The Stateside Associates
As has been shown, The New Conservatism in the UK has coalesced around a number of lobby groups, “think tanks”, and organisations like the Young Britons’ Foundation, all the while gaining influence in the Conservative Party and a variety of media organisations. It is influenced by a variety of historical figures, their writings, and their legacies. But it also gets its inspiration from like-minded groups in the United States.
As the YBF is the conduit through which much of the training, networking, education and placement of aspiring New Conservatives is performed, its inspiration, the Young America’s Foundation, is the starting point chosen to illustrate the kinds of influences that shape New Conservative ideas and stances in Britain. The YAF is one of the two pillars which underpin the YBF’s philosophy.
The YAF was founded in 1969. From the outset, its actions were predicated on the supposition that mainstream education was left biased, or somehow excluded Conservative ideas. So its first purpose was “to provide students with conservative ideas that were missing in their educations”.
Continuing on this theme, in 1971 the YAF began “a nationwide effort to share the Conservative Movement’s greatest minds and voices with student audiences to provide intellectual balance”. Another key conceit of The New Conservatism was introduced to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: “a national bicentennial program highlighting our Founders’ philosophy of freedom”.
Providing not just balance, but intellectual balance. Giving students the missing part of their education that the system had somehow denied them. And, above all, freedom. This follows from the ideas of Friedrich Hayek - if larger Government equates to serfdom, then smaller Government - a key goal of The New Conservatives - means freedom.
The YAF were early and eager promoters of Ronald Reagan, and have raised significant sums of money to restore and maintain his ranch at Santa Barbara, California. This, in turn, is used for conferences and gatherings. YBF visitors get to visit the ranch too.
It followed for the YBF to adopt Margaret Thatcher as their figurehead, given the close relationship she and Reagan struck up during his Presidency. The Margaret Thatcher foundation, brainchild of Donal Blaney, is in no small part an attempt to replicate the work of the YAF and its development of the Reagan ranch.
The YAF’s mission statement tells “Young America's Foundation is committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values”.
With that in mind, let us now consider the second pillar underpinning the YBF, and hence The New Conservatism in Britain, the Heritage Foundation.
Founded in 1973, its mission statement claims its “mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense”.
Individual freedom. Free enterprise. Traditional values. And a “strong national defense”. That the HF and YAF work closely together, and inspire and influence the YBF, should come as no surprise, as their missions are so similar. These mission statements tell the outsider that Unions are bad (pace Mallory Factor), Government is bad, and imposing the USA’s foreign policy on other nations is a force for good.
Heritage claims “We believe the principles and ideas of the American Founding are worth conserving and renewing”, but the world is a very different place from that of the Founding Fathers. Then, there was no banking system. There was no paper money, and only by highly sophisticated interpretation of the Constitution has it become legal. Looking to “the ideas of the American Founding” can mean many things to many people.
How does Heritage get its message across? “Heritage’s staff pursues this mission by performing timely, accurate research on key policy issues and effectively marketing these findings to our primary audiences: members of Congress, key congressional staff members, policymakers in the executive branch, the nation’s news media, and the academic and policy communities”.
Note that the results of that research are not “publicised”, but “marketed”. It will also come as no surprise to watchers of The New Conservatism and its associated lobby groups in the UK that the results of Heritage’s research chime at all times with the message it wishes to convey. Like the IEA, ASI, CPS and TPA, this is right-wing lobbying writ large.
What organisations like the YBF have done is to use the expertise of US groups like YAF and Heritage - those Stateside might prefer the term leverage - to inform their way of thinking, their approach, their targeting of potential young recruits, their rebuttal of attacks, and, indeed, their attacks on those of inconvenient political orientation.
Those attacks often use what has been called “attack dog politics”. They can be highly personal, slanted, selective, misleading, and when those attacking deem it necessary, downright dishonest. The favoured attack lines, as Andy Kroll put it, can be summed up as “eliminate regulations, kneecap unions, shrink government, and transfer more power to the private sector”. This is the reality of what is meant by “freedom”.
And that is what has been imported into the UK, and especially the Westminster Village, together with print and broadcast media. Once again, we should be able to see clearly the nature of this particular beast.