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Ideological Change in the British Conservative Party

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Ivor Crewe
University of Essex
Donald D. Searing
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


We address both a puzzle and a theory. The puzzle is posed by the emergence of “Thatcherism,” an un-Conservative ideology that has appeared in an antiideological British Conservative party. We address this puzzle by determining what Thatcherism is and by showing that although it represents a minority viewpoint, it does indeed fit into previous Conservative thinking. The theory in question is the spatial theory of ideological change, which, we argue, is impugned by the circumstances of Thatcherism's construction. We address this theory by investigating potential constituencies at the time of Thatcherism's creation and by examining evidence about the intentions of those who created it. Finally, we seek both to draw out the implications of Mrs. Thatcher's campaign to convert the voters to her views and to explain why the same spatial theory that Thatcherism confounds seem confirmed by equally striking cases in postwar British politics.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 1988

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