Undoubtedly the many changes that conservatism in Britain has undergone since 1945 culminates in the preponderance of ‘classical liberal’ or New Right thinking, despite significant hostility to it. Of course, the long reign of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, in which some of the main features of that paradigm were implemented, and adherents of the post-war collectivist consensus were gradually removed from leadership roles in the Party and lost influence as opinion leaders, was decisive. But that success represented a change in thinking widespread in the West. Indeed, the collapse of communism from 1989 was presaged by significant alterations in the public mood and official policy stances of even mildly collectivist governments. In this the Thatcherite Conservatives can take much credit for pioneering some ideas, especially privatisation and the attempt to reduce the size of government, which became the prevailing features of modern conservatism wherever it is found. Equally significant is the fact that even socialists have significantly modified their collectivism and admitted certain features of classical liberalism into their doctrine. The true ancestor of modern conservatism might be the great nineteenth-century liberal, and man of principle, William Gladstone, rather than his rival, the deliberately non-ideological and unprincipled Benjamin Disraeli.


Welfare State Free Market Money Supply Civil Liberty Direct Democracy 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman Barry

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