Conservatismequalitylatest – Part 1 – Links and Introduction

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

Conservatism, Ideology, Economic Inequality and Poverty

Part One:


Conservatives, Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty: General Arguments

Part Two: - Click Here

One Nation Conservatism:

One Nation Conservatism: Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty

Part Three - Click Here

Thatcherite Conservatism:

Thatcherite Conservatism: Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty

Part Four: - Click Here


Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty in the Post Thatcherite Era. Post-Thatcherism and One Nation Conservatism 1990-2017

Part Five: - Click Here

David Cameron

David Cameron and Ideology: General

Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty and The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition

David Cameron and the Conservative Government 2015-16

Part Six: - Click Here 

Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May

Part Seven: - Click Here


Appendix Phillip Blond

Appendix: Iain Duncan Smith and Welfare

The document is rather long but it is now divided into Sections  which I hope  will help students to navigate within the document  and there is also a short summary at the end of the Parts, Follow the links through page by page or select from the  part list above to go to the relevant part you are looking for.

Part One:



To Advanced Level Government and Politics Students : A Warning

If you are studying this topic I am sure that you have good textbooks and are receiving excellent advice from your teachers. They will be able to advise you how to use this document , if at all. It may be, for example , that you will find the Summary more useful than some of the details in the actual document.

I hope that you will find this document useful but I am worried that some aspects of it may not be sufficiently geared to the A Level  Specification which you are following. In particular in the sections on One Nation Conservatism I use some sources which are not referenced in most A Level textbooks which may mean that knowledge of these sources is not required and I draw some conclusions which are tentative and speculative  . Also in the discussion of income inequality and poverty I refer to actual statistical trends in more detail than may be required in Specifications which concentrate specifically on Ideology rather than measurement issues. In the sections on David Cameron and Theresa May I have referred to several quite recent sources but more sources will doubtless become available. However even now the document has more links than you can reasonably be expected to follow up and I have asterisked some of the most important links in RED


Currently I am in particular  looking forward to the publication of Essentials of Political Ideas by Andrew Heywood. It should solve quite a few of our problems!

Meanwhile here are some tunes!


Part One:


In this document I first aim to discuss general Conservative attitudes to issues of economic equality and inequality and then to discuss possible variations in these attitudes at different times in the history of the Conservative Party which will involves discussion of the following aspects of the political history of the Conservative Party. I distinguish  between broadly New Right and One Nation  approaches to Conservatism but the concept of One Nation Conservatism has a long history  and although we can see broad continuities  in the policies of the administrations of say  Disraeli, Baldwin, Chamberlain , Churchill, Eden Macmillan , Home  and also Heath the scope of the reforms introduced during these administrations varied enormously . Latterly , however the precise nature of One Nation Conservatism has been subject to increased academic disputes  while there have also been disagreements as  to whether and in what sense Conservative Prime Ministers such as John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May should be regarded as One Nation Conservatives.

We may note also that politicians such as Sir Ian Gilmour, Peter Walker and Ken Clarke have been defined as One Nation Conservatives despite the fact that they accepted several elements of the Thatcherite agenda while in interviews given following his resignation Iain Duncan Smith also signalled his commitment to the One Nation cause. Perhaps in a way this should come as no surprise because in the Conservative Party leadership contest of 2001 both Iain Duncan Smith and Ken Clarke emphasised their commitment to One Nation which again points to a certain amount of flexibility within the concept. My own discussion of Conservative ideology and policy will include the following issues.

  • Discussion of the meaning of One Nation Conservatism in the era of Disraeli
  • Discussion of the One Nation Conservative policies of the 1951-64 and 1970-74 Conservative Governments
  • Discussion of the work of the One Nation Group within the Conservative Party in the 1950s and 1960s
  • Discussion of Thatcherism as an alternative to the politics of previous One Nation Conservative Governments
  • Discussion of the shifting meaning of One Nation Politics from the 1980s onwards
  • Discussion of the extent to which the policies of the David Cameron  do or do not represent a return to the politics of One Nation Conservatism.
  • Discussion of the extent to which the Policies Of Theresa May do or do not represent a return to the politics of One Nation Conservatism


Conservatives , Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty  : General arguments

In order to investigate fully Conservative attitudes toward "Equality" we should have to distinguish between political equality, equality before the law, economic equality as measured by trends in the distribution of income and wealth and equality of opportunity. It would be important to consider not only the degree of equality/inequality between individuals but also the patterns of equality/inequality related to age, social class, disability, ethnicity and gender. However in this document I shall concentrate solely on Conservative attitudes to economic equality/inequality as measured by the distribution of income and wealth and to equality of opportunity as measured by patterns of social mobility.

