The conservative party accepts that a degree of state intervention to create more social justice can be justified. This may involve welfare, but also intervention in family situations, in education and through social services in general. There is a sense that we are responsible for the welfare of those less fortunate than ourselves. Thatcherism suggested that we are responsible for ourselves as long as we have the capability and that we should not rely on others or the state. Modern conservatives now accept that we do have mutual responsibilities.
Thatcherism saw crime and disorder as a matter of personal responsibility. Though the modern party also believes in personal responsibility, it also accepts that some crime, mainly among the young, has social causes and will respond to intervention by the state and voluntary organisations. Thatcherites would have argued that environmental problems have a market solution based on technology. The current Conservative Party believes that these problems will not right themselves automatically and therefore need state intervention.
Thatcherites were extremely traditional in their view of the constitution and political system. Modern conservatives now accept that constitutional reform is essential and that the political system needs a good deal of democratic renewal. Although tax cuts are part of the ‘Cameron agenda’ in the long run, the modern party accepts that tax cutting should not be part of a dogmatic ideology, but instead should only be undertaken when the economic conditions are favourable. In general Cameron’s Conservative party is more adaptable and pragmatic, whereas Thatcherism was a more fixed, dogma with fixed principles. There are, however, several points which could be seen as ways in which the modern Conservative Party retains some Thatcherite ideas
Some Thatcherite ideas are that the party still accepts that free markets and competition are essential for successful wealth creation. The party still fundamentally believes that the private sector is a better producer than the public sector. There is still a suspicion of state power. Current conservatives still believes the state should be curbed and that it interferes too much in personal lives and in business with too much taxation and too much regulation.
Although modern conservatives support the pursuit of social justice, poverty reduction and the welfare state, there remains a general instinct that excessive welfare can be a disincentive to work and enterprise. It remains a monetarist party, believing that the state should intervene as little as possible in economic management, should restrict itself to responsible public finance and control of the money supply to combat inflation.
The party remains antagonistic to the power of organised labour, seeing it as a barrier to economic innovation, competitiveness and growth. The party retains the euro-scepticisms of the Thatcherites, although its antagonism towards European integration is less marked than it used to be. Fundamentally the party still supports economic free markets in Europe, but not any loss of political sovereignty.
In conclusion, the current conservative party has abandoned Thatcherism to a certain extent, as many opinions on issues such as welfare, crime and disorder and constitutional reform have changed since the days of Thatcher. On the other hand, There are still parallels that can be drawn between the conservative party today and Thatcherism, such as ideas of a small government with less economic responsibility, low taxation and a scepticism of Europe.
Courtney from Study Moose
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