Writing in 1977, Conservative MP Nigel Fisher identified 'two qualifying conditions' for Tory leaders: 'a lengthy spell in Parliament and considerable Cabinet experience'. Before the advent of economic liberalism the Tory Party believed in hierarchy, so it was hardly a surprise that its members should place special emphasis on the leadership role. William Hague had good reason to be petrified of Margaret Thatcher, who during the leadership campaign had saddled him with what was perhaps the least welcome endorsement in British political history. John Redwood's supporters underlined the resemblance during the leadership campaign, referring to Hague as 'John Major with A levels'. Lord Parkinson rightly praises Hague's reorganisation of his party. No one can argue that Hague was an electoral asset to his party.
In the wake of election defeats in 1970, 1974 and 1979 both the Labour Party and the Conservatives held prolonged inquests into the reasons for their apparent failures in office. The 1975 Conservative leadership contest, in which Edward Heath was defeated by Margaret Thatcher, took place against a background of fierce ideological conflict between what came to be known as economic 'wets' and 'dries'. The nature of British conservatism has been vigorously contested for much of the post-war period, and after the electoral meltdown of 1997 it was reasonable to expect a flurry of impassioned speeches and pamphlets, setting out rival interpretations. Conservative Party practice after 1979 supports the view that electoral recovery need not bear any relation to ideological clarity, or even unity.
No serious student of Labour Party history could deny Tony Benn a prominent place in a roll-call of the party's best public speakers. Benn's argument has an excellent pedigree, stretching back at least to Socrates' complaints about the Athenian Sophists. This chapter argues that Benn should in fact be classed as an orator who made use of logos, pathos and ethos, albeit in a highly distinctive fashion. It analyses his ideological development, as well as a summary of the major episodes in his career within the Labour movement. Benn's oratorical apprenticeship began in an auspicious nursery, the Oxford Union, which he served as president in 1947, after returning from his own war service. Benn 'had no emotional mechanism for dealing with failure'. In terms of ethos, Benn's career as an orator is even less consistent with his self-evaluation.
Iain Macleod has been a hero to many representatives of the Conservative Party’s ‘One Nation’ tradition. In part, this is because of his death at the age of 56, soon after reaching the pinnacle of his career as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The sense of promise unfulfilled is reinforced by the fact that, unlike so many senior figures on the Tory ‘left’, he was unsullied either by the failures of the Heath Government or the ‘wet’ resistance to Margaret Thatcher. Although Macleod was a notable minister under Churchill, Eden and Macmillan, his glamorous posthumous image derives mainly from his reputation as an orator. Indeed, his ministerial career began as a direct result of a single speech – a witty and well-informed attack on Nye Bevan in March 1952, which Churchill heard with admiration. He continued to be a feared parliamentary debater, known for his acidic wit. As party chairman (1961-3) he could be relied upon to cheer the grassroots with incisive attacks on Labour. He was also an able communicator with the voters, in campaign speeches or on television.
The Conservative Party's survival as a significant political force was now open to serious question for the first time since the crisis over the Corn Laws. The Labour Party has commanded a fairly consistent level of attention, whether in office or in opposition. But it seems that the Conservatives are fated to be regarded either as unavoidable or irrelevant. This book presents an analysis that suggests that the party leader plays a less important role in Conservative recoveries than a distinctive policy programme and an effective party organization. It examines the Conservative position on a series of key issues, highlighting the difficult dilemmas which confronted the party after 1997, notably on economic policy. New Labour's acceptance of much of the main thrust of Thatcherite economic policy threw the Conservatives off balance. The pragmatism of this new position and the 'In Europe, not run by Europe' platform masked a significant move towards Euro-skepticism. The book also traces how the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Parties adapted to the creation of the Scottish Parliament, exploring the re-organisation of the Scottish party, its electoral fortunes and political prospects in the new Scottish politics. It examines issues of identity and nationhood in Conservative politics in the 1997-2001 period, focusing on the 'English Question' and the politics of 'race'. The predictable results of the Conservatives' failure to develop an attractive, consistent narrative are then analysed. Right-wing populist parties with charismatic leaders enjoyed some electoral success under the proportional representation systems in 2002.