Many conservatives have traditionally adopted an essentially pessimistic view of human nature which is seen as in several respects flawed, imperfect and corruptible. This overall view may derive in some cases [as nowadays among the religious Right in the USA] from a religious belief in original sin and in others from more secular beliefs in human frailty. In the conservative view human beings may be seen as driven not by reason but by basic emotions, impulses and self interest and their activities can be explained more in terms of their individual human frailty than in terms of environmental factors such as  the social disadvantages of poverty and inequality which are given greater emphasis by socialists as is seen, for example in the differences in conservative and socialist approaches to the explanation of crime, poverty and educational achievement

The conservative perspective on human nature leads them also to be supporters of economic inequality and to oppose equality of outcome as measured by statistics on the distribution of income and wealth. They argue in this respect that individual genetic differences in talent and ability must inevitably result in some economic inequality of outcome unless governments restrict the freedom of the more talented individuals to turn these talents to their own economic advantage. Economic equality of outcome, therefore, is inconsistent with individual freedom.

Conservatives argue further that economic inequality of outcome is essential to generate the financial incentives for individuals to remain in further and higher education, to work hard and to invest their savings in productive enterprises all of which will result in faster economic growth and rising average living standards and that even the poorest will benefit indirectly from economic inequality as some of the benefits of faster economic growth “trickle down” to them.

According to conservatives economic inequality works with the grain of self-interested human nature to produce rising living standards for all whereas the socialist argument that individuals need only limited financial incentives because they can be encouraged to work for the good of the community operates against the grain of human nature and is therefore unrealistic and counterproductive.

Although conservatives oppose economic equality of outcome modern conservatives at least support equality of opportunity or meritocracy.  Meritocracy implies that individuals can gain well paid, high status occupations only on the basis of their own merits and not on the basis of social class advantage and/or nepotism and meritocracy is clearly essential   to secure the economic efficiency necessary to generate rising living standards for all because it is essential that those in the most demanding occupations have the skills necessary for them.

Once again there are disputes between conservatives and socialists as to the relationships between economic inequality and equality of opportunity. Whereas conservatives argue that the imposition by governments of economic equality denies equality of opportunity to the talented and that equality of opportunity is possible in an economically unequal society, socialists argue that only government intervention to increase economic equality can secure equality of opportunity for the poorest members of society.

Economic inequality of outcome will result in the accumulation of private property in a capitalist society and conservatives argue that possession of private property is an important defence against excessive state power in that without private property individuals can work only for the state and live, be educated and treated only in state houses, schools and hospitals respectively. In societies with large private sectors one can seek private provision if one is dissatisfied with state provision and competition within the private sector is assumed to keep up private sector standards.] Socialists ,of course, argue that private provision may result only in wasteful competition and that only the relatively rich can afford it.]

Insofar as conservatives believe in economic inequality this implies also that individuals should have the right to accumulate private property which in turn means that conservatives are supporters of capitalist private enterprise although as we shall see  they may also support a not insignificant economic role for the state. Conservatives support economic theories which suggest that the private market mechanism can allocate resources more flexibly and efficiently than can systems of state economic planning and they emphasise also that whereas the market allocates resources in accordance with consumer preferences, in state planning systems it is the planners who determine what shall be produced so that production does not necessarily meet the needs and wants of consumers. This, the conservatives argue, results in all the inefficiencies associated with growing state bureaucracies as indicated in the economic inefficiency of UK nationalised industries and, on a grander scale, in the inability of former “Communist” countries such as the former USSR to generate good living standards for their citizens.

Conservative attitudes to economic equality of outcome and to equality of opportunity influence their attitudes to the desirable extent and direction of state activity.

Some Conservatives from Disraeli onwards have argued that laissez faire capitalism left to its own devices would generate excessive economic inequalities which in Disraeli’s terms would divide the UK into “Two Nations” of rich and poor and that it was therefore desirable that the scope of government activity should be extended to encompass legislation to improve working conditions, housing and public health so as to create a more harmonious “One Nation” society. Further information on the Conservative One Nation tradition  and on the Conservative New Right is provided below.

 For Part Two: - One Nation Conservatism  Click Here