Why the right is losing its way: Conservatism is in crisis all over Europe

Why the right is losing its way: Conservatism is in crisis all over Europe. By Fredrik Erixon.

Across Europe, right-wing parties are struggling to find messages that resonate. It’s not that voters have turned away from conservative ideas: polls show a huge number interested in individual liberty, lower taxes and the nation state. The problem is that conservative parties have given up on those ideas — and, as a result, voters are giving up on them. …

Once, it was the conservatives who promised change. Nicolas Sarkozy won a landslide because he vowed to reform the sclerotic French economy, as Thatcher had reformed Britain’s. In his 2016 book, La France pour la vie, Sarkozy appeared to have understood why he was booted out and admonished himself for having left the 35-hour working week untouched, and for giving up on necessary tax and benefits cuts. He blew the election not because of his faux grandiosity but because he failed to be sufficiently ambitious in his reforms. …

When British Conservatives served up a reheated version of the Labour 2015 manifesto this year, their popularity fell away.

Centre-right parties win when they’re the parties of growth and aspiration —rather than by defending a failed status quo, or trying to hug their enemies. They need to meet voters where they want to be, not where they are. If conservatives want to score, they should — to use a phrase of the great Canadian ice-hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s — ‘skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been’. …

People who want more taxes and spending will turn left. And those with conservative leanings, usually suspicious of big government, have little patience with politicians pretending to be something else.

hat-tip Stephen Neil