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To What Extent Has The Conservative Party Changed Since Thatcher And What Challenges Does It Still Face?

1811 words - 8 pages

Margaret Thatcher revolutionised the Conservative party, bringing life back into what many felt was a tired Tory party. She was dogmatic rather than pragmatic, she believed in the value of the individual and she was a strong advocate of the free market economy. She irrevocably changed the Conservative party and politics. Leaders since her may have felt they were living in her shadow – none of them would dare publically question her, and many of her ideals have stuck. Even Labour accepted some of her policies, such as anti-trade union laws and privatisation. However, she also bred bitterness, so Cameronist politics cautiously echo Thatcherism, whilst trying to appeal to a wider audience. ...view middle of the document...

He more actively went against traditional Conservative ideals by cutting child benefit for higher income families – he is not afraid to stray from pure Thatcherite policy. His key differences with Thatcher lie in social beliefs. Cameronism incorporates social liberalism, in contrast with the Thatcherite social conservatism. Section 28 clashes hugely with Cameron’s plans for gay marriage and these differences can’t just be put down to different eras. Thatcher lauded the patriarchal nuclear family without worrying about the wider public opinion – Cameron is far more sensitive to the public mood than she was, and is far more accepting of gay marriage and less traditional values )although how much of that is down to pragmatism rather than deep set conviction is up for debate). This is partly because of the new system for choosing a leader – Thatcher had to appeal to fellow Conservative MPs for 50% of their vote. Cameron now had to ensure he has the support of Conservative party members, because they now have a vote in who the Tory leader is. Cameron was less free to follow his convictions and more tied to appealing to the traditional Tory members. Cameron claimed Britain had a “broken society” and shifted the Tory focus from wealth accumulation to “general well-being”. He changed the Conservative party logo to a tree to signify the new focus on the environment – the opposition to the third runway at Heathrow and investment in more renewable energy with the help of green energy taxes are things no-one would expect of Thatcher. The public perception of the Conservatives has changed under Cameron – he is seen as having dragged it from the right towards a more central ground.
However, the Tories had already moved to the centre in terms of social and economic policy under Hague and Ian Duncan Smith – for example matching Labour spending commitments and focusing on social justice. In terms of immigration and Europe they were more to the right – but arguably so was public opinion. Most of the changes were superficial and in the terminology. The “Big Society” was just a cover for slashing public spending – and using the idea of voluntary roles and community to fill the hole left. Cameron still believes in the free market and privatisation – he even went further than Thatcher by privatising Royal Mail – she famously said, “I’ll never sell the Queen’s head”. Thatcher’s legacy also lives on through increased tuition fees and the new idea of free schools – even with Cameron’s new focus on prioritising public healthcare there have been NHS market reforms. There is still a heavy emphasis on the market and use of the private sector for public services – like G4S for security at the 2012 Olympics. He has kept the policy of not “unduly” taxing the rich; he had plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold and succeeded in cutting the top 50p rate of tax. He also dislikes the idea of a big “nanny state” and this shows through the more traditionally Conservative...

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