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Study notes

New-right (Conservatism)

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel

The 'new-right" involves the marriage of neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideas including elements of both neo-liberal and neo-conservative beliefs.

The New Right is both economically libertarian and socially authoritarian

There are few better illustrations of this contradiction than Margaret Thatcher herself. She was firmly committed to a reduction in the role of the state within economic affairs. In order to achieve this, Thatcher implemented a range of policies such as privatisation, deregulation and the sale of council houses. However, she was more willing to use the ‘agents of the state’ against those forces that opposed her than Tory leaders in the one-nation mould. Thatcher chose to confront left-wing unions and local councils whereas figures from the one-nation perspective cautioned against such moves.

In terms of lifestyle issues, she was no libertarian either. A salient example to consider is Clause (or section) 28 which prevented local authorities from promoting homosexuality or presenting it within schools as an acceptable family unit. Clause 28 sought to uphold traditional moral values against the moral pollution that emerged from the permissive society of the 60s and 70s. Marriage is sanctioned by God as a union between man and woman for the procreation of a child, whereas homosexuality is contrary to such teachings. According to the New Right, the role of the state is to guide people towards the correct way to live.

Under David Cameron’s leadership the Tories tried to rebrand themselves as a more socially inclusive party. Most notably, the Tory-led coalition government introduced same-sex marriage in 2012. This clearly reflects a social liberal stance on lifestyle issues. 

However, the Conservatives have also shown their traditionally authoritarian approach towards law and order. It is worth noting that Cameron called for “exemplary punishment” for those who committed offences during the 2011 riots. Moreover, since gaining an outright majority the Tory Party has introduced a number of anti-terrorism measures which have been labelled as draconian by civil liberties groups. In terms of its pragmatism, the government has even sought to reduce the level of public spending on the police as part of its broader austerity programme. 

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