How Do UK Conservatives Differ From Those In The US?

A lot about the American government may be baffling to foreigners, but one aspect of our political system is pretty simple. There are only two major political parties in the U.S.: the Democrats and the Republicans. Though there are a few small, independent parties, including Libertarians and the Green Party, the vast majority of government officials come from one of these two main political parties. That means a lot of American politics is framed as the opposition between liberal and conservative political ideals. On the one hand, there are the liberal Democrats, represented by the color blue and the donkey. On the other, there are the red elephants, the Republicans, with their more conservative political views.

In the United Kingdom, there are many more political parties in Parliament, including the Green Party, the Alliance Party, and the Democratic Unionist Party, according to UK Parliament. However, as in the U.S., there are a few main political parties: the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party (via Great British Magazine). Of these, the liberal Labour Party and the Conservative Party are the biggest players in the political game.

But though the U.S. and U.K. both have a major liberal and conservative party, can we assume that these parties are largely similar? Or are they quite different?

Key tenets of British conservatism

To identify the differences between British and American conservatives, we first have to elucidate the political stances in each country. In the United States, Republicans are anti-big government, meaning they want to reduce government spending and general government involvement in people's lives (via Modern Treatise). Other key features of Republicans are that they're anti-abortion, pro-defense spending, and pro-border security (via The Atlantic). For instance, Donald Trump's promise to "build a wall" indicated his support for higher border security and lower overall immigration (via The Daily Journal).

Across the pond, the British conservatives also tend to have anti-immigration stances, including their push for Brexit, which was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, making it harder for foreigners to enter the country (via The Daily Journal). Moreover, they want less government involvement in people's day-to-day lives. However, they are pro-abortion (with some limitations), and are also in favor of same-sex marriage, nationalized healthcare, and renewable energy, according to The Atlantic.

Differences between UK and US Conservatives

There are in fact significant differences in ideology between the British and American conservatives, according to The Atlantic. Generally speaking, British conservatives are quite a bit more progressive than Americans. In fact, they might even be closer to the American Democrats than the American Republicans. After all, though they do promote smaller government, whereas American Democrats tend to be pro-government, many of their stances are in line with what are considered liberal views in America, especially on issues related to social policy. Some former Democratic government officials have even been hired by British Conservative politicians to work on their campaigns.

However, on a grander political scale, the role of the Conservatives in the U.K. is similar to the role of Republicans in the U.S. All three of the other major British parties — the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party — are significantly more liberal than the Conservative Party (via Great British Magazine), making it the main force opposing liberal policies.