I'll begin with the wife, as she is the least controversial. Susan Douglas is one of Tory leader David Cameron's closest friends. She has had a successful career in publishing and she is in the running to become an MP:
Ms Douglas is seen as one of the Tory Party’s rising stars, and is on the A-list of aspiring Parliamentary candidates. She is said to be in the running to contest the Tory stronghold of Stratford-upon-Avon at the next General Election.
She's in her early 50s and is seven years older than her husband. I don't know much about her politics, although she did tell an interviewer that the first thing she reads to start her day is The Guardian, an unusual choice for someone aiming to become a Tory MP.
She doesn't seem to have managed to balance her career and her family. She told the same interviewer that work required her to have an early start (4am) and that she got back home late. This at a time when her three children were aged ten, nine and five and when her husband was living on a different continent in pursuit of his own career.
It hardly seems an ideal arrangement. It strikes me more as a "lifestyle of the rich and famous," with the children presumably being raised by a nanny and not seeing a lot of either parent.
But it's not Susan Douglas who seems most distant from a rank and file conservatism. It's her husband, Niall Ferguson. He too is influential in mainstream conservatism:
Ferguson is on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, the leading Right-wing think-tank, and works as an unofficial adviser to Mr Cameron, in particular on how to promote ‘Britishness’. He also worked as an adviser to John McCain at the beginning of his election campaign...
Ferguson met his mistress at a party thrown for the "100 most influential people in the world". He is well-connected not just in politics and academia but in the financial world as well:
By this stage he had moved to America, having accepted a chair in history at Harvard. It was then that he also started advising some of the world’s leading hedge-fund managers...
‘There was a point when it was not impossible for me to get $100,000 for a one-hour speech at some extravagant hedge-fund manager conference in an exotic location,’ Ferguson recalled. While he lived a jet-set lifestyle, his wife stayed at home with the children.
So did he use this influence to promote conservatism? No, for the simple reason that he is not a conservative and doesn't even pretend to be one. He calls himself a "liberal fundamentalist":
I would say I'm a 19th-century liberal, possibly even an 18th-century one. Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Gladstone. My fundamental tenets are concerned with freedom of the individual; the market isn't perfect, but it's the best available way of allocating resources...
As you can see, I'm just a doctrinaire liberal at heart ... I'm just a liberal fundamentalist.
He is a right-liberal who believes that the best way of regulating a liberal society is through the free market. Ferguson is, in fact, so liberal that he thought John McCain ran an unacceptably conservative presidential campaign:
he became, for a time, one of John McCain's foreign policy advisers. "I must say that since he won the nomination, which I was very happy about, I've played virtually no role. In fact, I've played no role. Because, uh" - he is suddenly, uncharacteristically halting - "how to describe it? - I felt much less ... enthused, I think is probably the word, now that it's between him and Obama. And I felt much more uncomfortable with some of the positions he has had to take in order to secure the conservative vote."
Ferguson's right-liberal commitment to the market issues forth in these kinds of comments:
I want to show you that money is the foundation of human progress, and the ascent of money has been indispensable to the ascent of man
He is committed to globalism - to the free movement not only of capital and goods but labour as well. He admits that open borders harm the prospects of the least educated, but believes that people should just be told that they have to compete with waves of immigrants or sink:
Proponents of a new generation of anti-global measures claim to want to protect vulnerable native groups from the ravages of competition. They point to studies that show the biggest losers from immigration to be high school dropouts. Other evidence shows that it's unskilled blue collar workers who are most likely to lose out ...
It makes no sense to jeopardise the benefits of globalisation to protect the employment prospects of high-school dropouts. So here's a modest counter-proposal ... why not ... get this simple message across to the kids in America's high schools: If you flunk, you're sunk. Yes, boys and girls ... Drop out of education without qualifications, and you'll be lucky to get a job alongside the Mexicans picking fruit or stacking shelves.
A commenter at View from the Right responded as follows:
I find this attitude utterly detestable. As far as I am concerned this man is the worst kind of neo-con. I want to live in a society of fellow compatriots, who are valued for being a part of my culture and are brought up to believe they have worth as human beings. To tell them at such a young age that they must compete down at the bottom with people from the third world or perish is my idea of a heartless, cultureless society in which people's worth is defined solely by whether they can stack more cans for less money than the people in the local immigration centre.
Then there is the mistress, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was born in Somalia, won asylum in Holland and became an MP there in a centre right party. She became a critic of the treatment of women in Islamic countries, had a fatwa placed on her and was forced to live under police protection. She was then appointed a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, usually described as a "conservative think tank". As mentioned earlier, she made Time magazine's list of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
So does she represent a rank and file conservatism? No. She describes herself as a liberal, and from her statements it's clear that she is radically liberal. For instance, she sees Catholicism as a dangerous ideology, akin to Nazism:
METRO: Do you see any positive sides to Islam?
HIRSI ALI: That’s like asking if I see positive sides to Nazism, communism, Catholicism.
She has called for an immigration restrictionist party in Belgium, the Vlaams Belang, to be banned, equating it with an Islamic terror group:
I would ban the VB because it hardly differs from the Hofstad group [a Jihadist terror network in the Netherlands, involved in the assassination of Theo van Gogh]. Though the VB members have not committed any violent crimes yet, they are just postponing them...
The Vlaams Belang is a parliamentary party, the largest in Flanders, which has never called for violence - yet Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants it outlawed as a terror group.
What struck me on reading about these "conservatives" is how distant they are from representing a genuine conservatism, not only because they self-identify as liberals, but because they belong to something like a "new global elite," with very little connection in their values or manner of living to rank and file conservatives.
(Lawrence Auster has written on the same issue here.)