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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.
Edmund Burke is often considered the father of modern English conservatism in the English-speaking world.Burke was a member of a conservative faction of the Whig party; 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, and the Conservatives are often still referred to as Tories. 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."
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. It split in 1846 following the repeal of the Corn Laws (the tariff on imported corn). Proponents of free trade in the late 19th century and early 20th century failed to make much headway as "tariff reform" resulted in new tariffs. The coalition of traditional landowners and sympathetic industrialists constituted the new Conservative Party.
Conservatism evolved after 1820, embracing imperialism and realization that an expanded working classs electorate could neutralize the Liberal advantage among the middle classes. Disraeli defined the Conservative approach and strengthened 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.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. 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. 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.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.
This "one nation" conservatism is still a significant tradition in British politics, in both the Conservative Partyand Labour, especially with the rise of the Scottish National Party during the 2015 general election.
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.
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.
The shock of a landslide defeat in 1906 forced the Conservatives to rethink operations, and they worked to build grassroots groups that would help turn out their vote.The Conservative Party responded by creating the Workers Defence Union (WDU) designed to frighten the working-class into voting Conservative. It first promoted tariff reform (that is high tariffs to protect factory jobs). Increasingly the WDU focused on attacking immigrant workers as a threat to jobs that belonged to true Britons. It had considerable success by arousing hatred of "alien subversion." It became a far deeper matter than job loss--the aliens threatened the purity of "English race and the appeal created fears and racism in the middle and upper class as well.
Women played a new role in the early 20th century, signalled in 1906 by setting up the Women's Unionist and Tariff Reform Association (WUTRA). When the Liberals failed to support woman suffrage, the Conservatives acted, especially by passing the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the Equal Franchise Act of 1928.They realized that women housewives were often conservative in outlook, adverse to the aggressive tone of socialist rhetoric, and supported imperialism and traditional values. Conservatives claimed that they represented orderly politics, peace, and the interests of the ex-serviceman's family. The 1928 Act added five million more women to the electoral roll and had the effect of making women a majority, 52.7%, of the electorate in the 1929 general election, which was termed the "Flapper Election".
A Neo-Tory movement flourished in the 1930s as part of a pan-European reaction against modernity. A network of right-wing intellectuals and allied politicians ridiculed democracy, liberalism and modern capitalism as degenerate. They warned against the emergence of a corporate state in Britain imposed from above». The intellectuals involved followed trends in Italy. France and especially Germany. The exchange of ideas with the continent was at first a source of inspiration, reassurance and hope. After Hitler's rise in 1933 it meant their downfall. War with Germany in 1939 ended British participation in transnational radical conservatism.
During and 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. The conservatism version was known as Butskellism, after the almost identical Keynesian policies of Rab Butler on behalf of the Conservatives, and Hugh Gaitskell for Labour. The "post-war consensus" emerged as an all-party national government under Churchi;ll promised Britons a better life after the war. Conservatives especially promoted educational reforms to reach a muchb larger population. The foundations of the post-war consensus was the Beveridge Report. This was a report by William Beveridge, a Liberal economist who in 1942 formulated the concept of a more comprehensive welfare state in Great Britain.The report sought widespread reform by identifying the "five giants on the road of reconstruction": "Want… Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness". In the report were labelled a number of recommendations: the appointment of a minister to control all the insurance schemes; a standard weekly payment by people in work as a contribution to the insurance fund; old age pensions, maternity grants, funeral grants, pensions for widows and for people injured at work; a new national health service to be established.
In the period between 1945-1970 (consensus years) that unemployment averaged less than 3%. The post-war consensus included a belief in Keynesian economics,a mixed economy with the nationalisation of major industries, the establishment of the National Health Service and the creation of the modern welfare state in Britain. The policies were instituted by all governments (both Labour and Conservative) in the post-war period. The consensus has been held to characterise British politics until the economic crises of the 1970s (see Secondary banking crisis of 1973–1975) which led to the end of the post-war economic boom and the rise of monetarist economics. The roots of his economics, however, stem from critique of the economics of the interwar period depression. Keynes' style of economics encouraged a more active role of the government in order to "manage overall demand so that there was a balance between demand and output".
The post-war consensus in favour of the welfare state forced conservative historians, typified by Herbert Butterfield to re-examine British history. They were no longer optimistic about human nature, nor the possibility of progress, yet neither were they open to liberalism's emphasis on individualism. As a Christian, Butterfield could argue that God had decided the course of history but had not necessarily needed to reveal its meaning to historians.Thanks to Iain Macleod,Edward Heath and Enoch Powell, special attention was paid to "One-nation conservatism" (coined by Disraeli) that promised support for the poorer and working class elements in the Party coalition.
