Jonny Thakkar in The Point:
If they want to be consistent, conservatives ought really to be anti-capitalist. This may be a little surprising, but in point of fact conservatism has always been flexible as far as particular policies are concerned. In the U.S. conservatives oppose universal healthcare as an attack on freedom; in the U.K. they defend it as a national tradition. Both positions count as conservative because, as Samuel Huntington argues, conservatism is a “situational” ideology which necessarily varies from place to place and time to time: “The essence of conservatism is the passionate affirmation of the value of existing institutions.” It follows that conservatives can seek to conserve all manner of institutions, including those designed to fight inequality, safeguard the environment, tame market forces, and so on.
But the potential for such reversals is by no means restricted to the Right. When Leftists reflect on their opposition to the free market, they will find that their reasons are–at least in part–conservative. And why not? If conservatism is indeed situational then its rightness or wrongness must depend entirely on the situation, and the value of what is to be conserved. One trope of “utopian” literature from Plato’s Republic to Aldous Huxley’s Island is the fear of adulterating perfect arrangements. Even radicals sometimes have to be conservative.
This is more than mere semantics. Successful political movements successfully incorporate divergent elements; moribund ones don’t. Every so often tensions are simply too great to bear, and something snaps. Political constellations shift. Parties emerge. Coalitions form. Southern Democrats defected to the GOP in 1960s America; Britain has just seen the Liberal Democrats ally with the Tories. These things can happen. Left conservatism can happen.