Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-568f69f84b-pl66f Total loading time: 0.254 Render date: 2021-09-17T20:50:45.630Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

The Concept of “the Establishment” and the Transformation of Political Argument in Britain since 1945

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 April 2021


This article examines the formation and development of the concept of the Establishment in British political argument after its recoining in a celebrated article by the journalist Henry Fairlie in 1955. The author argues that the term “the Establishment” did not have a stable referent but rather acquired a range of possible meanings and uses as part of a new political vocabulary within which the course and significance of recent political and social change was contested, and that ultimately transformed social-democratic and conservative politics in Britain. The article situates the formation of the concept of the Establishment within a prolonged contestation of social and political authority in Britain during the middle of the twentieth century and traces the recoining of the term in conservative political commentary prior to Henry Fairlie's frequently cited 1955 Spectator article. From the late 1950s, it is argued, the concept acquired more distinctively contemporary meanings that enabled its adoption by Harold Wilson during the mid-1960s and its subsequent reappropriation by Margaret Thatcher in the mid-1970s. These usages registered and helped to accomplish fundamental political realignments, the understanding of which depends upon a close analysis of political and social concepts.

Original Manuscript
Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies, 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 23 September 1955, 379–81, at 380. All newspaper sources and reviews cited here, unless otherwise indicated, are London- or UK-based publications.

2 Henry Fairlie, “Evolution of a Term,” New Yorker, 19 October 1968, 184–87.

3 A. J. P. Taylor, “Books in General,” New Statesman, 29 August 1953, 236.

4 Pearson, Hesketh, Labby: The Life of Henry Labouchere (London, 1936), 259–60Google Scholar; Malcolm Muggeridge, “Men and Books,” Time and Tide, 9 May 1936, 670–71, at 671; “Revaluations,” New Statesman, 12 May 1928, 162–64, at 162.

5 Mill, John Stuart, “Bentham,” in Essays on Ethics, Religion and Society, ed. M., J. Robson (Toronto, 1969), 75115Google Scholar, at 79; Burke, Edmund, “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” in The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, vol. 8, The French Revolution, 1790–1794, ed. Mitchell, L. G. and Todd, William B. (Oxford, 1989), 3293Google Scholar, at 142.

6 E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London, 1963), 43, 59, 74, 137, 350, 351, 396, 397, 402, 623, 726, 813; W. L. Guttsman, “The British Political Elite and the Class Structure,” in Elites and Power in British Society, ed. Philip Stanworth and Anthony Giddens (Cambridge, 1974), 22–44; John Scott, The Upper Classes: Property and Privilege in Britain (London, 1982), 96–110; see also David Cannadine, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (New Haven, 1990), esp. xii.

7 In the former category, see, for example, Matt Houlbrook, Prince of Tricksters: The Incredible True Story of Netley Lucas, Gentleman Crook (Chicago, 2016), 10, 54, 104, 312, 320; Emily Robinson, The Language of Progressive Politics in Modern Britain (Basingstoke, 2017), 125, 258. In the latter category, see Anthony Pagden, The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters (New York, 2013), 172; Mark Greif, The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933–1973 (Princeton, 2015), 298.

8 For example, Houlbrook, Prince of Tricksters, 67, 343; Robinson, Language of Progressive Politics, 13; James E. Cronin, The Politics of State Expansion: War, State and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain (London, 1991), 229–30; Matthew Grant, “Historians, the Penguin Specials and the ‘State-of-the-Nation’ Literature, 1958–64,” Contemporary British History 17, no. 3 (2003): 29–54, at 35–37. See also the discussion of the concept in two major survey histories of postwar Britain: Kenneth O. Morgan, The People's Peace: British History, 1945–1989 (Oxford, 1990), 143, 396; Kevin Jefferys, Retreat from New Jerusalem: British Politics, 1951–64 (Basingstoke, 1997), 117–22. Peter Hennessy, Establishment and Meritocracy (London, 2014), notwithstanding his recognition of the term's “slipper[iness]” (14), also assumes that it refers to something that has actually existed in shifting forms in postwar Britain.

9 Guy Ortolano, The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (Cambridge, 2009), 8.

10 Quoted in Adrian Bingham, “Representing the People? The Daily Mirror, Class and Political Culture in Inter-war Britain,” in Brave New World: Imperial and Democratic Nation-Building in Britain between the Wars, ed. Laura Beers and Geraint Thomas (London, 2012), 109–28, at 121. On the idea of the “Cliveden Set,” see Norman Rose, The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity (London, 2000), chap. 8, esp. 178–80.

11 Cato [pseud.], Guilty Men (London, 1940); Paul Addison, The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War (London, 1975), 131–33.

12 A similar point has been made about historical understandings of “decline” in Guy Ortolano, “‘Decline’ as a Weapon in Cultural Politics,” in Penultimate Adventures with Britannia, ed. Wm. Roger Louis (London, 2008), 201–14.

