Conservatism in Practice

David Cameron's conservatism

  • Compassionate conservative – green tree logo. Distancing himself from Thatcher. Thinks I.D. cards are too invasive.
  • Traditional – public sector cuts. However, liberal in that he promises not to cut the NHS so extremely – however, announced in 2012 that £20 billion cuts they’ve demanded is only the start..
  • Traditional stance of sentencing – draconian and over the top? Refusal of Clarke’s proposal to increase early releases for guilty pleas from 33% to 50% - especially for rapists. Tougher stance of knife crime – criminals should ‘expect’ a prison sentence.
  • One-nation, liberal. Big Society an attempt to generate social cohesion.
  • Is Cameron really a liberal conservative? ORDER – Data and Communications Bill otherwise known as “Snooper’s Charter” rejected only because of Liberals.
  • Child of Thatcher and has similar economic principles, e.g. lack of bank regulation and Osbourne’s “skivers and strivers” claim.
  • Takes thoughts from huge, eclectic history. Robert Peel and corn laws – trading laws – and Disraeli – both inspire him. State of mind Pragmatic. “Change is constant” (Disraeli). Progressive conservatism. Start with history and use strengths rather than believing in a utopia created on a blank sheet of paper.
  • Progressive goals (fairer society etc.) are achievable through conservative means. Greater use of voluntary sector to combat poverty – struggled due to cuts, however. Start from: what can we mend?
  • Traditional conservatism with new slant on it – acceptance of all kinds of marriage. Important for children and families to have stability. Liberal. Current controversy of Gay Marriage.
  • Private scholars have responsibility to help state schools – big society – one nation.
  • Pragmatism – selling off forests – admits they were wrong. As you go around the world, centre-right parties are all different as they don’t necessarily have set texts. Strong beliefs but not ideological or dogmatic.
  • Burke’s ‘little platoons’ – big society. Cleaning up after riots. Lost its way as a policy.
  • Liberal – adaptable – more women candidates/emphasis on environment. Equality.
  • Civic conservatism – decentralisation – enabling. Not a big, bossy government.
  • Decrease income tax to 45% in line with Thatcher.
  • Localism as an idea has been promoted with mayoral referendums and creation of Police Commissioners
  • Still has a problem with the position of the UK in the EU and with the rise of UKIP has been forced into promising a referendum if the Tories win the next election.



Role of the State

Cameron – he got rid of 20 Sure Start centres which was the state helping out with baby care, despite pledging to keep them during the election

He also got rid of some public sector jobs

Got rid of EMA

Hinchbrooke NHS hospital privatised.

Thatcher – didn’t believe in society so rolled back the state

She got rid of council houses – ‘Right to buy’ – 1.7 million social housing units were sold at discounted prices, carried on by Cameron

Privatised nationalised industries

Cameron believes that poverty is a problem that needs some state intervention

Big Society is a solution to poverty

Thatcher believed that there was no such thing as poverty from the state’s perspective and the individual should take responsibility

Environmental issues

Cameron – Changed the logo to the tree

Green Area Designation proposals – allow local people to protect green spaces

The Big Tree Plant – tree planting

Thatcher – a free market environmentalist

Cleanup of Britain’s rivers

Thought local environmental problems could be solved through the privatization of badly run municipal services

Cameron believed in little platoons and the way in which society can make a difference

Law and order

Cameron – sentencing of the rioters – 16 000 police officers in riots vowing to unleash the ‘full force of the law’

Knife crime - thugs who brandish knives will go to prison for at least 6 months

Life sentences being considered for people who kill police officers

Thatcher – law and order in the miners strike 1989

Boosting police resources and powers

Emphasis on maintaining personal safety

1981 riots in Brixton – major police operation to arrest burglars and muggers

Riot control equipment and increased powers to make arrests

Poll tax riot – mounted houses

Cameron has a more consensual personality

Thatcher – Iron Lady idea – ‘this lady is not for turning’

‘No, no and no’


Prisoners’ vote – Cameron doesn’t want to cause rift with Lib Dems but goes against strong law and order of conservative mind-set. Currently in contravention of HRA.

Anti-European stance

Cameron – fighting EU on its budget

Proposals for European issues to be dealt with through a referendum

Doesn’t like to talk about EU but avoids it – possibly traditional conservative viewpoint on EU. Budget for Europe gone up – against this.

UKIP making Europe an increasingly important battle ground

Thatcher – fight against EU’s budget for Britain

Didn’t like the way in which Britain contributed more to Europe than other countries but still received the same budget

‘No, no and no’

Wanted to maintain British sovereignty

Didn’t want a European super state

Only became truly Eurosceptic in last years of premiership

Cameron didn’t want to draw too much on the legacy of Thatcher.

