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Title: Explaining departures from New-Right ideology in Conservative Party policy-making under Thatcher's leadership, 1975-1990 : the role of institutional and electoral considerations
Author: Whisker, Benjamin Luke
ISNI:       0000 0005 0287 6820
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2020
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Drawing upon a substantial body of archival evidence, this thesis examines the relative significance of ideological, electoral and institutional considerations in shaping Conservative Party policy-making under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership. This is achieved by undertaking detailed case studies of three policy areas (economic management, health care and defence). The findings are then analysed to develop general insights. In existing treatments, New-Right ideology is usually regarded as an important influence on Thatcherite policy aims. Yet the most influential interpretations were composed contemporaneously, or in the following decade, before archival evidence began to be released. Subsequent research (often produced by historians) has not yet fully utilised the available sources. In particular, insufficient attention has been given to using archival material for assessing the role of ideological, electoral and institutional factors in policy formation. The contribution of this thesis is reappraising Conservative policy motivations during Thatcher’s leadership based on extensive archival research (using documents from archives and collections including The National Archives, Thatcher Papers and Conservative Party Archive), complemented by elite interviews and memoirs. The thesis argues that ideological explanations struggle to account for Conservative policy-making across 1975 to 1990. Thatcher and her senior colleagues held strong beliefs, but the archival evidence reveals that inconsistencies between these beliefs impeded ideologically-driven policy development. Beliefs were typically invoked instrumentally as justifications for policies preferred on electoral or institutional grounds. This thesis finds that institutional considerations (specifically, the norms and interests of domestic bureaucratic actors alongside international economic and diplomatic constraints) exerted the greatest influence over policy. Electoral considerations also constituted a significant force affecting decision-making, especially as proximity to the next general election increased or when the Conservatives were suffering a mid-term fall in popularity.
Supervisor: Buller, Jim ; Leon, Sandra Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available