The Heritage Foundation was proud to be the only American think tank invited to participate in the inaugural Freedom Festival, Britain’s equivalent of the Conservative Political Action Conference in the U.S.
Organized by the leading center-right think tanks and activist organizations in Britain, including such stalwarts for freedom as the Freedom Association, the TaxPayers’ Alliance, and Margaret Thatcher’s own Centre for Policy Studies, the Freedom Festival was a three-day long event held on the sunny south coast of Britain in Bournemouth. If there was one opinion that united the conference, it was dislike of Britain’s membership in the European Union. But the discussion ranged much more widely.
Bryan Riley, Heritage’s Jay Van Andel Senior Policy Analyst in Trade Policy, spoke on Heritage’s flagship Index of Economic Freedom, while I spoke in defense of the Anglo–American leadership in foreign policy, in a debate against the motion that Britain needs even higher levels of immigration, and on the 100th anniversary of Britain’s decision to intervene in World War I.
Conservatism in Britain has historically been closely associated with the Conservative Party. But like all the established parties in Britain, Conservative Party membership has fallen sharply since 1945. As it has declined, other center-right groups have grown. Britain’s conservative coalition is still smaller than that of the U.S., but it is far larger than it was when Margaret Thatcher resigned in 1990.
Featuring speakers with a wide range of views on many issues and supporters of most of Britain’s major parties, Freedom Festival was a lively contribution to the strength of the center-right in Britain. Heritage is glad to work with supporters of conservatism and friends of freedom around the world, and particularly in the United Kingdom, where it has long had close ties. We congratulate the organizers of the Freedom Festival on their initiative and look forward to continued and closer collaboration.