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Conservatism in the UK Today. Traditional Conservatism Human nature is unpredictable thus radical changes are dangerous Change should be approached with.

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Presentation on theme: "Conservatism in the UK Today. Traditional Conservatism Human nature is unpredictable thus radical changes are dangerous Change should be approached with."— Presentation transcript:

1 Conservatism in the UK Today

2 Traditional Conservatism Human nature is unpredictable thus radical changes are dangerous Change should be approached with caution, although not opposed altogether. Social stability is important – traditional conservatives have often endorsed religion (Christianity) for this reason. One Nation conservatism grows out of a need for stable society, and a belief in organicist responsibility (vertically). Paternalist.

3 Traditional Conservatism “ For the conservative, politics is about taking decisions that are the best under the circumstances rather than hoping for perfection.” - Mark Garnett.

4 Traditional v. Modern Conservatism 1. Tradition Traditional Caution towards change. The traditional approach prefers to preserve the traditions and institutions of society, changing only when it is necessary, ‘in order to conserve’. Modern Margaret Thatcher and her like-minded successors have challenged all sorts of institutions and practices in the interests of radical, dynamic reform.

5 Traditional v. Modern Conservatism 1. Tradition Modern HOWEVER, Margaret Thatcher still left some institutions – the monarchy, House of Lords – untouched.

6 Traditional v. Modern Conservatism 2. Society Traditional Society is organic. It is hierarchic and inter- linked. This philosophy also implies an obligation – or responsibilities – from top to bottom, which influences One Nation Toryism. Modern Margaret Thatcher famously said “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and their families…..people must look to themselves first.”

7 Traditional v. Modern Conservatism 2. Society Modern This represented a more individualist approach.

8 Traditional v. Modern Conservatism 3. Human Nature Traditional Pessimistic view of human nature. Humans are morally and intellectually limited. This leads to a belief in strong, paternalist governments. Modern Adopt a neo-liberal view about the freedoms and potential of individuals. This potentially leads to a more libertarian approach (although Thatcher did not adopt this).

9 Traditional v. Modern Conservatism 4. Pragmatism Traditional Typically non-ideological – ‘the wise conservative travels light’ (Gilmour). This allows for an adaptability and pragmatism than can make Conservatism chameleon- like, but highly successful. Modern “We must have an ideology too” – Thatcher. Much of the Thatcherite and post-Thatcherite agenda was carried out on the basis of a clear ideological (neo- liberal) programme.

10 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey ‘Modern’ conservatism is essentially the Thatcherite brand Thatcherism was an example of New Right politics Combined neo-liberal economic ideas (free market, control of inflation, low taxes) with neo-conservative social ideas (authoritarian, moral basis)

11 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey After Thatcher, John Major continued her policies (especially privatisation) but adopted softer rhetoric. Major also adopted a more pragmatic approach to Europe (signing Maastricht, gaining opt-outs for Britain) but alienated his party’s euro-sceptic wing. Thatcher, however, has also shown pragmatism towards Europe in office (signing Single European Market agreement).

12 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey After loss of 1997 election, Major was succeeded by Hague Hague started by trying to ‘modernise’ the party’s image, and seemed initially to want to move back to the centre. He soon abandoned this approach to appeal to his party’s core voters ‘Foreign Land’ speech at conference indicated harsh anti-immigration, anti-Europe line

13 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey Hague’s election – 2001 – saw the Tories focus on opposition to single currency and low taxation Widely perceived as very right-wing (still neo-liberal on economics, but firmly neo- conservative on social issues) After defeat Hague resigned, and a leadership election followed.

14 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey The 2001 Tory leadership election was the first to be concluded by a grassroots vote Given a choice by MPs of the One Nation, pro- Europe Ken Clarke, and the right-wing Iain Duncan Smith, grassroots voted for Duncan Smith. Elected as a right-winger, IDS tried to move the party in a more ‘compassionate’ direction, championing public service reform and the needs of the ‘under-class’. He also banned mention of Europe!

15 IDS had poor public image, and performed badly in the Commons, and was rapidly replaced in a Commons ‘coup’ after just two years. His successor was Michael Howard. Howard, too, was a right-wing euro-sceptic. Howard sought to make some ‘modernising’ changes of his own. Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey

16 Notably, he allowed some of the more neo- liberal social conservatives to advance. A more ‘inclusive’ attitude towards gays, single parent families etc. was adopted. Howard engaged in a public attack on the BNP, condemning racism. However, his 2005 election campaign focused again on key Tory themes.

17 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey Notably this included a strong anti-immigration line. Howard steadied the Tory vote but failed to increase it. The election for his successor produced a grassroots competition between a moderniser (David Cameron) and a more traditional, authoritarian Conservative (David Davis). This time, there was an appetite for change and Cameron won.

18 Thatcher to Cameron – A Survey In sum, the Conservative party departed its traditional pragmatism and One Nation stance with the election of Margaret Thatcher as leader in 1975; since then successive leaders have remained committed to the Thatcherite legacy, with some modifications, and the modern Tory party was, until Cameron, seen as an ideological right-wing party, combining neo-liberal economic with neo- conservative social ideas.

19 Cameron ’ s Beliefs We Believe in the family. But we shouldn’t preach to people about how they live their lives.

20 Cameron ’ s Beliefs We believe in personal responsibility But not in selfish individualism

21 Cameron ’ s Beliefs We believe in lower taxes. But not in fostering or favouring the rich.

22 We believe in high standards in health and education. But opt outs and escape routes for the privileged few will never deliver high quality for all.

23 Cameron ’ s Beliefs We believe in limited government But rolling back the state must never mean that the weak are left behind.

24 Cameron ’ s Beliefs We believe in national sovereignty. But not in isolation and xenophobia.

25 In conclusion … While Cameron’s belief statements read a little like Tony Blair’s new Clause 4 – an attempt to be all things to all men – what is clear is that he is seeking to take the Tory party back to the centre ground once occupied by his One Nation predecessors.

26 In conclusion … While this is mainly a rhetorical exercise at present, he has championed a new policy direction, most evidenced in the emphasis upon Green politics, and his opposition to expanding academic selection in schools. He has yet to be clear on ‘authority’ issues, but he is the first leader since Thatcher to start rolling back her influence on policy.


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