“Prime Minister Harper will soon confront some of the most difficult challenges faced by any Canadian leader since 1945: a global economic crisis, a grinding war on the other side of the planet and an aging population that will require more and more public support,” Frum writes.
Adding: “And he will face these challenges intellectually very much alone. Other recent prime ministers could all find inspiration and support from ideological soulmates around the world.”
Although I too respect the man greatly, the above is simply not correct. There are other conservative leaders out there, and more will join in the coming years. It seems more than possible that Spain’s conservatives, for instance, will win the next elections. Same goes for the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. And then there is Nicholas Sarkozy of France who isn’t exactly a dreamy progressive either.
To be fair to Frum, he does mention European leaders, but he describes them as follows: “ In Germany, a very slightly conservative party governs in coalition with Social Democrats. And in France, Nicholas Sarkozy is veering further and further left with every drop in the stock market indexes, calling, in a speech this week in Brussels, for a ‘new form of capitalism’ in which no financial institution \should escape regulation and supervision’.”
Anyone who calls Merkel “slightly conservative” after seeing what kind of policies Germany would pursue with the country’s Social Democrats in power is either uninformed or either intentionally distorting the truth. Merkel is quite conservative, perhaps not to American standards, but most certainly to German’s. And Sarkozy may have changed his tone a bit, but he remains a French conservative.
What Frum, then, does not get, seemingly, is that the word conservatism does not mean the same in one country as it does in the other. Canadian conservatives are not the same as European conservatives, and they are also not the same as American conservatives. The same goes for Asian conservatives. They are conservatives, adhering to many of the same basic principles, but they also differ considerably.
But that does not make them any less ‘conservative.’
Those differences aside, Harper is indeed in a fascinating position in so far that the two countries in which ‘conservatism’ resemble his most, the United States and Britain, have or will have progressive leaders to deal with the crisis. This means that Harper will be alone in the British speaking world.
His leadership, and his success could very well have an impact on the other English speaking countries, and, yes, even on Europe.
As an aside, Harper should spend time with David Cameron, the British Tory leader. The two men resemble each other closely in style and policy views and Cameron is likely to become Britain’s next Prime Minister.