When British supermarket giant Tesco withdrew from the US in 2013, just six years after opening its first Fresh & Easy store, it was criticized for not to appreciate important differences in the way the Americans and the British do their shopping.

Based on evidence last week, a similar charge could be leveled against the US national conservatism movement. His flagship conference in London, which featured American speakers including Republican Senator JD Vance and leading British Conservative politicians, was greeted with more irritability than a murmur of excitement. critics YoIt included figures from the British centre-right, writing in right-wing publications. How did the organizers misjudge their target market?

His first mistake was not realizing how radical the US Republican Party has become. Social problems, and how comparatively moderate the British Conservatives are. From immigration and racial discrimination to whether to uphold tradition or embrace change, UK Conservatives are actually closer to US Democrats than Republicans.

Chart showing UK Conservative voters are closer to US Democrats than Republicans on most social issues

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

so markedly different social attitudes do not 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, the United States is still much more racially segregated than Great Britain, which is far from perfect in terms of race.

Chart showing the US is significantly more racially and ethnically segregated than the UK

Black Americans earn 22 percent less per hour than their white counterparts. This compares with a black wage deficit of 6 per cent in Britain. Even starker, while black Americans live four years less than whites, black Britons live longer than their white compatriots.

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

Another key difference is in the media landscapes. The United States is highly fragmented, with no single news provider consumed by more than 25 percent of the population. Fox News and CNN have the widest reach, but one side of the political divide deeply mistrusts each. In Britain, by contrast, almost 60 per cent of people regularly consume BBC news, and both Labor and Conservative supporters generally swear by its output. The polarizing UK brands – tabloid newspapers and right-wing TV channel GB News – have far less reach than Fox and CNN.

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

john.burn-murdoch@ft.com, @jburnmurdoch

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