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How the Brits Did It
Here’s why American conservatives should pay attention to the recent special election in Hartlepool, United Kingdom: The British Conservative Party has modernized and mobilized itself to win a parliamentary constituency that the Labour Party had held for nearly 60 years; indeed, the Conservative candidate won the seat on May 7 by more than 23 points.
Now that’s a story worth paying attention to, with an eye toward our replicating it here.
The parallels between American conservatives and British conservatives are strong and more recently even stronger, as the two parties have taken a populist, pro-worker, anti-globalist turn.
As we all remember, in June 2016, British voters endorsed the Brexit referendum. Then, of course, in November 2016, Donald Trump was elected president of the U.S. And in July 2019, after weak Conservatives had dithered on Brexit, Boris Johnson became prime minister on a flat promise: “Get Brexit Done.” Johnson won in a massive landslide; it was the biggest victory for the Tories since 1935. Then Johnson kept his promise on Brexit, absorbing along the way voters who had supported Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party.
Yet there was more to Johnson than Brexit. His winning political platform was heavy on conservative and populist themes. He pledged more money for police, science, healthcare, apprenticeships, and infrastructure, while at the same time holding the line on personal tax increases. Johnson further promised to restrict immigration, as well as to toughen up on crime.
Okay, maybe that sounds a lot like a familiar American Republican agenda. And yet Johnson’s agenda includes some features that Americans might do well to ponder. For instance, when he talks about more spending for healthcare, he means the National Health Service (NHS), the cradle-to-grave health system that was first put in place by the Labour Party back in 1948.