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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
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Laurens de Rooij

This chapter analyses how the findings of the research relate to current topical issues. It does this by examining the data in light of recent events. This leads to a discussion on how socio-political events are informed by media discourse, and how those discourses continue to inform the thoughts and actions of non-Muslims on an everyday basis.

in Islam in British media discourses
Laurens de Rooij

This chapter discusses how the media practices of a media institution relate to the practices of individuals. By exploring the thoughts and actions of non-Muslims’ media behaviour, it is possible to ascertain in what ways a mediacratic society informs and structures behaviour. This will provide a natural follow-on from chapters 1 and 2, and informs the reader as to how media as an institution relates to socio-political practices.

in Islam in British media discourses
Laurens de Rooij

This chapter explores how current portrayals of Islam and Muslims influence society. It does so by putting research data gathered using focus groups and interviews with non-Muslim participants in dialogue with one another. This then leads to a discussion about how this affects socio-political engagement, with a particular reference to the spreading of ideologies, discourses, and political capital. This will be explored by looking at how media communication and public debate affect community relations on the ground, through participant voices.

in Islam in British media discourses
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Laurens de Rooij

The book starts by detailing the theoretical and methodological background to the work, and how this informs the work itself. It then goes on to explain the significance of each individual chapter to the study as a whole, as well as the field in general.

in Islam in British media discourses
Understanding perceptions of Muslims in the news

This book considers how the coverage of Islam and Muslims in the press informs the thoughts and actions of non-Muslims. As media plays an important role in society, analysing its influence(s) on a person’s ideas and conceptualisations of people with another religious persuasion is important. News reports commonly feature stories discussing terrorism, violence, the lack of integration and compatibility, or other unwelcome or irrational behaviour by Muslims and Islam. Yet there is little research on how non-Muslims actually engage with, and are affected by, such reports. To address this gap, a content and discourse analysis of news stories was undertaken; verbal narratives or thoughts and actions of participants were then elicited using interviews and focus groups. The participant accounts point towards the normativity of news stories and their negotiated reception patterns. Individual orientations towards the media as an information source proved to be a significant factor behind the importance of news reports, with individually negotiated personal encounters with Muslims or Islam further affecting the meaning-making process. Participants negotiated media reports to fit their existing outlook on Islam and Muslims. This outlook was constructed through, and simultaneously supported by, news reports about Muslims and Islam. The findings suggest a co-dependency and co-productivity between news reports and participant responses. This research clearly shows that participant responses are (re)productions of local and personal contextuality, where the consequences of socially constructed depictions of Islam and Muslims engage rather than influence individual human thoughts and actions.

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British media as a discursive system
Laurens de Rooij

This chapter employs Foucault’s understanding of discourse, as suggested in the introduction, to analyse how media in Britain as a system of knowledge, engages with Islam. The British press is understood here as one method for managing and producing Muslims, in a political, sociological, ideological, and imaginative manner. As a consequence, these statements constitute how Muslims and Islam are perceived and can transform their audience’s understanding of Muslims and Islam in accordance with the presupposed system of knowledge.

in Islam in British media discourses