Conservatism in the United Kingdom

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Conservatism in the United Kingdom is related to its counterparts in other Western nations, but has a distinct tradition and has encompassed a wide range of theories over the decades. The Conservative Party, which forms the mainstream centre-right party in Britain has developed many different internal factions and ideologies.

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The central tenets of conservatism include tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy, authority, and property rights. Conservatives seek to preserve a range of institutions such as religion, parliamentary government, and property rights, with the aim of emphasizing social stability and continuity. The more traditional elements—reactionaries—oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The UK's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Centre-right politics or center-right politics, also referred to as moderate-right politics, are politics that lean to the right of the left–right political spectrum, but are closer to the centre than other right-wing politics. From the 1780s to the 1880s, there was a shift in the Western world of social class structure and the economy, moving away from the nobility and mercantilism, as well as moving toward the bourgeoisie and capitalism. This general economic shift toward capitalism affected centre-right movements such as the British Conservative Party, that responded by becoming supportive of capitalism.

Contents

Origins

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke Burke.jpg
Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke is often considered the father of modern English conservatism in the English-speaking world. [1] [2] [3] Burke was a member of a conservative faction of the Whig party; [note 1] the modern Conservative Party however has been described as "the heir, and in some measure the continuation, of the old Tory Party" by Lord Norton of Louth, [4] and the Conservatives are often still referred to as Tories. [5] Australian scholar Glen Worthington has said: "For Edmund Burke and Australians of a like mind, the essence of conservatism lies not in a body of theory, but in the disposition to maintain those institutions seen as central to the beliefs and practices of society." [6]

Edmund Burke 18th-century Anglo-Irish statesman and political theorist

Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish statesman born in Dublin, as well as an author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, who after moving to London in 1750 served as a member of parliament (MP) between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons with the Whig Party.

English-speaking world Countries and regions where English is everyday language and people (or peoples) who speak English

Over 2 billion people speak English. English is the largest language by number of speakers, and the third largest language by number of native speakers. With 300 million native speakers, the United States of America is the largest English speaking country. As pictured in the pie graph below, most native speakers of English are Americans.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, sometimes informally called the Tories, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 313 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 4 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 11 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 8,916 local councillors.

Tories

The old established form of English and, after the Act of Union, British conservatism, was the Tory Party. It reflected the attitudes of a rural land owning class, and championed the institutions of the monarchy, the Anglican Church, the family, property as the best defence of the social order. In the early stages of the industrial revolution, it seemed to be totally opposed to a process that seemed to undermine some of these bulwarks, and the new industrial elite were seen by many as enemies to the social order.[ citation needed ]

Acts of Union 1707 Acts of Parliament creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain

The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".

Anglican Communion International association of churches

The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion. Founded in 1867 in London, England, the communion currently has 85 million members within the Church of England and other national and regional churches in full communion. The traditional origins of Anglican doctrines are summarised in the Thirty-nine Articles (1571). The Archbishop of Canterbury in England acts as a focus of unity, recognised as primus inter pares, but does not exercise authority in Anglican provinces outside of the Church of England.

History

Robert Peel was able to reconcile the new industrial class to the Tory landed class by persuading the latter to accept the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, the party adopted laissez-faire economic policies from 1918 until the “post war consensus”. [4] The new coalition of traditional landowners and sympathetic industrialists constituted the new Conservative Party.

Robert Peel British Conservative statesman

Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, was a British statesman and Conservative Party politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and twice as Home Secretary. He is regarded as the father of modern British policing, owing to his founding of the Metropolitian Police Service. Peel was one of the founders of the modern Conservative Party.

The Corn Laws were tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food and grain ("corn") enforced in Great Britain between 1815 and 1846. The word "corn" in the English spoken in nineteenth century Britain denotes all cereal grains, such as wheat and barley. They were designed to keep grain prices high to favour domestic producers, and represented British mercantilism. The Corn Laws imposed steep import duties, making it too expensive to import grain from abroad, even when food supplies were short.

Laissez-faire is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from government intervention such as regulation, privileges, tariffs and subsidies. The phrase laissez-faire is part of a larger French phrase and literally translates to "let (it/them) do", but in this context usually means "let go".

Development of one-nation conservatism

Benjamin Disraeli is considered the father of one-nation conservatism. Benjamin Disraeli by Cornelius Jabez Hughes, 1878.jpg
Benjamin Disraeli is considered the father of one-nation conservatism.

