservation of ‘order’ in society and oppose policies that change how the past has always been, such as gay and transgender rights, boosting immigration, and making healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone. Their opposition to progress and diversity drives them deeper into far-right ideas as they strive to impose their narrow vision of what they believe Britain ‘ought’ to resemble.
Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, and Miriam Cates exemplify politicians who oppose essential steps in social progress, shaping the debate around what it means to be a nationalist conservative.
The fact that this gathering at NatCon took place in London, with the backing of various MPs and cabinet ministers, should serve as a call for caution to the British population. It is evident that a dangerous tide is surging within the Tory government, giving rise to more divisive, ignorant, and violent ideas. For instance, Suella Braverman and MP Danny Kruger are shamefully blaming migrants, transgender people, and even single parents, for the societal challenges that Britain currently faces.
Hosting this conference in London to serve as an echo chamber for these far-right ideas and misguided assumptions poses a threat to the fundamental values of freedom and equality the British government vows to champion.
However, given the current economic landscape and emergence of scandals involving Tory MPs, it appears that the next election will witness a new Labour Prime Minister assume the reins of government.
For this reason, according to journalists who attended NatCon, the atmosphere seemed gloomy and rather somber, with a noticeable lack of energy among the crowd.
It is evident that a dangerous tide is surging within the Tory government, giving rise to more divisive, ignorant, and violent ideas.
Conservatives were well aware that attaining top leadership positions within the governemnt was realistically beyond their reach. Nonetheless, their dangerous ideas and values may still influence government decisions. If the momentum behind this far right movement continues to gain traction, they could pose a genuine threat to democratic values in future general elections.
The momentum is palpable. In the inaugural Natcon held in London in 2019, the headline speaker was merely a backbencher within the Tory party. This time around, the Home Secretary was the headline event.
These far-right believers have such radical messaging, which we will delve into, they mirror the Trump era in the United States. The event even attracted a Trump-endorsed senator, JD Vance, to soak up the conservative atmosphere.
Nationalist conservative politicians preach a dangerous narrative of division often scapegoating marginalised communities instead of talking about inclusion and progress. In the last year, Suella Braverman has isolated migrants and transgender people as clear communities that degrade British society. She seeks to clamp down on immigration and even deport some migrants who are seeking asylum in Britain to Rwanda.
In a recent push to end net migration, she is also pushing through a policy to prevent overseas post-graduates, or researchers, from bringing their families with them to the UK.
Then to protect traditional norms, she is actively supporting the stripping of trans- freedoms and expressions in Britain. She continues to reiterate the wrongful and transphobic claim that “100% of women do not have a penis” and has supported trans discrimination in schools.
Nationalist conservative politicians preach a dangerous narrative of division often scapegoating marginalised communities instead of talking about inclusion and progress.
Not only do politicians like Suella Braverman scapegoat particular communities to fit in to groups of far-right believers, but they also exploit economic disparities and grievances of the working people to widen the gaps between social classes.
Many of the Tories have had a poor history of helping Brits through the current cost-of-living crisis. They have shown especially no interest in helping the most vulnerable groups — those who have to make trade-offs between heating their houses, buying basic supplies, putting food on the table, and paying bus fares to get to work.
In what seems to be a perfect storm that has hit the UK economically, the lack of social support from the current Tory government allows economic gaps to widen.
This NatCon conference was more of the same with no one talking about the economic debate. In fact, the event opened with Miriam Cates accusing liberal ideology of creating Britain’s low birth rate. Ironically, no one explained that the rising cost of living, or even the London rental market, was the mysterious contraception taking over the population.
Perhaps one of the most concerning aspects of those who support NatCon is their apparent lack of empathy or connection to individuals who have experienced historical injustices or disenfranchisement, resulting in unfair life circumstances. During the post-conference gala dinner, Douglas Murray, a political commentator, shockingly declared that “no country in the world should be prevented from feeling pride in itself because the Germans mucked up twice in a century.”
This reference to the dark history of far-right fascism in Nazi Germany, marked by violence and genocide, was highly inappropriate and an insult to generations striving to heal from atrocities like the Holocaust.
The most concerning aspect of those who support NatCon is their apparent lack of empathy, or connection, to individuals who have experienced historical injustices or disenfranchisement.
Such remarks only serve to foster an environment of hate and discrimination, potentially fueling violence and social unrest from groups who feel like social progress is hindering their own advancements in society.
Nevertheless, some political commentators believe that this momentum will die out in Britain as voters tend to be less extreme and prone to violence compared to their counterparts in the US.
The events witnessed at the U.S Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters attemped to disrupt the functioning of the government following the fair election of President Biden, are highly unlikely to occur at Number 10 Downing Street.
With the potential election of a new Prime Minister on the horizon, nationalist conservatism could gradually lose steam. However, it is crucial to remain vigilant and consider how best to counteract the growth of this far-right movement, as its influence may persist even in the face of potential decline.
We must remain vigilant and actively engage in open dialogue. By having political discussions, we can promote education about the dangers of extremist ideology and the importance of inclusivity and open-minded thinking.
By fostering empathy and especially tolerance, we can build bridges between communities and different beliefs to create a society that celebrates difference rather than criminalise it.
It is crucial to remain vigilant and consider how best to counteract the growth of this far-right movement, as its influence may persist even in the face of potential decline.
Most importantly, we must hold our political leaders accountable by scrutinizing their actions, policies, and affiliations. Their job is to represent the people’s views and they can be kicked out of office if they lose votes.
A direct way to counterbalance far-right thinking is by actively engaging with local communities and bring about a sense of unity. Togetherness is a strength everyone should capitalise on, one that the nationalist conservatives are failing to champion.
Now more than ever, it’s also important to support organisations that work to combat hate and discrimination. This can range from volunteering for initiatives that help aid people during the cost-of-living crisis to showing support for organisations that try to combat social issues like housing or school disparities.
Finally, it is important to advocate for policies that will uphold freedom and equality in Britain. Over the last decade, the Tory party has failed to show its support for the most vulnerable communities.
It’s time to rally behind political leaders who will embrace and champion inclusivity in the upcoming elections. We can strive towards a future that celebrates diversity and inclusion, leaving no room for the divisive and exclusionary ideologies of the far-right which the nationalist conservatives reminisce in.