The ideology can provide a principled case for lower immigration
The national conservatives are coming to town. A National Conservatism conference — organised by the Edmund Burke Foundation — will take place in London from the 15th to the 17th May.
The Rome conference in 2020 caused a stir because the speakers included controversial figures like Marion Maréchal (of the Le Pen family) and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. This roster isn’t quite so troublesome — the most senior politician announced so far is Michael Gove.
One also gets the impression that the national conservative movement is doing more to police its Rightward borders. For instance, when the leading ‘nat con’ thinker Yoram Hazony spoke at UnHerd’s Westminster HQ last year, he made it clear that Putin fans were not welcome — nor racists, fascists or all the other horrors lurking in the outer darkness.
But perhaps there’s another reason why Gove — and his fellow Conservative MPs Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates — are willing to participate, which is that they’re going to be called extremists anyway. That much is being made clear right now in the hysterical reaction to the UK government’s plan to combat illegal immigration — and especially the small boats. Gary Lineker, the well-paid BBC employee, described the government’s policy as “immeasurably cruel” and its language as “not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is also being attacked for her claim that there are “100 million people around the world who could qualify for protection under our current laws” and that “they are coming here”. It was a carelessly worded statement and she’s rightly being criticised over the specifics. However, her liberal critics are ignoring the underlying point, which is that the number of people who want to come to the UK — whether as asylum seekers or economic migrants — exceeds our capacity to assimilate them.
Net immigration to this country already runs at hundreds of thousands of people a year. It is entirely implausible that a further liberalisation of our immigration laws wouldn’t result in a substantial increase. ‘Reasonable’ liberals usually concede that there are limits — but they are reluctant to specify where those limits lie and how they are to be enforced if the small boats still come.
Even more importantly, liberalism — whether it leans to the Right or the Left — cannot give a coherent account of why a nation has the moral right to remain itself, or at least to manage the pace at which it changes. Though liberals might make a case in terms of practicality, they cannot make a principled case. However, the natcons can; it is literally what they are all about.
Further, wherever countries find their national sovereignty coming under intolerable pressure — for instance, in the ‘new European’ nations caught between German economic domination and Russian expansionism — you find national conservative governments. With the rise of Giorgia Meloni, the same is now true of Italy — a nation squeezed beyond endurance by the distortions of the single currency.
Mass uncontrolled immigration is another form of intolerable pressure on the nation state. Unless British liberals get real about numbers, enforcement and national sovereignty, then national conservatism will eventually triumph here too.
National conservatism differs from social or religious conservatism because the institutions that it seeks to protect have yet to be dissolved by the forces of modernity. The family has been redefined and the church pushed aside, but the nation remains a potent force — even within the EU.
Those who seek to bring it down should be under no doubt that it will be defended.