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Philip Begley

During the 1970s the Conservatives argued strongly and consistently that levels of immigration needed to be reduced. The debate was about by how much it should be reduced and by what means. However, at the same time the party could not, and generally did not wish to do this by following any extreme policies which might undermine its electoral support, damage race relations or lead it to renege on assurances that had been given in the past. For example, the Conservatives considered tougher policies like repatriation and did give some thought to withdrawing the right of entry to Britain from some groups that they had previously expected would keep it, before eventually rejecting such policies and sticking to a firm but pragmatic approach. Here, rhetoric sometimes became important. Margaret Thatcher’s famous intervention in January 1978 provides an example of the ways in which it could act as a substitute where policy change was not possible. Immigration therefore provides another example of a policy area in which there is something of a gap between the tone of the period and the policy reality.

in The making of Thatcherism
Philip Begley

Trade unions, their practices, and their political and economic impact were important issues throughout the 1970s. According to different interpretations, this was either the period which marked the highpoint of trade unionism in Britain, or the moment of victory for neoliberal critiques and the beginning of the end for traditional industrial relations. The Conservative Party was at the heart of these debates and many important changes during this period. Influenced by wider neoliberal ideology, a number of Conservative politicians like Sir Keith Joseph were often outspoken and particularly animated by the Grunwick dispute, the subject of an instructive case study in this chapter. However, the Conservatives as a whole moved only gradually and partially in this direction. There were important developments and the party did devise new policies around the closed shop, picketing and trade union elections, whilst more serious and controversial reforms to the welfare payments made to strikers were also contemplated, but these were in line with long-standing Conservative concerns and often a response to events as they unfolded. The Conservatives did not necessarily have detailed plans for trade union reform worked out prior to 1979.

in The making of Thatcherism
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Philip Begley

One of the defining issues in British politics and the central focus of economic policy between 1974 and 1979 was inflation. This was particularly true for the Conservatives, who invested a great deal in defining policies to deal with inflation and consistently emphasised the grave threat that it posed. This chapter details the development of these policies and suggests how they can best be understood. Many accounts have suggested that the Conservatives moved in a monetarist direction during this period. There can be little doubt that this is correct. Many of the leading disseminators of monetarist ideas were drawn towards the Conservatives, demonstrating the common ground between them. However, this chapter will show that their influence in policy terms may not have been direct and the Conservatives’ position was not revolutionised. Ideas closer to traditional prices and incomes policies remained stubbornly in play. A greater focus on monetarist ideas did not necessarily require a significant re-evaluation of Conservative philosophy, and pragmatic concerns were often just as significant as wider ideological forces.

in The making of Thatcherism
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Andrew Denham, Andrew S. Roe-Crines and Peter Dorey

How do political parties choose their leaders? Why do they choose the leaders they do? These are questions of fundamental importance in contemporary parliamentary democracies. Reflecting the breadth and diversity of the discipline of political science, the academic literature on this subject ranges from studies of specific leadership contests involving a single party or country on the one hand, to large-scale, comparative studies of developments between countries on the other. In this book, our focus is on a single country, Britain; how its two major parties, Conservative and Labour, have chosen their leaders; and which factors have shaped their choices.

in Choosing party leaders
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Philip Begley

This chapter provides an overview of the book, the subjects it will cover and the questions that will be addressed. It also establishes the central conceptual and methodological frameworks and sets out the structure of the chapters that follow. The chapter begins by discussing the Conservative victory at the 1979 general election and different interpretations of its meaning. There is a discussion of what is actually understood to be ‘policy’ and how it is formed. The wide range of sources around which the research was built is also introduced. A historiographical review of the existing literature reveals the extensive and growing body of work which touches upon areas relevant to this study.

