Philip Begley
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The 1970s
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This chapter provides context for the policy discussions which follow, situating the Conservative opposition in the economic, social, cultural and political contexts of the 1970s. Key themes that are often seen to have defined the decade are analysed and their impact on the direction of Conservative policy assessed. The chapter highlights the breakdown of the post-war consensus, economic decline, the ungovernability of Britain and a loss of morality in national life as being important. These were the ideas that helped shape the Conservatives’ sense of how the world was changing. It is clear that they did play a role in the development of policy, but this influence was not often direct. They were central to the increasingly well-formed ideas of some Thatcherites and were often there under the surface and in much of the rhetoric of the time, but they were not at the heart of the official policymaking process.

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The making of Thatcherism

The Conservative Party in opposition, 1974–79


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