Is the UK Conservative Party Heading Towards Populism and Far-Right Ideology?

Political scientists from across Europe are suggesting that the recent speech by Suella Braverman, UK Home Secretary, at the Conservative Party conference hints at a potential shift towards populism and far-right ideology within the party. While experts are divided on the extent of this shift, there are clear signs that the party’s discourse and rhetoric are aligning with markers commonly associated with the far right.

The speech, which emphasized the need to protect a “law-abiding, hard-working, common sense majority” against the “privileged woke minority,” was described as “textbook populism” by Matthijs Rooduijn from the University of Amsterdam. Comparable to speeches given by far-right leaders like Marine Le Pen in France or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Braverman’s address highlighted nativism and the exclusion of various groups as prominent themes.

Furthermore, other statements made by Conservative Party members, such as Rishi Sunak’s declaration that “a man is a man and a woman a woman,” and the embrace of rightwing conspiracy theories around “meat taxes,” have fueled concerns about the party’s direction. The alignment of these ideas with far-right ideology suggests a growing similarity between the UK Conservative Party and other mainstream center-right parties that exhibit populist and ultra-nationalist tendencies in Europe.

However, experts caution that it is still uncertain whether populism and far-right ideology are fundamental attributes of the UK Conservative Party. Classification as far right in the future would depend on the consistency and prevalence of these ideas over time. The ongoing development and rejection or acceptance of these ideologies by party officials will play a significant role in determining the party’s political trajectory.

While the classification of the UK Conservative Party remains a topic of debate among political scientists, it is clear that there is a notable shift in the party’s narrative. The impact of this shift on the party’s electoral prospects and the wider political landscape is yet to be fully understood. As the party continues to evolve, its ideological stance and response to societal challenges will be closely scrutinized.


What is populism?

Populism is a political ideology that divides society into two distinct groups – the “pure people” and the “corrupt elite.” It emphasizes the importance of the nation and claims to represent the will of the people.

What is far-right ideology?

Far-right ideology typically revolves around nationalist and xenophobic beliefs, promoting the exclusion of certain groups and emphasizing the importance of the nation’s identity and heritage.

– University of Amsterdam: lead researcher on the PopuList project
– The Guardian: original article