in The making of Thatcherism
Andrew Denham, Andrew S. Roe-Crines and Peter Dorey

Jeremy Corbyn is a seasoned campaigner, a passionate democratic socialist and is dedicated to the causes he believes in. Throughout his political career on the backbenches, he pursued his interests largely detached from Westminster politics. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s, he sought to promote what he saw as campaigns for peace in the Middle East and South Africa, for civil rights in the UK, and for other causes. He was a strong voice against the post-9/11 military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has continued to call for peaceful solutions in Libya and Syria, and for a more balanced dialogue with Iran. As a consequence, he was never regarded as a serious contender for a position at the frontline of British politics. However, through a process of changes to the leadership selection rules following Labour’s return to opposition in 2010, a door was opened by which a contender from the left of the party was in a competitive position for the leadership. Those changes were precipitated by the Falkirk scandal and the need for the incumbent leader, Ed Miliband, to demonstrate he was willing to reform the relationship between Labour and the trade unions.

in Choosing party leaders
The Conservative Party in opposition, 1974–79
Author: Philip Begley

This book examines the Conservative Party’s period in opposition between 1974 and 1979, focussing on the development of policy in a number of important areas. It explains how Conservative policy changed and why it changed in the ways that it did, before going on to draw wider conclusions about Thatcherism and Britain in the 1970s. The central argument is that although this period has often been seen as one of significant change, with Conservative policy one part of much wider and more dramatic developments, if it is examined in detail then much of this change appears modest and complex. There were a range of factors pulling the Conservatives in a number of different directions during this period. At times policy moved forward because of these forces but at others its development was slowed. In order to understand this period and the changes in Conservative policy fully, we need to take a rounded view and have an appreciation of the intellectual, economic and social contexts of the time. However, this book argues that the short-term political context was most important of all, and helps to explain why Conservative policy did not change as much as might be expected. There was not necessarily a clear path through to the 1980s and beyond. The roots of Thatcherism may have been evident but it does not appear to have been inevitable in policy terms by 1979.

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Philip Begley

This chapter draws together Conservative policy in relation to nationalised industry and housing under the theme of ownership. By the 1970s the Conservatives had long been clear that they saw nationalised industries as undesirable in principle, and had begun to consider how to actually denationalise in practice. But it was also recognised that it would not be a straightforward process. The proposed method for unwinding the nationalised industries was wider share ownership. This can also be seen in relation to home ownership. The aim of a ‘property-owning democracy’, a long-standing element of Conservative thinking which had been revived and updated a number of times, moved more clearly to the centre of party strategy under Thatcher. Nonetheless, the most important policy which would help to bring it about was not in itself new. The sale of council houses under the ‘right to buy’ scheme had been a feature of Conservative manifestos in 1970 and 1974, although it was now given a new impetus.

in The making of Thatcherism
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Philip Begley

Devolution was one of the defining issues in British politics during the late 1970s. It was a fundamental concern for the Conservative Party. The party had a uniquely strong tradition of support for the principle of the United Kingdom, but by the mid-1970s it had accepted the need for some kind of devolution as a means of avoiding other more radical changes. Official policy was therefore to support a directly elected assembly in Scotland. Though this commitment remained it was less concrete by 1979 than it had been at the beginning of the period. Support for such an institution became more circumstantial and qualified. Philosophical arguments in support of devolution appear to have been employed less often. The focus was more on the negative consequences of Labour’s specific proposals. However, devolution was not rejected outright. That eighteen years of Conservative government in which nothing was done about devolution followed, was not as inevitable in the preceding years as it might later appear.

in The making of Thatcherism
Andrew Denham, Andrew S. Roe-Crines and Peter Dorey

The only feature that was common to all Conservative leadership selections or appointments during the first half of the twentieth century was the absence of a formal role for Conservative MPs in expressing their choice or preference. Instead, those most closely involved in choosing a new party leader were a few senior Conservative Party parliamentarians who consulted as narrowly or widely as they deemed expedient. However, the controversial manner in which Harold Macmillan’s successor was chosen in October 1963 fatally tarnished the image of the so-called magic circle and led to the adoption of a formal method for choosing Conservative leaders that entailed a secret ballot of the party’s MPs.

in Choosing party leaders