Believed more in the idea of a together society – less individualistic.

Cameron hoping old wounds on EU had healed but clearly a split within his own cabinet.



Equality of opportunity

Cameron – wanting social mobility

Resurrected Right to Buy idea

Thatcher – allowing council houses to be bought ‘Right to Buy’

Believing in a meritocracy

Cameron rejects the Human Rights Act and wants to change it to a Bill of Rights

Still a huge north south divide

Cameron from one of the elite schools that Thatcher complained about


Cameron – quota of amount of people that can come into the UK each year

Proposed to require families who want to sponsor overseas relatives to settle in Britain to post a financial bond worth thousands of pounds

Proposed to make forced marriage a criminal offense

Changes to the citizenship test taken by all those who apply for a British passport including British history

Vowed to cut immigration from outside EU

Thatcher – controls

Intended to introduce a new nationality law as well as restrictions on the entry of husbands and fiancées

Wanted to tighten Britain’s system of immigration controls

Thatcher did not have to deal with the rising immigration from EU


Cameron – Big Society

Clean up after the riots by volunteers

Wanted to tackle the broken society after the riots

Decentralisation with his localism agenda

More charity and give local communities more power

Publishing government data

Thatcher – believed in society in the sense of promoting individualism but ‘there is no such thing as society’

Thatcher’s view different in that responsibility should never lay with the state, Cameron believes that in certain areas it can, e.g. rights and liberties.

Cameron has given strong support to NHS and Education.

Thatcher believed in centralised government making the decisions


Both believe in free market

Banks have enjoyed great deregulation

Thatcher and privatisation and low taxes, similar to Cameron

Cameron has attacked big companies who have avoided paying taxes.

There have been government interventions to limit the pay rises and bonuses of bank chief execs.

Removal of knighthoods and other awards for those blamed for the banking crisis.


Similarities between David Cameron and Tony Blair


David Cameron

Tony Blair

Interested in society and building relationships. Social inclusion

England riots – broken society is top priority.

Encouragement of volunteering and autonomy at devolved levels.

Call for a new civic society where everyone played a part.

Emphasis on education: “education, education, education”.

Believe that poverty is a problem that needs some state intervention.

Believe that government should promote marriage through measures such as a transferable income tax, personal allowance and relationship support. They also believe that government should fund initiatives that help people to free themselves of debt and addiction.

Labour raised money spent on children by 6 billion per year.

Welfare system also proposed to be supported by methods to tackle fraud: offering a hand up not hand out.

Tax cuts are not the best way to promote growth

Cameron has agreed to a cut of the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%, with a view to further reductions if the economy recovers.

Blair’s pledge that under his government income tax rate would remain at 40%

Supports ideas on foundation hospital and academies – greater autonomy

Strengthening foundation trusts. Doctors given more freedom on decision making. Cameron’s A-List and introduction of free schools.

Doctors given more freedom and less government control.

Academies – reinvestment – re-branding. “Blair’s babes.

Foreign policy

Liberal intervention in Libya – spreading idea of liberal democracy. Action in Mali and Syria has reinforced this view

Iraq and Afghanistan with the promise to topple tyrannical regimes and replace them with a democratic system


Acutely aware of importance of signing up to emissions treaties.

Acutely aware of importance of signing up to emissions treaties.

Modernising – both about change.

Liberal conservatism – David Davis opponent – previous leaders after Thatcher were all very similar.

New Labour – Galloway and Livingstone opponents.


  • Cameron’s “little platoons” fairly right wing.
  • Business involvement ignores the fact that they would want tax breaks in return.
  • Rejection of Human Rights Act.

Similarities between Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party

  • Cameron shed the New Right image by detoxifying the Conservative brand. Embraced ‘new’ issues – environment.
  • Remained firmly Eurosceptic but ensured that this was not so divisive.
  • Conservatives would defend civil liberties – similar vein to Lib Dems.
  • Sceptical of central state and much more favourable free-markets.
  • Big society – emphasis of local and voluntary provision of welfare. ‘Orange Book’ liberalism also encouraged this.
  • Cameron: “I’m liberal because I believe in freedom and human rights, but conservative – I’m sceptical of great schemes to remake the world”.


  • Disillusioned right wingers state Cameron’s Big Society is unclear and he is making too many concessions to the Lib Dems.
  • Lib Dems have also gone against their beliefs in issues such as tuition fees.
  • Emphasis on the never seen before cap on non-EU immigrants.
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