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Britain's Conservative Movement - Essay Example

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Britain's conservative political party has, through most of the twentieth century, been the party in power or the obvious heir apparent as the opposition. While the government may have come under the control of labour for brief periods, the conservative party has always been perceived as Britain's natural party…
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Download file to see previous pages Tories, such as Woolton and Churchill, captured this new worldview and offered the people of Britain a mixed economy based on pragmatism and built upon the progressive programs that labour had failed to deliver in the post war period.
In 1945 the Conservative party faced a British electorate that perceived them as elitist and the party of the wealthy, which resulted in a disappointing loss at the polls in 1945. The Labour Manifesto of 1951 stated that, "The Tories are against a more equal society. They stand, as they have always stood, for privilege. In parliament they proposed cuts in taxation on large incomes and fought the profits tax" (Dale 1999, p.78). During this period, Conservatives sought to widen the appeal of the party. According to Lynch (1999, p.22), "Conservative claim to be the patriotic party had lost resonance given their association with the pre-war depression, the emergence of a popular patriotic discourse on the Left and a new period of consensus politics". This disconnection with the voting public would hamper the Conservative efforts during the next five years as they restructured the party, both philosophically and pragmatically.
During the period of 1951-1964, the Conservative party was able to reap the rewards of the British public seeking to maintain a coherent national identity. David Hume and Henry Bolingbroke had written, in the 18th century, about the character of the British and that image endured for two hundred years of multi-national imperialism (Lynch 1999, p.3-20). However, by 1950 this image had weakened due to de-colonization, decentralization, and the growing integration of Europe. The empire and the monarchy no longer served as models for the British identity. Lynch (1999, p.21) contends that "a renewal of substate nationalism, immigration from the New Commonwealth and a Keynesian welfare state political settlement in which the Conservatives had lost their distinctive patriotic voice and had not developed a coherent post-imperial idea of Britishness". This loss of a national identity created an environment where the Conservatives could build a new identity in the image of the new Social Conservatism. This would further hold voters in the Conservative camp as they identified the party with the nationalism and patriotism of nationhood.
This required conservative platforms to appeal to left wing social ideals, while supporting right wing capitalistic economic freedoms. The issues of decentralization, housing, health, and education became the property of the Conservative party, and by 1949 Churchill would assert that the Conservative party was a "broad, tolerant, progressive and hopeful prospect to the British people" and had become "..an overwhelming repudiation of the taint that we are a class party seeking to defend abuses or willing to tolerate the exploitation of the mass of people by vested interests, by monopolies or by bygone ideas" (as cited in James 1974, p.7863). The Conservative's rebranding as a socially progressive party shed the perception of an economically exclusive organization and helped attract many former labour supporters.
Conservative policy following the Second World War was built upon the philosophy of the social reform policies of former Conservatives such as, "Thomas Carlyle, the Earl of Shaftesbury, William Wilberforce, and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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