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 ).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." Thatcher was described as "a radical in a conservative party", and her ideology has been seen as confronting "established institutions" and the "accepted beliefs of the elite", both concepts incompatible with the traditional conception of conservatism as signifying support for the established order and existing social convention ( status quo ).
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.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 and Christian democracy 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, whilst also supporting individual initiative. However, with the global rise of populism, the Conservative party has become more populist with many viewing it as undoing the previous modernising work
In the 2010s during the Brexit negotiations, the Conservative Party appeared very divided over Brexit. In 2019, two new parliamentary caucuses were formed; One Nation Conservatives and Blue Collar Conservatives.
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties in the United Kingdom with the opposing Conservative Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party arose from an alliance of Whigs and free trade-supporting Peelites and the reformist Radicals in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and then won a landslide victory in the following year's general election.
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, 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".
Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. Closely related to economic liberalism, it developed in the early 19th century, building on ideas from the previous century as a response to urbanisation and to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America.
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, Queen, and Country". Tories are generally monarchists, were historically of a high church Anglican religious heritage, and opposed to the liberalism of the Whig faction.
The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, and also known colloquially as the Tories or simply the Conservatives, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it holds an overall majority in the House of Commons with 364 Members of Parliament. It also has 245 members of the House of Lords, 8 members of the London Assembly, 31 members of the Scottish Parliament, 11 members of the Welsh Parliament and 7,430 local councillors.
Thatcherism is a type of British Conservative ideology. It has also been used to describe the principles of the British government under Thatcher as Head of the Conservative Party from 1979 to 1990 and continued into the governments of John Major 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, Thatcher promised the British people that the NHS was "safe in our hands".
One-nation conservatism, also known as one-nationism or Tory democracy, is a paternalistic form of British political conservatism. It advocates the preservation of established institutions and traditional principles within a political democracy, 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, including labour and management, rather than identifying the good of society solely with the interests of the business class.
The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party. Led by Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, the party formed a political alliance with the Conservative Party in opposition to Irish Home Rule. The two parties formed the ten-year-long coalition Unionist Government 1895–1905 but kept separate political funds and their own party organisations until a complete merger between the Liberal Unionist and the Conservative parties was agreed to in May 1912.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state that existed between 1801 and 1922. It was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland into a unified state. The establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 led to the country later being renamed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1927, which continues to exist in the present day.
A Red Tory is an adherent of a centre-right or paternalistic-conservative political philosophy derived from the Tory tradition. It is most predominant in Canada, but Red Toryism is also found 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.
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 the numbers of seats won by the two main parties.
The Radicals were a loose parliamentary political grouping in Great Britain and Ireland in the early to mid-19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.
This article gives an overview of liberalism in the United Kingdom. It is limited to liberal political parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ denotes another party in that scheme. For inclusion in this scheme, it is not necessary that parties labelled themselves as a liberal party.
Maurice John Cowling was a British historian and a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge.
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.
The Conservative Party is the oldest political party in the United Kingdom and arguably the world. The current party was first organised 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. Modernising 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 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.
Gladstonian liberalism is a political doctrine named after the British Victorian Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, William Ewart Gladstone. Gladstonian liberalism consisted of limited government expenditure and low taxation whilst making sure government had balanced budgets and the classical liberal stress on self-help and freedom of choice. Gladstonian liberalism also emphasised free trade, little government intervention in the economy and equality of opportunity through institutional reform. It is referred to as laissez-faire or classical liberalism in the United Kingdom and is often compared to Thatcherism.
Traditionalist conservatism, also referred to as classical conservatism, traditional conservatism or traditionalism, is a political and social philosophy 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. Overlapping with Toryism, traditionalist conservatism is a 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. Traditionalist conservatism places a strong emphasis on the notions of custom, convention and tradition. Theoretical reason is derided over and is considered against practical reason. The state is also seen as a communal enterprise with spiritual and organic qualities. Traditionalists believe that any change is not the result of intentional reasoned thought but flows naturally out of the traditions of the community. Leadership, authority and hierarchy are seen as natural products. Traditionalism developed throughout 18th-century Europe, particularly as a response to the disorder of the English Civil War and the radicalism of the French Revolution. In the middle of the 20th century, traditionalist conservatism started to organize itself in earnest as an intellectual and political force.
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. Consistent with principles such as duty, hierarchy and organicism, it can be seen an outgrowth of traditionalist 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.