European conservatism is in crisis. Traditional centre-right parties are increasingly facing challenges from their right by parties with more energy and extreme proposals for addressing the multitude of crises facing the continent. While centre-right parties may not have much in the way of ideas to resolve Europe’s polycrisis, they do still know how to fight for power. Their instinctive drive for self-preservation means conservatives are radicalising, particularly over issues of race, in order to cut off their insurgent rivals.
Take France, where the formerly dominant Les Républicains (LR) party has entered a death spiral, with its last presidential candidate, Valerie Pécresse, failing to reach even the 5% vote threshold required to get her deposit back. LR’s response was to elect as leader Éric Ciotti, a far-rightist who once declared that the “great replacement” – a fascist conspiracy theory claiming there is a deliberate attempt to demographically annihilate white Europeans – was a priority of national importance. This sort of discourse was until recently confined to figures in the National Rally party (previously the National Front).