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Title: The British New Right and the problem of public opinion, c.1965-1987
Author: Lockwood, Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 828X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis is the history of how a selection of influential individuals, who can loosely be described as belonging to a ‘New Right’, identified and sought to tackle a particular problem in politics: how to mould public opinion such that it would support ideas and policies that ran counter to conventional wisdom. The five chapters of the thesis examine stages in the development and evolution of this project. They delineate how a generation of New Right thinkers sought to rework prevailing assumptions within the Conservative Party regarding the relationship between ideas and the people. Convinced that, under Edward Heath’s leadership, the Conservative Party’s activities had become constrained by a hostile climate of public opinion, they resolved to change the terms of British political debate. The culmination of these efforts, John Hoskyns and Norman Strauss’s ‘Stepping Stones’ project, constituted an ambitious and systematic effort to transform voters’ ‘Mental Sets’. While they had some success initially in converting the party to their perspective, ultimately they were marginalized by changes in political circumstances, which weakened the persuasive force of their arguments. Ideas that had seemed urgent and radical in the 1970s came to seem outdated by the mid-1980s. Concurrently, alternative conceptions of public opinion, deriving from public choice economics and political marketing, grew in influence. In tracing these evolving conceptions of public opinion within the Conservative Party, this thesis will disrupt established notions of a unitary, consistent politics of ‘Thatcherism’.
Supervisor: Parry, Jonathan Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Public Opinion ; Conservative Party ; New Right ; Thatcherism