The Role of Conservatism in the Development of Right-Wing Populism in Europe: The UK Case

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-2-34-41

S. Shein (,
National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, 17, Malaya Ordynka Str., Moscow, 119017, Russian Federation

Abstract. The main aim of this article is to analyze the role of conservatism in the political development of the right-wing populism following the UK case. The ideational approach to the right-wing populism, emphasizing the ideological closeness of the Conservative Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as the British version of the European right-wing populism, allows us to focus on their interactions. On the one hand, conservatism has emerged as an ideological and programmatic resource for the UKIP through the use of the Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant rhetoric, populism, and “playing the referendum card” on the “European issue” in the parties’ competition process. This combination is reflected during the UKIP’s evolution from the Eurosceptic “single-issue” to the right-populist party, while conservatism, trying to move to the center of the political spectrum, has lost its monopolistic position on the right flank of British politics. On the other hand, the reaction of conservatism in response to the establishment of the UKIP as a third force in British politics was expressed in the implementation of the UKIP’s main programmatic element – a referendum on the membership in the EU, which led to the party’s disorientation and the loss of its conceptual basis. The main findings are: (1) dominance of the traditionalist or modernizing line in the Conservative Party determines the limits of possibilities of the right-wing populism; (2) the role of conservatism in the political development of right-wing populism is dual. On the one hand, right-wing populism uses the ideological and programmatic practices of conservatives, on the other hand, it loses its conceptual basis and electoral support when conservatism implements the main elements of its program.

Keywords: European conservatism, right-wing populism, Conservative Party, UKIP, United Kingdom


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For citation:
Shein S. The Role of Conservatism in the Development of Right-Wing Populism in Europe: The UK Case. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 34-41.

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