This book is an analysis of the political thought of the Conservative Party. Academic discussions of the Conservative Party have tended to neglect ideology, focusing instead on the 'pragmatic' nature of the Party and its electoral and governmental record. The book traces the ideology of the Conservative Party through its most prominent thinkers. These are Harold Macmillan; R. A. Butler; Quintin Hogg (Lord Hailsham); Enoch Powell; Angus Maude; Keith Joseph; the traditionalists; the 'wets' (most notably Ian Gilmour); John Redwood; and David Willetts. These are the individuals considered by the authors to have made the most important contributions to the political thought of the Conservative Party. Some of them did so through the publication of a major book or even in some cases a series of books. The book provokes two theoretical issues and it is the purpose of the introduction to deal with these head-on. The first relates to the nature of the Conservative Party, which many commentators argue is not an ideological entity. The most widely cited academic perspective of this sort is the 'statecraft' thesis first outlined by James Bulpitt, who argued that the Conservative Party is in fact a pragmatic movement committed above all to winning elections and maintaining power. The second issue raised here is that of why and how the authors have selected the individual thinkers and overlooked others with plausible claims to influence.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the Conservative Party's response to the crisis it faced after the 1997 defeat. It examines the Conservative Party leadership, parliamentary party and voluntary party in the Hague period. The book focuses on Conservative policy and ideology, and examines the party's electoral performance after 1997. It illustrates the predictable results of the Conservatives' failure to develop an attractive and consistent narrative. The book suggests that the party leader plays a less important role in Conservative recoveries than a distinctive policy programme and an effective party organisation. It highlights the difficult dilemmas, which confronted the party after 1997, notably on economic policy where the urge to promise tax cuts conflicted with voters' demands for public spending on essential services.
The change in the fortunes of the Conservative Party since 1992 is remarkable. Holding office alone or in coalition for two-thirds of the twentieth century, the Conservatives were considered the 'natural party of government'. The Conservatives appeared to be out of tune with some prevailing cultural attitudes and attributes of contemporary British society. William Hague's warning that Britain would become a 'foreign land' under a Labour second term reinforced the caricature of an intolerant party, ironically the Conservatives already appeared 'strangers in their own land', trapped in the past. Thatcherism extolled the virtues of individual liberty, choice and consumerism in a market economy, but many Conservatives were less inclined to accept an extension of choice and diversity in the social and cultural arenas.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book presents an analysis of the political thought of the Conservative Party. It traces the ideology of the Conservative Party through its most prominent thinkers. A number of commentators have argued that the Conservative Party is free from ideology. This has been argued by prominent Conservatives themselves and was frequently heard in the 1980s as opponents of Thatcherism claimed that Margaret Thatcher had brought in something alien to the Conservative Party ideology. The book distinguishes between four main ideological traditions present in the Conservative Party since 1945: traditional Toryism, New Right, Centrist and One Nation. The interrelationship between conservative and liberal elements within the New Right can be seen in the work of Enoch Powell, who combined a strong sense of national identity with free-market economic policies.
According to the late Ewen Green, 'Harold Macmillan was the most self-consciously intellectual Conservative leader of the twentieth century'. This chapter argues that there were two Macmillans, the pre-war intellectual, and the post-war opportunist. From this perspective, it is possible to understand his ambiguous contribution to the development of ideas within the Conservative Party. His most important work, The Middle Way, capped a series of volumes which were written either singly or in cooperation with others. The nickname 'Supermac', originally bestowed on Macmillan by the hostile cartoonist 'Vicky', ended up being regarded as a tribute to his preternatural political powers. In practice, probably the most important legacy of Macmillan's pre-war thought was the credence it gave to the argument that the post-war Conservative leadership had made a conscious accommodation with 'socialism', which amounted to a betrayal of the party.