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Title: The Conservative Party and the welfare state 1942-1955.
Author: Jones, Harriet Overton.
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 1992
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This thesis addresses the historiographical debate over the extent of a policy 'consensus' between the political parties in Britain during and after the Second World War. It examines the development of Conservative Party policy towards the welfare state between 1942 and 1955, focusing particularly on the development of policies towards housing, health and education. In doing so, the traditional picture of a 'New Conservatism' emerging after 1945 which accepted large-scale public expenditure around a Keynes/Beveridge framework is challenged. Deep-seated concern over both the financial and ideological implications of a commitment to the welfare state were evident in the Party during the war, and continued to be a focus for policy development after 1945. But the Party was not against expenditure on social policy, which was a long-standing feature of British Conservatism. It was rather to the application of egalitarian and universalist principles in welfare that the Party was intractably opposed. First, it was feared that the extra expenditure involved in such an exercise would necessitate unacceptable levels of taxation and impose an unrealistic economic burden on the state. Second, the objective of increased equality in society was fundamentally at odds with Conservative principles, which argued that social inequality was necessary to ensure incentive and individual responsibility. In spite of consistent concern over the impact of increasing welfare expenditure on economic performance, the Conservative Government after 1951 proved unable to reverse the trend of spending growth set in the Attlee years. This can be explained in terms of behavioural constraints on political behaviour in the decade following the war. In essence, this meant that Party policy on welfare was the product of tension between what was believed to be ideologically and economically desirable, and what was thought to be politically feasible. Therefore, it is argued that 'consensus' is an inappropriate model for Conservative social policy in these years.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political science Political science Public administration History