Warm words or real change? examining the evolution of Conservative Party social policy since 1997

Williams, Benjamin
Warm words or real change? examining the evolution of Conservative Party social policy since 1997. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis seeks to address to what extent the Conservative Party has re-ignited its interest in the broad sphere of social policy since 1997, which some political commentators believe the party neglected following the demise of the ‘years of consensus’ from the mid-1970s onwards. Having experienced one of its worst ever general election defeats in 1997, the Conservative Party spent an unfamiliar thirteen years in opposition, providing an original context to this study. During its sustained exile from national office until 2010, the party reviewed the perception of its primarily economic policy agenda, and it has subsequently revised its position on various social issues from the late 1990s onwards. Following the introduction, the first four chapters provide a broad theoretical framework to the overall academic study that identifies the key ideas, theories and ideological traditions that have shaped and influenced Conservative Party policy-making since the emergence of mass democracy in the early 20th century. Links are subsequently made with key policies and attitudes that have been associated with the Conservatives while in office throughout the 20th century. The three further chapters are more policy-orientated and seek to link such ideas and ideological influences with practical policy-making while in power, with specific contemporary areas of social policy highlighted as case studies. Chapters five to seven subsequently highlight some notable social policy initiatives that the post-2010 Conservative-led government has developed in opposition and pursued in power, The Big Society, The Free Schools programme and the reform of the NHS, and they are framed within the context of David Cameron’s depiction of the ‘broken society’. Each chapter offers a rigorous concluding judgment relating to just how much ‘change’ the modern Conservative Party appears to have initiated within this particular policy sphere. In chronological terms, the thesis addresses the social policy-making agendas of recent governments in order to make comparative analysis. The administrations led by Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, dating consecutively from 1979, alongside the David Cameron-led coalition from 2010, are therefore the key periods of modern government focused upon. However, as the thesis title suggests, specific attention is given to the evolution of Conservative Party social policy development from 1997 onwards. Having made the link between ideas, ideology and theory to practical contemporary policy developments over seven rigorously constructed chapters, an attempt to reach a measured judgment is then provided. The central question of the thesis and the initial issues raised within the introductory chapter are again focused on, and the extent to which the Conservative Party has changed within this particular policy area is explicitly addressed throughout the concluding section, as well as the various social, political and electoral dimensions that emerge in the process of constructing such a conclusion.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2013-04 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Conservative Party, social policy
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2013 15:09
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 00:09
DOI: 10.17638/00011633
  • Hickson, Kevin
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/11633