Not so long ago Britain's David Cameron was something of an exception in global conservatism but that's changing fast. Two more traditional conservatives - John Howard and George W Bush - have either left the stage or are about to depart. In Australia John Howard has been replaced by a more centrist leader, Brendan Nelson. If Super Tuesday votes as the polls predict, Senator John McCain will become the Republican Party's nominee and the de facto leader of America's conservatives.
THE NEW CONSERVATISM OF CAMERON AND McCAIN
Greener: Both are of one mind on global warming, supporting government action to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Both see the European Union taking a lead on the issue. John McCain has said that “Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union." He continued: "The future of the transatlantic relationship lies in confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century worldwide: developing a common energy policy, creating a transatlantic common market tying our economies more closely together, and institutionalizing our cooperation on issues such as climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion.”
More civil libertarian: Both McCain and Cameron have been very critical of Guantanamo Bay. Both have more sympathy for protecting civil liberties than George W Bush or Michael Howard. They have both criticised aggressive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
Less impressed with tax relief: Both emphasise fiscal conservatism over supply-side tax relief. John McCain twice voted against President Bush's tax cuts and David Cameron has pledged to limit promises of tax cuts to only those that can be fully funded by commensurate tax increases or by spending reductions. Recently, however, John McCain has vowed to extend Bush's tax cuts and has demanded a tough approach to public spending. UK Tories are pledged to match Labour on spending.
More welcoming of immigrants: Both men have antagonised elements within their parties who have wanted very hardline positions on immigration. John McCain almost lost any chance of the Republican nomination when he sided with George W Bush on immigration reform and a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. David Cameron has substantially softened Tory rhetoric on immigration and towards asylum seekers, in particular.
Pragmatic on controversial medical research: Both men support embryonic stem cell research.
More gay-friendly: David Cameron has moved the Conservative Party decisively in favour of gay rights issues and favours tax relief for same-sex couples who enter civil partnerships. John McCain's position is less clear although he has described attempts to secure a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as "un-Republican". That opposition stems more from a respect for state rights than social conservatism, however. He is thought to be sympathetic to civil partnerships.
Zero tolerance of ethical lapses: Both men take a low tolerance approach to ethical indiscretions by politicians.
BUT THERE ARE BIG DIFFERENCES BETWEEN McCAIN AND CAMERON, TOO
The war on terror: John McCain was a leading supporter of the surge of troops into Iraq - in fact Democrats called the surge the McCain doctrine.
McCain also supports a major increase in the strength of the US
military. Cameron, in contrast, was very sceptical about the surge and
McCain was said to be "deceived" by Cameron
on this issue. Cameron Conservatives won't commit to any increase in
defence spending although, as a percentage of GDP, it hasn't been this
low since the years of 1930s appeasement.
The United Nations: UK Tory spokesman
regularly hide behind the United Nations when they are pressed to act
against some international outrage or threat. British Conservatives
have no reform agenda for the UN of the kind proposed by John McCain.
The US Senator has called for a new League of Democracies.
Abortion: McCain is much more socially conservative. He opposes abortion, for example. Cameron favours a reduction in the abortion time-limit but does not support radical change.
Guns: McCain is a strong supporter of second amendment gun rights. David Cameron has no plans to weaken draconian British gun laws.
David Cameron and John McCain have much in common. That much was clear when, in October 2006, the Republican crossed the Atlantic to give a keynote address to the Tory annual conference. They are also both free-traders and David Cameron recently went out of his way to identify John McCain as an ally against protectionism. They are also allies on climate change, civil liberties and a conservatism that is more compassionate. Tensions will centre around the British Tories' rejection of liberal interventionism and an unwillingness to commit to a substantial rebuilding of Britain's overstretched armed forces. It would also be wrong to overstate the similarities between UK and US domestic policy priorities. On welfare reform, tax policy and action against crime American public policy is ten years ahead of Britain. Issues that are less electorally salient in America remain potent in Britain where taxes and crime have not been retired as issues.