Across the Atlantic, young conservatives in Britain are trying to transform what they consider a disjointed and unorganized political faction into something that rivals the American conservative movement.
Tim Montgomerie, a 36-year-old former Conservative Party staffer in London, is taking cues from the United States. Despite the American conservative movement’s recent troubles, Montgomerie regards it as an “inspiring” model for Britain to follow.
But Montgomerie hopes to build this movement not through publications such as National Review or think tanks like The Heritage Foundation, but through the Internet. This movement is taking root through a number of influential websites that already have captivated many conservatives in Britain, including Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who has called Montgomerie’s popular ConservativeHome website, “Sometimes infuriating but always good value.”
The low cost of building a movement via the Internet has helped fuel some of the success. But a populist message inspiring ordinary Joes and Jills to get involved in the political process is what put Montgomerie on the map.
Back in 2005 when former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard attempted to deprive rank-and-file Tory members of their vote in the party’s leadership election, Montgomerie sprung into action. The incident introduced conservatives to a new form of activism. “Up until the blogosphere, the process for choosing candidates was always closed,” Montgomerie said. “That’s no longer the case.”
American conservatives have grown frustrated with the Republican Party leaders’ failure to remain faithful to conservative values, and so too have British conservatives become disenchanted with their party establishment. Conservatives’ distrust of Cameron motivates Montgomerie to keep the party leader honest.
Despite their differences, Cameron’s embrace of the Internet has contributed to the popularity of blogs such as ConservativeHome, 18 Doughty Street and the brand-new PlayPolitical video site. Cameron, who many consider the prime minister in waiting, has tapped a former Google executive as an adviser, giving rise to Web Cameron, where the conservative leader uses video to communicate with his constituency.