What is National Conservatism, and what do the people behind it want?

·3-min read
Jacob Rees Mogg battles on as a critic tries to interrupt his keynote speech at Natcon 2023  (Getty Images)
Jacob Rees Mogg battles on as a critic tries to interrupt his keynote speech at Natcon 2023 (Getty Images)

Right-leaning thinkers and Tory members are gathering at an event this week that could provide a new direction for the Conservative Party.

National Conservatism group is behind the conference Natcon 2023 in Westminster, which runs from Monday to Wednesday and has nearly 50 speakers lined up.

Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lee Anderson are on the bill for the eighth conference of the movement, whose following has been growing since 2016.

This is all you need to know about the movement.

What is National Conservatism?

MP Miriam Cates is a National Conservative (PA Media)
MP Miriam Cates is a National Conservative (PA Media)

The movement began in the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum and grew through the landslide Tory election victory in 2019.

The group defines itself on its website as “A movement of public figures, journalists, scholars, and students who understand that the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation, to the principle of national independence, and to the revival of the unique national traditions that alone have the power to bind a people together and bring about their flourishing.”

It has attracted the attention of darlings of the right of the Tory Party, such as Ms Braverman, and has positioned itself as the voice of traditional British values. Despite the pro-UK stance, National Conservatism was actually the offshoot of a Right-wing US think tank, which sees the movement as having the potential to reshape the narrative for the Conservative Party in the same way the Tea Party did once for the Republicans.

A backer of the cause is rising Conservative Miriam Cates, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, who opened the conference. She said Brexit was 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”.

What are the values of National Conservatism?

The movement has set out 10 principles, each one of which is explained on its website.

1. National Independence

2. Rejection of Imperialism and Globalism

3. National Government

4. God and Public Religion

5. The Rule of Law

6. Free Enterprise

7. Public Research

8. Family and Children

9. Immigration

10. Race

“We are citizens of Western nations who have watched with alarm as the traditional beliefs, institutions, and liberties underpinning life in the countries we love have been progressively undermined and overthrown,” a statement adds.

However, what has been said at the conference has been controversial at times. Hungarian-Canadian sociologist Frank Furedi stoked LGBT groups by saying: “In Brussels, you no longer have LGBTQ+, they’re inventing a new letter to add to the [acronym] every single day.”

Journalist Douglas K Murray received a backlash online for saying: “I don’t see why no one should be allowed to love their country because the Germans mucked up twice in a century.”

What could National Conservatism mean for the Tory Party?

Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have both played a role in a rise in Right-wing popularism (GB News)
Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have both played a role in a rise in Right-wing popularism (GB News)

In the mid-2010s, Right-wing populism was on the rise with support for UKIP leading to Brexit in the UK while Donald Trump campaigned on pro-conservative values, and far-Right politician Viktor Orbán was elected Hungarian prime minister.

The Tories have enacted Brexit but the influence of the far Right has been questionable, with current leader Rishi Sunak a moderate within the party being backed up in cabinet by Ms Braverman and Right-leaning Kemi Badenoch as business secretary. Lee Anderson’s appointment as deputy chairman of the party represents evidence of “red wall” Tories, elected in former northern Labour heartlands, coming to the fore.

National Conservatives will argue the 2019 election result could give the movement a mandate to show the future the party should be taking. But, with the British population showing increasingly liberal values on social issues and the failure of Liz Truss’s low tax and low regulation premiership, it might not be a central campaign theme ahead of the next election in 2024.

Labour is currently polling at 45 per cent, ahead of the Conservative Party’s 28 per cent, according to Politico.