British Fusionism


'Fusionism' is the name generally given to the ideological alliance between conservatives and libertarians, particularly within the US Republican Party. It is widely seen as a major feature of the Reagan Administration, though as a political movement it goes back much further than that. Meanwhile, many commentators argue that the decline of ‘fusionism’ during the Bush years (when social conservatives came to dominate the party) is a significant part of the Republicans’ current woes.

It is probably fair to say that ‘fusionism’ is less easily applied to the British Conservative Party, which has generally been far more statist than its US counterpart. The Thatcher years are, of course, an obvious exception to that rule. But I’m not sure we’ll be saying the same thing about the ‘Cameron administration’ in a few years time. Often you hear David Cameron and George Osborne making disparaging asides about libertarianism during their speeches, probably in a childish and unnecessary attempt to ‘triangulate’.

So it is interesting to see the results of a new poll on ConservativeHome, which is very popular with grassroots Tory activists. Readers were asked to “identify the extent to which they identified with various strands of conservatism" by giving nine different descriptions of conservatism a mark out of ten. The most popular was fiscal conservatism – a belief in lower spending and balanced budgets – followed by ‘supply side’ conservatism – a commitment to lower taxes and less regulation. In third place was libertarian conservatism, the conviction that we needed less of the state in every walk of life.

In descending order of popularity, the next six tags were compassionate conservatism (defined as support for school reform, welfare reform and the family), euroscepticism, social conservatism, law and order conservatism, unionism (i.e. keeping Britain together) and, lastly, ‘hawkish conservatism’ (those who favour an interventionist foreign policy).

Of course, I know that the readership of ConservativeHome is not necessarily representative of the Conservative Party as a whole. But this poll does suggest to me that David Cameron, if elected, will not be allowed to get away with being Ted Heath Mk. II. And thank goodness for that!