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Title: Conservative and Labour research departments, economic thought, and party policy, 1970-79
Author: Lievonen, Mikko
ISNI:       0000 0004 9347 743X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis considers the influence of professional policy experts on the ideologies of the Conservative and Labour parties in 1970-9. By focusing on the Conservative Research Department and the Labour Party Research Department, the thesis seeks to connect intellectual and political practice during a decade often seen as a turning point in post-war British historiography. To do so, the thesis examines three policy areas that defined the high politics of the decade: economic governance, industrial relations, and European integration. By tracing the research departments' adoption or rejection of policies, the thesis constructs a systematic account of the departments’ ideological leanings, intellectual impact, and positions in the parties’ ideological traditions. The thesis argues that economic thought was a primary battleground, laying the basis for the parties’ approaches to other questions. In this sphere, the Conservative Research Department contributed to the party’s shift towards neo-liberalism, while the Labour Party Research Department promoted a programme of leftist state interventionism. In industrial relations, the Conservative policy unit advocated cooperative relations with trade unions, while Labour’s policy experts found their radical aspirations obstructed by party and trade union leaders. In respect of Britain’s membership in the European Economic Community, the Conservative policy unit’s enthusiastic pro-Community views stood in contrast to the Labour experts’ trenchant Euroscepticism. The thesis argues that both research departments were able to exploit their privileged organisational positions to act as intermediaries between intellectual and political practice. During the ideologically fluid 1970s, the parties’ policy experts were, for the most part, effective in promoting ideas that aligned with their intellectual preferences. The result was a radicalisation of politics, where Conservative and Labour ideas were set on diametrically opposed trajectories. The research departments contributed to this divergence, and therefore, to the transition from post-war social democracy to Thatcherite neo-liberalism.
Supervisor: Jackson, Benjamin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Public policy ; Modern Britain and Europe ; Political parties ; History ; Ideology ; Economic policy ; History of Britain and Europe