Shadow Government

The latest British export: A new voice in conservative media

One of the more interesting aspects of my recent two-year sojourn in London was getting to know British conservatism firsthand. The word "Conservative" in the British context is ambiguous in that it can refer to the party ("Conservative" with a capital "C"), the movement, or the ideological persuasion — or sometimes two of the above, ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

One of the more interesting aspects of my recent two-year sojourn in London was getting to know British conservatism firsthand. The word "Conservative" in the British context is ambiguous in that it can refer to the party ("Conservative" with a capital "C"), the movement, or the ideological persuasion — or sometimes two of the above, or sometimes all three at once. The commonalities between British and U.S. conservatism are many, and these shared convictions can also be found among conservatives across the Anglosphere, such as in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. These include commitments to free markets, limited government, the family and other mediating institutions in civil society, personal responsibility, robust national defense, and respect for tradition.

Yet on other issues, American conservatism is exceptional. There is very little in the way of a pro-life movement in Britain, for example, and even the most right-wing British Tory wags their heads in bemusement at the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Of course the exceptions and curiosities go both ways; there is little prospect of a grassroots movement emerging in the United States on behalf of fox-hunting, which still finds impassioned advocates in Britain, especially among Tories.

Amidst the commonalities to be found with conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, there are diversities as well, not only between but among them. For example, there are vigorous debates within conservative camps in both Britain and the United States on numerous foreign-policy and national security issues, such as democracy and human rights promotion (a worthy endeavor or a fool’s errand?), defense budgets (increase or curtail?), the Afghan war (vital national interest or quagmire?), and the rise of China (looming security threat or lucrative new market?). Regular readers of Shadow Government have likely noticed some of these debates being played out on our pages among our contributors.

In Britain, arguably the single most important website for British conservatives is the aptly-named ConservativeHome. Under the able leadership of Tim Montgomerie and his crack team, ConservativeHome played an essential role in the resurgence of the Tories in recent years. Combining original content, article aggregation, bespoke polling data, and candidate profiles, the site became a unique forum for debating conservative ideas while advancing the conservative cause. It continues to be an influential voice, and is regularly read by Parliament, Whitehall, 10 Downing Street, and in the British media and think-tanks. And yes, ConservativeHome has the exquisite good taste to link on occasion to Shadow Government posts, thus helping expand our readership in Britain

Following in the tradition of the Beatles, Monty Python, and David Beckham, ConservativeHome is now the latest in a distinguished line of British exports to arrive on U.S. shores. The U.S. version of the site was launched this week, and I encourage all Shadow Government readers to check it out. Its British roots notwithstanding, ConservativeHome USA is ably overseen by Ryan Streeter, a red-blooded American patriot living and working in the heart of the heartland, Indiana. (In full disclosure, Ryan is also a close friend and former White House colleague of mine, as is deputy editor Natalie Gonnella). It promises to be a vital new voice in the pantheon of U.S. conservative websites, and will be an important venue for airing (sometimes diverse) views on domestic and foreign policy, as well as serve as a platform for profiling prospective congressional and White House candidates.

Moreover, ConservativeHome will provide an ongoing link between American conservatism and kindred movements across the Anglosphere. All have much to learn from each other. For example, Tuesday’s features will include some thoughts from British Chancellor George Osborne on lessons learned thus far from the ambitious British deficit reduction program. This might be of particular interest to the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives. Other upcoming features this week will include articles by Peter Feaver and yours truly highlighting front-burner national security issues that will confront the new Congress and prospective GOP presidential candidates — and there will be references to recent Shadow Government posts that offer insight on these issue.

The Shadow Government team extends a warm welcome and congratulations to ConservativeHomeUSA on its launch and maiden week. Do take a look.

Will Inboden is executive director of the William P. Clements, Jr. Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft at the University of Texas-Austin. He also serves as associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and distinguished scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

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