Philip Begley
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The economy
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The economic crises of the 1970s were understood to require action on a broad scale. The Conservatives focussed on three areas: public spending, taxation and the role of private enterprise. In simple terms, the party would argue that government expenditure needed to be cut, that the burden of taxation needed to be reduced, and that the profitmaking power of the private sector needed to be restored. However, this chapter argues that although there were important developments, the Conservatives’ wider economic policies did not change dramatically. By the end of the period there was a little more acceptance that the electorate were aware of the need for tough spending cuts, but the Conservatives had always called for retrenchment and, despite some tough rhetoric, the party did not appear ready to slash public spending at all costs. There were also some more philosophical arguments about the need to reduce taxation and support the free market system, and there were hints at some of the more controversial and lasting changes that would be brought about by the Thatcher governments. However, the fine detail of Conservative policy did not develop as much as might be expected.

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The making of Thatcherism

The Conservative Party in opposition, 1974–79


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