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Can Popularist Far-Right Keep Europe’s Conservative Parries Out of Office?

Monday, May 19, 2014 8:08 am EDT
"That might not worry some ordinary members of the Conservative Party and their equivalents in other countries, but it might cause problems for a leadership with ambitions to win and hold onto national office"

Across Europe the old parties of government are being challenged by new insurgent parties, peddling populism and euro-skepticism. In Britain the rise of UKIP may not only dent the local election results for the Conservative Party, but may hinder its chances of re-election in 2015.

Writing in Political Studies Dr. Paul Webb analyses how and why Conservative Party members were defecting to UKIP. He found that those most likely to defect were ‘cultural conservatives’, who are concerned about immigration and do not feel valued or respected by their own leadership.

“Our results suggest that center-right parties across Europe might have something to worry about as the ideological and policy appeal of the populist radical right is predominantly cultural rather than economic. As such, it is highly awkward,” said Webb.

In the long term immigration and changing social values may decrease ‘cultural conservatism’; however, in the short term, trying to match UKIP’s rhetoric in order to stem the tide of defectors may put off more socially liberal voters and business backers.

“That might not worry some ordinary members of the Conservative Party and their equivalents in other countries, but it might cause problems for a leadership with ambitions to win and hold onto national office,” said Webb.

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