Karam Bales looks at the senior British Conservatives appearing at the National Conservatism Conference with its international right wing network, from Peter Thiel to Viktor Orbán
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The National Conservatism Conference (NCC) due to be held in May at the Emmanuel Centre in London in May provides evidence of the growing influence of US Christian Nationalism in the UK.
Held in several countries, NCCs are aligned with Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire behind the data and surveillance company Palantir.
Thiel is one of the main financial backers of Republican politics over the past decade and last year funded campaigns to replace Republican candidates who didn’t support accusations questioning the validity of the 2020 presidential election. Alongside Charlie Kirk, founder of university-based culture war outfit Turning Point, Thiel is a signatory of the National Conservatism movement’s statement of principles and has been a speaker at most NCC events. He is due to speak at the London event.
Like the Hungarian CPAC covered by the Byline Times, the National Conservatism movement seeks to advance an agenda of Christian Nationalism. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s political director Balzas Orban is involved in the initiative and was a speaker at the previous London conference in 2019.
Speakers at other NCCs include numerous high-profile Republicans such as Florida’s controversial Governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Marco Rubio, former Trump advisor John Bolton, Senator Josh Hawley who led efforts in the Senate to overturn the Electoral College vote in the 2020 presidential election and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
Chair of the NCC is Christopher DeMuth. DeMuth is a fellow of the Hudson Institute which receives funding from the Koch Foundation and Exxon Mobil, he was also president of the American Enterprise Institute from 1986-2008 which has received $960,000 funding from Exxon Mobil since 2005 and $2.5milllion from the Donor’s Capital Fund in 2010 – an organisation enabling rich activists to support conservative causes anonymously.
Three sitting MPs are also among the speakers, Michael Gove, Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger. Conservative peer and former Brexit Secretary David Frost is also speaking.
The Free Speech Union (FSU) is also well represented with its Chair Nigel Biggar, Legal Advisory Council members Mathew Goodwin and David Goodhart of the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, and Eric Kaufman and James Orr of the FSU’s Advisory Council all named as speakers. Orr is also listed as being on the NCC Committee as chair of NatCON UK. FSU founder Douglas Murray spoke at the 2019 London conference.
The NCC is a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation which describes itself as “a public affairs institute founded in January 2019 with the aim of strengthening the principles of national conservatism in Western and other democratic countries.” The website has a Statement of Principles for National Conservatism.
On God and Religion “The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities”, continuing to say “public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private.”
On Public Research “Most universities are at this point partisan and globalist in orientation and vehemently opposed to nationalist and conservative ideas. Such institutions do not deserve taxpayer support unless they rededicate themselves to the national interest.”
Marriage is described as “the foundation of all other achievements of our civilization”, stating the decline in marriage and childbirth as a grave threat that undermines society, blaming “unconstrained individualism that regards children as a burden, while encouraging ever more radical forms of sexual license and experimentation as an alternative to the responsibilities of family and congregational life.”
Cates and Kruger have their own initiative seeking to advance the National Conservatism called the New Social Covenant (NSC), which they founded in 2021 with Imogen Sinclair who was previously employed by Krugger as a parliamentary staffer. Sinclair is on the London 2023 NCC conference committee. Nigel Biggar and James Orr are NSC board members.
The NSC ethos combines nationalism and conservative Christianity, the opening section of their 12 Propositions for a New Social Contract written by Kruger states “The liberal idea is a perversion of the Christian one”, while the final proposition is focused on the need for the state to actively support marriage “the essential component of a virtuous society.”
Marriage, defined as being between a man and a woman is described as “the regulation of baby making”, and “a matter of public interest.” Stating “No successful society in history has practised an unregulated free for all….In every successful society, the explicit deal is that sex comes with commitment.”
In the social covenant Kruger merges Christian “virtues” with patriotism while saying the role of government should shrink to as it was before the mid 1900s, the NSC calls for the state to increase its role in promoting culture, traditions and patriotism.
“The great threat to liberty is elite estrangement, the supercilious disdain for patriotism by leading public servants, academics, and the lobbyists who gain airtime in our public debates.” Saying that the social covenant “Ensure the public conversation reflects the customs of the country.”
Using language reminiscent of DeSantis’ recent authoritarian legislation against academic freedom the NSC says “The trend within academia to systematically denigrate our country’s history and its heroes is an abuse of the social covenant.” Which according to the NSC would see those considered unpatriotic to be defunded.” This would also include religious teachings that exhort believers “to live in active enmity” to “mainstream society”, and “the new politics of race, sex and gender that has adapted the economic analysis of Marxism.”
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