The Conservative Party in opposition, 1964-1970: The effects of opposition status upon certain major party policy positions

Burch, Martin Struan (1975) The Conservative Party in opposition, 1964-1970: The effects of opposition status upon certain major party policy positions. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study is concerned with the effects of Opposition status upon certain policy positions adopted by a major British political party. Initially five interconnected hypotheses about party policy-making in Opposition are extracted from the existing literature. These hypotheses cover such matters as the role of party opinions in policy formation, the maintenance of policy positions, the nature and presentation of policy content, and the implementation of policy once the party returns to power. In the remainder of the thesis the hypotheses are tested in relation to the policy-making activities of the 1964 to 1970 Conservative Opposition in four linked policy areas: national economic planning, prices and incomes policy, regional policy and policy for the structure of industry. The subsequent analysis falls into four parts. In Parts One and Two the context of Conservative Party action during the 1964 to 1970 period is examined. In Part One five roles which have traditionally been attributed to constitutional Oppositions in the United Kingdom are identified, and their relevance to the policy-making activities of the 1964 to 1970 Conservative Opposition is assessed. In Part Two the policy-making process of the 1964 to 1970 Conservative Opposition is analysed. The various, policy channels which had access to the Party's key policy-making centre are outlined and it is shown that, in contrast to periods when the Party was in Government, in Opposition the opportunities available to intra-party policy channels to influence the content of Conservative policy were extended, and, conversely, those available to extra-party channels declined. In addition, the nature of Conservative ideology and the opinions of Conservative partisans are considered. Two ideological tendencies are isolated (a dirigiste, liberal tendency and an etatiate, tory tendency), and it is argued that during the 1964 to 1970 period the balance of opinions amongst Conservative partisans was biased towards the liberal viewpoint. Part Three contains a detailed analysis of the evolution of policy in the four selected areas during (i) the Conservatives' initial period as Government prior to 1964, (ii) their subsequent period as Opposition (1964-1970), and (iii) their period in office once returned to power (1970-1974), Particular attention is given to the influence of Conservative Party opinion upon the fomulation of policy, and the Conservative Opposition's responses to the development of the 1964 to 1970 Labour Government's programme. In addition, the differences between policies formulated by Conservatives as Opposition and those formulated by them as Government are noted. In Part Four the preceding sections are drawn together. The original hypotheses are assessed and reformulated in the light of the evidence presented in Part Three. Three sets of possible explanations of the way policy stances altered and developed during the Conservatives 1964 to 1970 period as Opposition are considered. Initially factors relating to the personalities and beliefs of key policy-makers and the overall pattern of events are evaluated, and, while not denying the validity of these approaches, it is argued that Opposition status also has explanatory force and deserves consideration. Finally, the policy consequences of three features of the party as Opposition (its policy-making structures its policy-making responsibilities and its goals) are analysed, and it is shown that taken together, these features are liable to produce forms of policy-making and types of policy outcomes which are significantly different from those pursued by the party as Government. The study suggests, contrary to a widely held viewpoint, that party policy statements publicised in Opposition do not offer a reliable means of judging or predicting the policy behaviour of a political party when, and if, it returns to power. In addition, the evidence produced in the thesis implies that the apparent failure on the part of recent governing parties to fully implement their electoral programmes is to some extent a product of the institutional and political conditions which characterise British Opposition politics itself. Thus, the conclusion is drawn that the remedy for any lack of continuity between policies publicised in Opposition and policies implemented in Government lies, not only in strengthening Opposition parties vis-a-vis Governments or Ministers vis-a-vis civil servants, but also in the adoption by Opposition groups of more modest policy-making functions than has recently been the case.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Lewis Gunn
Keywords: Political science
Date of Award: 1975
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1975-73113
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

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