The making of Thatcherism

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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