Conservatism evolved after 1820, embracing free trade in 1846, and a commitment to democracy, especially under Disraeli. The effect was to significantly strengthen Conservatism as a grassroots political force. Conservatism no longer was the philosophical defence of the landed aristocracy but had been refreshed into redefining its commitment to the ideals of order, both secular and religious, expanding imperialism, strengthened monarchy, and a more generous vision of the welfare state as opposed to the punitive vision of the Whigs and Liberals. [7] As early as 1835, Disraeli attacked the Whigs and utilitarians as slavishly devoted to an industrial oligarchy, while he described his fellow Tories as the only "really democratic party of England" and devoted to the interests of the whole people. [8] Nevertheless, inside the party there was a tension between the growing numbers of wealthy businessmen on the one side, and the aristocracy and rural gentry on the other. [9] The aristocracy gained strength as businessmen discovered they could use their wealth to buy a peerage and a country estate.

Disraeli set up a Conservative Central Office, established in 1870, and the newly formed National Union (which drew together local voluntary associations), gave the party "additional unity and strength", and Disraeli's views on social reform and the wealth disparity between the richest and poorest in society allegedly "helped the party to break down class barriers", according to Conservative peer Lord Norton. [4] As a young man, Disraeli was influenced by the romantic movement and medievalism, and developed a critique of industrialism. In his novels, he outlined an England divided into two nations, each living in perfect ignorance of each other. He foresaw, like Karl Marx, the phenomenon of an alienated industrial proletariat. His solution involved a return to an idealised view of a corporate or organic society, in which everyone had duties and responsibilities towards other people or groups. [10]

Medievalism

Medievalism is a system of belief and practice inspired by the Middle Ages, or by devotion to elements of that period, which have been expressed in areas such as architecture, literature, music, art, philosophy, scholarship, and various vehicles of popular culture. Since the 18th century, a variety of movements have used the medieval period as a model or inspiration for creative activity, including Romanticism, the Gothic revival, the pre-Raphaelite and arts and crafts movements, and neo-medievalism. The words medievalism and Medieval are both first recorded in the 19th century. Medieval is derived from Latin medium aevum.

Karl Marx Revolutionary socialist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

This "one nation" conservatism is still a significant tradition in British politics, in both the Conservative Party [11] [12] [13] and Labour, [note 2] [14] especially with the rise of the Scottish National Party during the 2015 general election. [15]

Although nominally a Conservative, Disraeli was sympathetic to some of the demands of the Chartists and argued for an alliance between the landed aristocracy and the working-class against the increasing power of the middle class, helping to found the Young England group in 1842 to promote the view that the rich should use their power to protect the poor from exploitation by the middle-class. The conversion of the Conservative Party into a modern mass organisation was accelerated by the concept of Tory Democracy attributed to Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill. [16]

Winston Churchill, although best known as the most prominent conservative since Disraeli – crossed the aisle in 1904 and became a Liberal for two decades. As one of the most active and aggressive orators of his day, he thrilled the left in 1909 by ridiculing the Conservatives as, "the party of the rich against the poor, of the classes ...against the masses, of the lucky, the wealthy, the happy, and the strong against the left-out and the shut-out millions of the weak and poor." His harsh words were hurled back at him when he rejoined the conservative party in 1924. [17]

An all-party coalition during 1916-22, coupled with the rapid growth of the Labour Party in the bitter battles between H. H. Asquith and David Lloyd George for control of the Liberals, caused the collapse of the Liberal Party in the 1920s. After World War II, the Conservative Party made concessions to the socialist policies of the left. This compromise was a pragmatic measure to regain power, but also the result of the early successes of central planning and state ownership forming a cross-party consensus. This was known as Butskellism, after the almost identical Keynesian policies of Rab Butler on behalf of the Conservatives, and Hugh Gaitskell for Labour.[ citation needed ]

Rise of Thatcherism

Margaret Thatcher Margaret Thatcher portrait.jpg
Margaret Thatcher

However, in the 1980s, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, and the influence of Keith Joseph, there was a dramatic shift in the ideological direction of British conservatism, with a movement towards free-market economic policies and neoliberalism (commonly referred to as Thatcherism ). [18] As one commentator explains, "The privatisation of state owned industries, unthinkable before, became commonplace [during Thatcher's government] and has now been imitated all over the world." [19] Thatcher was described as "a radical in a conservative party", [19] and her ideology has been seen as confronting "established institutions" and the "accepted beliefs of the elite", [19] both concepts incompatible with the traditional conception of conservatism as signifying support for the established order and existing social convention ( status quo ).[ citation needed ]

