The Conservative Party and the adaptation to modernity 1957-1964.
This thesis addresses how the Conservative Party adapted to political and social
change in the period 1957 to 1964, focusing particularly on crime, punishment, and
important areas of personal conduct and public order. It also takes broadcasting,
especially television, as an illuminating case study: the Conservative Party created
commercial television as an example of the superiority of the free market, but disliked
the criticism that it was lowering standards through vulgarity.
For a political party that has put great store on the maintenance of traditional
institutions and beliefs, the Tories have continually faced political, economic and
social change in order to keep a grasp on the levers of power. Yet contained within
this description is a clear dilemma: how far can a party holding firm to traditional
institutional structures adapt and evolve if more 'modern' ideas or events appear to be
gaining an orthodoxy in society? The research has sought to understand how a party
representing tradition could adapt to the force of change. All the policy areas
included show how the Party attached itself to key symbols of 'modernity'.
Each chapter has brought out key themes about the Conservative Party. Firstly,
the importance placed on modernising social legislation, which became synonymous
with 'permissive' legislation later in the 1960s. The research has shown that it was
the Conservative Party that initiated the Government response to changing social
values, and not the succeeding Labour Administration. Secondly, it has assessed how
far the Conservative front bench wanted to develop a more libertarian approach to
matters in the private sphere. The historiography of the period has stressed economic
and social policy to evaluate the modernisation of British politics - this study has
widened the scope of the analysis to include matters affecting the personal and
corporate behaviour of society. Thirdly, it has shown the problematic status of
affluence for the Conservative Party, from both the cultural and moral perspective.
Affluence seemed to pose as many problems for the Party as it solved. The result is a
non-economic analysis of the Conservative Party and Government's response to a
society undergoing profound change.