Britain is not America — and the right shouldn’t forget it

2 min

97 shares, 158 points

When British supermarket giant Tesco withdrew from the US in 2013 just six years after opening its first Fresh & Easy store, it was criticised for failing to appreciate important differences in how Americans and Brits do their grocery shopping.

On the evidence of last week, a similar charge could be levelled at the American National Conservatism movement. Their flagship conference in London, featuring US speakers including Republican senator JD Vance and leading British conservative politicians, was met with more of an irritable eye-roll than a buzz of excitement. Critics included figures on the British centre-right, writing in rightwing publications. How did the organisers misjudge their target market so badly?

Their first mistake was a failure to appreciate quite how radical the US Republican party has become on social issues, and how comparatively moderate Britain’s Conservatives are. From immigration and racial discrimination to whether to defend tradition or embrace change, UK Conservatives actually come out closer to US Democrats than Republicans.

“Britain is a Christian nation, or it is nothing at all,” said one speaker at the conference. That is news to most British Conservatives, only 24 per cent of whom think being Christian is important to being truly British, compared with 25 per cent of US Democrats and 53 per cent of Republicans asked the same question about being American.

Such starkly different social attitudes don’t exist in a vacuum — they have been shaped by very different histories, and are reflected in very different realities. The US fought a civil war over slavery, racial segregation was legal in living memory, and the Ku Klux Klan still exists. Today, America remains far more racially segregated than Britain, which is itself far from perfect on race.

Chart showing that the US has considerably more racial and ethnic segregation than the UK

Black Americans earn 22 per cent less an hour than their white counterparts. This compares with a black pay deficit of 6 per cent in Britain. Starker yet, while black Americans live four years fewer than whites, black Britons live longer than their white compatriots.

Chart showing that racial inequality in the US is much wider than in the UK

Another key difference is in media landscapes. The US is highly fragmented, with no single news provider consumed by more than 25 per cent of the population. Fox News and CNN have the widest reach, but each is deeply distrusted by one side of the political divide. In Britain, by contrast, almost 60 per cent of people regularly consume news from the BBC, and both Labour and Conservative supporters generally trust its output. The UK brands that do polarise — tabloid newspapers and rightwing TV channel GB News — have far less reach than the likes of Fox and CNN.

You are seeing a snapshot of an interactive graphic. This is most likely due to being offline or JavaScript being disabled in your browser.

Culture war rhetoric thrives where there is a history of internal conflict, no shared source of truth, and no challenge to radical opinions. The failure of last week’s conference to resonate should send a clear message to transatlantic culture warriors that US and British vulnerabilities are not always the same.

[email protected], @jburnmurdoch

Source: Financial Times

Like it? Share with your friends!

97 shares, 158 points

What's Your Reaction?

Cute Cute
Fun Fun
Hate Hate
Confused Confused
Fail Fail
Geeky Geeky
Love Love
Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Series of questions that intends to reveal something about the personality
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
The Classic Internet Listicles
The Classic Internet Countdowns
Open List
Submit your own item and vote up for the best submission
Ranked List
Upvote or downvote to decide the best list item
Upload your own images to make custom memes
Youtube, Vimeo or Vine Embeds
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds
Photo or GIF
GIF format