Modern conservatism

Following a third consecutive general election defeat in 2005, the Conservative Party selected David Cameron as party leader, followed by Theresa May in 2016, both of whom have served as Prime Minister and sought to modernise and change the ideological position of British conservatism.[ citation needed ]

In efforts to rebrand and increase the party's appeal, both leaders have adopted policies which align with liberal conservatism. [20] [21] This has included a "greener" environmental and energy stance, and adoption of some socially liberal views, such as acceptance of same-sex marriage. However, these policies have been accompanied by a fiscal conservatism, in which they have maintained a hard stance on bringing down the deficit, and embarked upon a programme of economic austerity. Other modern policies which align with one-nation conservatism [22] and Christian democracy [23] [24] include education reform, extending student loan applicants to postgraduate applicants, and allowing those from poorer backgrounds to go further, whilst still increasing tuition fees and introducing a higher cap. There has also been an emphasis on human rights, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, [25] whilst also supporting individual initiative. However, with the global rise of populism, the Conservative party has returned to its roots of Traditional Conservatism, undoing the modernising work [26]

Conservative political parties in the United Kingdom

In British Overseas Territories

See also

Notes

  1. However, Burke lived before the terms "conservative" and "liberal" were used to describe political ideologies, and he dubbed his faction the "Old Whigs". cf. J. C. D. Clark, English Society, 1660–1832 (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 5, p. 301.
  2. See: One Nation Labour.

Related Research Articles

Benjamin Disraeli British Conservative Prime Minister

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield,, was a British statesman of the Conservative Party who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach. Disraeli is remembered for his influential voice in world affairs, his political battles with the Liberal Party leader William Ewart Gladstone, and his one-nation conservatism or "Tory democracy". He made the Conservatives the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire. He is the only British prime minister to have been of Jewish birth. He was also a novelist, publishing works of fiction even as prime minister.

Tory A conservative political philosophy

A Tory is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved in the English culture throughout history. The Tory ethos has been summed up with the phrase "God, King, and Country". Tories generally advocate monarchism, and were historically of a high church Anglican religious heritage, opposed to the liberalism of the Whig faction.

Thatcherism politics of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcherism comprises the conviction, economic, social and political style of the British Conservative Party politician Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of her party from 1975 to 1990. It has also been used to describe the principles of the British government under Thatcher as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 and beyond into the governments of John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron. An exponent of Thatcherism is regarded as a "Thatcherite". Thatcherism represented a systematic, decisive rejection and reversal of the post-war consensus, whereby the major political parties largely agreed on the central themes of Keynesianism, the welfare state, nationalised industry and close regulation of the British economy. There was one major exception, the NHS, which was widely popular. In 1982, she promised the British people that the NHS is "safe in our hands".

One-nation conservatism is a paternalistic form of British political conservatism. It advocates the preservation of established institutions and traditional principles, within a political democracy, and in combination with social and economic programmes designed to benefit the ordinary person. According to this political philosophy, society should be allowed to develop in an organic way, rather than being engineered. It argues that members of society have obligations towards each other, and particularly emphasises paternalism – meaning that those who are privileged and wealthy pass on their benefits. It argues that this elite should work to reconcile the interests of all classes, labour as well as management, instead of identifying the good of society solely with the interests of the business class.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Historical sovereign state from 1801 to 1921

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.

Red Tory Paternalistic conservatives in Canada and UK

A Red Tory is an adherent of a centre-right or paternalistic-conservative political philosophy derived from the Tory tradition, predominantly in Canada, but also in the United Kingdom. This philosophy tends to favour communitarian social policies, while maintaining a degree of fiscal discipline and a respect of social and political order. It is contrasted with "Blue Tory" or "High Tory". Some Red Tories view themselves as small-c conservatives.

Tory Reform Group Political organization

The Tory Reform Group (TRG) is a pressure group associated with the British Conservative Party, that works to promote the values of the One Nation Tory vision.

1852 United Kingdom general election

The 1852 United Kingdom general election was a watershed in the formation of the modern political parties of Britain. Following 1852, the Tory/Conservative party became, more completely, the party of the rural aristocracy, while the Whig/Liberal party became the party of the rising urban bourgeoisie in Britain. The results of the election were extremely close in terms of both the popular vote and the numbers of seats won by the two main parties.

Bow Group conservative think tank in the United Kingdom

The Bow Group is a UK-based independent think tank, promoting conservative opinion internationally. Founded in 1951, it is the oldest group of its kind, counting many senior conservative MPs and peers among its members. It represents a forum for year-round political debate with its varied programme of events and official journal.

