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Consensus politics

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Consensus politics is where there is a general agreement on an issue such as the economy between the major political parties. This can lead to there being more differences in political beliefs WITHIN political parties as there are BETWEEN political parties.

In the UK today there is a general consensus on the importance of the NHS and the welfare state. However, this is nowhere near as strong as the “post-war consensus” that existed between 1945 and 1970, in which it was seen as ‘settled’ that there would be full employment, that the government would intervene heavily in managing the economy, that the ‘commanding heights’ of industry (e.g. energy, water, rail, steel) would be ‘nationalised’ (owned and run by the State) and that the welfare state would be a healthy safety net.

This post-war consensus started to fall apart in the 1970s, but it was Margaret Thatcher who ended it, privatising the utilities, selling off council housing, ending full employment and aiming to control inflation instead.

It has been argued that the New Labour years from 1997 re-established a new form of consensus politics in which the major parties agreed that education and health needed greater investment, and in the 2015 election, there was general consensus that the budget deficit (the amount that government spending exceeds tax revenue) would be reduced.

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