A Level Politics

Improving your grade

How have Conservative Party policies changed?

Posted by Matt Walker on November 5, 2009

Like all political parties, the Conservatives  have had to adapt their ideas and policies in accordance with changes in public attitudes, priorities, and needs.

In the 1930s, for example, the Conservatives did not accept that it was the role of the state to try to deal with unemployment. That was the job of the free market.

However, after 1945 the Conservative Party adopted many of the policies established by the 1945-51 Labour Government, hence this period is known as the post-war consensus.  They adopted policies such as Keynesianism, the mixed economy, and support for the welfare state. It could be argued that this development, and a concern for the less well-off in society fitted the old One Nation Conservative tradition.

In the 1970s, the Conservative Party changed radically. Under Margaret Thatcher, the party adopted New Right ideas. They rejected the post-war consensus, and when in power privatised state owned businesses, discarded Keynesian economics in favour of a laissez-faire approach, and criticised the welfare state for creating welfare dependency. They were also strongly patriotic and stood in opposition to greater European integration, which divided the party in the 1990s with disastrous electoral consequences..

In opposition since 1997, leaders William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard continued to hold Thatcherite positions, in particular  focussing  on issues such as immigration and the EU, maintaining some would say (namely Theresa May) their image as the ‘nasty party’.

A later entry will focus on David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

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