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The Conservative Party in opposition, 1974–79

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.

Gender and the Conservative Party, 1880s to the present

Historians and political scientists have deemed the twentieth century 'the Conservative Century', owing to the electoral and cultural dominance of the Conservative Party in Britain. This book traces the relationship among women, gender and the Conservative Party from the 1880s to the present, and thereby seeks to fill that gap. A gender inclusive approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of political machinations, power and the unprecedented popularity of both conservatism and unionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, was regarded as a charismatic, radical figure, who was the co-leader of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a notorious suffrage organization campaigning for the parliamentary vote for women in Edwardian Britain. In 1928 Lady Iveagh, Vice-Chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations (NUCA), claimed that one million women were members of the Conservative Party. The book focuses on how the Primrose League re-made itself for its female members between 1914 and 1932. It shows that the Conservative Party leadership and male candidates were keen to present themselves as the champions of home interests, playing up their family-man credentials against their rowdy electoral culture of Labour. The book also examines inquires how the deliberate choice of middlebrow rhetoric as well as the language of citizenship enabled Conservative women to construct a cross-class language of democracy. It explores British conservatism, highlighting the history of the Tory Party as part of the study of women and their sectional interest in 'the politics of gender'.

Trade unions, the Conservative Party and the failure of the Industrial Relations Act 1971

Who governs Britain? examines the 1970–74 Conservative government’s attempt to impose a formal legal framework on British trade unions for the first time. It explores how, in the name of solving Britain’s strike ‘problem’ and reversing a prolonged period of relative economic decline, this attempt to regulate collective bargaining arrangements descended into farce. The Act is known as a policy fiasco. This book explains why. The book provides significant new insights through extensive use of primary sources from the National Archives, Modern Records Centre and Conservative Party Archives. It employs a novel, multi-dimensional framework to analyse the government’s failure to disengage from – and thus ‘depoliticise’ – this controversial process of reform. The analysis illustrates how inadequate drafting, flawed assumptions about internal trade union dynamics, strategic failings in policy implementation and tensions linked to complex interdependencies at the heart of the state apparatus undermined the government’s strategy and contributed to its ultimate downfall. The book argues that this attempt to pacify trade unions was thrown into doubt when presumptions about trade union deference to, and respect for, the rule of law proved to be unfounded. The National Industrial Relations Court was widely perceived to be an extension of government and therefore illegitimate. The empirical chapters are organised both thematically and chronologically, analysing key events in the Act’s short but tempestuous existence to provide fresh insights into the industrial battles that followed. Who governs Britain? considers how these events influenced Conservative attitudes towards trade unions in the 1980s, shaping the industrial relations landscape today.