History of the Conservative Party (UK)

The Conservative Party is the oldest political party in the United Kingdom and arguably the world. The current party was first organized in the 1830s and the name "Conservative" was officially adopted, but the party is still often referred to as the Tory party. The Tories had been a coalition that more often than not formed the government from 1760 until the Reform Act 1832. Modernizing reformers said the traditionalistic party of "Throne, Altar and Cottage" was obsolete, but in the face of an expanding electorate 1830s–1860s it held its strength among royalists, devout Anglicans and landlords and their tenants.

High Tory Traditionalist conservativism, primarily in UK

High Toryism is a term used in Britain, and elsewhere, to refer to old traditionalist conservatism which is in line with the Toryism originating in the 17th century. High Tories and their worldview are sometimes at odds with the modernising elements of the Conservative Party. Historically, the late eighteenth-century conservatism derived from the Whig Edmund Burke and William Pitt the Younger marks a watershed from the "higher" or legitimist Toryism that was allied to Jacobitism.

Tory socialism Conservative support for active government, especially Disraeli

Tory socialism was a term used by historians, particularly of the early Fabian Society, to describe the governing philosophy of the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. The term is also used by many free market advocates to describe certain strains of conservatism that are more reformist-minded and believe in a more activist government.

Traditionalist conservatism, also known as classical conservatism and traditional conservatism, is a political philosophy or ideology emphasizing the need for the principles of a transcendent moral order, manifested through certain natural laws to which society ought to conform in a prudent manner. Shortened to traditionalism and in the United Kingdom and Canada referred to as Toryism, traditionalist conservatism is a variant of conservatism based on the political philosophies of Aristotle and Edmund Burke. Traditionalists emphasize the bonds of social order and the defense of ancestral institutions over what it considers excessive individualism.

Paternalistic conservatism is a strand in conservatism which reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically and that members within them have obligations towards each other. There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of those who are privileged and wealthy to the poorer parts of society. Since it is consistent with principles such as organicism, hierarchy and duty, it can be seen an outgrowth of traditional conservatism. Paternal conservatives support neither the individual nor the state in principle, but are instead prepared to support either or recommend a balance between the two depending on what is most practical.

Progressive conservatism is a political ideology which attempts to combine conservative and progressive policies. The initial origins of progressivism come from Western Europe during the 18th century and the Age of Enlightenment when it was believed that social reform and progression in areas such as science, economics, education, technology and medicine were necessary to improve human living conditions. However, during the 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli advocated an alternative form of progressive politics known as progressive conservatism under his one-nation conservative government.

Nicholas James Timothy is a British political adviser. He served as Joint Downing Street Chief of Staff, alongside Fiona Hill, to Prime Minister Theresa May, until his resignation in the wake of the 2017 general election.

Conservative government or Tory government may refer to:

References

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  2. Eccleshall 1990, p. 39.
  3. Dobson 2009, p. 73.
  4. 1 2 3 Lord Norton of Louth. Conservative Party. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  5. Mehta, Binita (28 May 2015). "'You don't have to be white to vote right': Why young Asians are rebelling by turning Tory". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
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  8. Richmond & Smith 1998, p. 162.
  9. Auerbach, The Conservative Illusion. (1959), pp. 39–40
  10. Paterson 2001, pp. 93-94.
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  17. Andrew Roberts (2018). Churchill: Walking with Destiny. Penguin. p. 127.
  18. Scott-Samuel, Alex, et al. "The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain." International Journal of Health Services 44.1 (2014): 53-71.
  19. 1 2 3 Davies, Stephen, Margaret Thatcher and the Rebirth of Conservatism, Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, July 1993
  20. "BBC News - David Cameron: I am 'Liberal Conservative'". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  21. "Can Theresa May even sell her new conservatism to her own cabinet?". The Guardian. 2016-07-16. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  22. Quinn, Ben (2016-06-29). "Theresa May sets out 'one-nation Conservative' pitch for leadership". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  23. McGuinness, Damien (2016-07-13). "Is Theresa May the UK's Merkel?". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  24. ""From Big State to Big Society": Is British Conservatism becoming Christian Democratic? | Comment Magazine". www.cardus.ca. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  25. "Where The Tory Leadership Candidates Stand On Human Rights - RightsInfo". 2016-07-04. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  26. Frances Perraudin, ''Tories turning into Blukip': MPs lay out reasons for leaving Conservatives – as it happened' (20/02/19) on The Guardian

Bibliography