13 See, for example, Avner Offer, “The Market Turn: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism,” Economic History Review 70, no. 4 (2017): 1051–71; Aled Davies, The City of London and Social Democracy: The Political Economy of Finance in Britain, 1959–1979 (Oxford, 2017); Neil Rollings, “Cracks in the Post-war Keynesian Settlement? The Role of Organised Business in Britain in the Rise of Neoliberalism before Margaret Thatcher,” Twentieth Century British History 24, no. 4 (2013): 637–59; Ben Jackson, “The Think-Tank Archipelago: Thatcherism and Neo-liberalism,” in Making Thatcher's Britain, ed. Ben Jackson and Robert Saunders (Cambridge, 2012), 43–61.

14 The phrase “intellectual setting” is used in Susan Pedersen, “What Is Political History Now?,” in What Is History Now?, ed. David Cannadine (London, 2002), 36–56, at 42; see also David M. Craig, “‘High Politics’ and the ‘New Political History,’” Historical Journal 53, no. 2 (2010): 453–75.

15 A similar point has been made in Dror Wahrman, “The New Political History: A Review Essay,” Social History 21, no. 3 (1996): 343–54; and Stuart Middleton, “‘Affluence’ and the Left in Britain, c. 1958–1974,” English Historical Review 129, no. 536 (2014): 107–38, at 107–10.

16 For a notable example of the attendant confusion, see Peter de Bolla, The Architecture of Concepts: The Historical Formation of Human Rights (New York, 2013), chap. 1. De Bolla “insis[ts] on the difference between words and concepts” (25) but also states that “the distinction is too porous to be of much use” (32).

17 Reinhart Koselleck, “Richtlinien für das Lexikon Politisch-Sozialer Begriffe der Neuzeit,” Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte 11, no. 1 (1967): 81–99, at 86, quoted in Hans Erich Bödeker, “Concept—Meaning—Discourse. Begriffsgeschichte Reconsidered,” trans. Allison Brown, in History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives, ed. Iain Hampsher-Monk, Karin Tilmans, and Frank van Vree (Amsterdam, 1998), 51–64, at 54.

18 Bödeker, “Concept—Meaning,” 54 (emphasis Koselleck's).

19 See, for example, the oft-quoted formulation of this point in Quentin Skinner, “The Idea of a Cultural Lexicon,” in Visions of Politics, vol. 1, Regarding Method (Cambridge, 2002), 158–74, at 159–60; Melvin Richter, The History of Political and Social Concepts: A Critical Introduction (New York, 1995), 9.

20 [T. E. Utley], “Power,” Times Literary Supplement, 12 October 1956, 601. On the wider context, see Julia Stapleton, “T. E. Utley and Renewal of Conservatism in Post-war Britain,” Journal of Political Ideologies 19, no. 2 (2014): 207–26.

21 For example (respectively), Henry Fairlie, “Old Intellectuals Never Die . . . ,” Spectator, 3 June 1955, 709–10; Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 29 July 1955, 156.

22 Henry Fairlie, “Dean Inge and England,” Spectator, 25 September 1953, 332–33, at 332.

23 Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 31 December 1954, 818–19.

24 “Mr Butskell's Dilemma,” Economist, 13 February 1954, 439–41.

25 Fairlie, Political Commentary, 29 July 1955, 156.

26 Fairlie, 156.

27 Henry Fairlie, “True Conservatism,” Spectator, 22 October 1954, 485–86, at 485.

28 Henry Fairlie, “True Conservatism,” letter to the editor, Spectator, 5 November 1954, 546. Fairlie referred to the “revolution” that he believed had taken place in 1945 in several columns: Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 14 January 1955, 32; Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 29 April 1955, 524–25; Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 10 June 1955, 724–25; Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 28 October 1955, 543–44.

29 Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 23 September 1955, 380.

30 Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 7 October 1955, 436.

31 Burke, “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” 128–29.

32 Robert Boothby, “‘The Establishment,’” letter to the editor, Spectator, 7 October 1955, 448; Henry Fairlie, “How Guilty Were the Guilty Men?,” Political Commentary, Spectator, 2 December 1955, 758–60; “Writer to the Establishment,” Economist, 3 December 1955, 838.

33 See, for example, “Princess Margaret,” Sunday Times, 16 October 1955, 8; “Opinion: Double Trouble,” Daily Express, 31 October 1955, 4; “Appeal for Church Freedom,” Times, 14 November 1955, 6.

34 “‘The Times’ and Monarchy,” New Statesman, 29 October 1955, 528; Michael Foot, “The Royalty Racket,” Tribune, 4 November 1955, 10; Bingham, “Representing the People?”

35 “Keeper of Their Conscience,” New Statesman, 5 November 1955, 570. See also, for example, “Writer to the Establishment,” Economist, 3 December 1955, 838.

36 “The Establishment Game: How to Get On without Actually Doing Anything,” Spectator, 23 December 1955, 866–67; Pharos [pseud.], “A Spectator's Notebook,” Spectator, 20 January 1956, 71.

37 On discussions of managerialism, see Stephen Brooke, “Atlantic Crossing? American Views of Capitalism and British Socialist Thought, 1932–1962,” Twentieth Century British History 2, no. 2 (1991): 107–36, at 115–17. Contending interpretations of managerialism formed one of the major fault lines in the influential New Fabian Essays of 1952; see R. H. S. Crossman, “Towards a Philosophy of Socialism,” in New Fabian Essays, ed. R. H. S. Crossman (London, 1952), 1–32, at 10–11; C. A. R. Crosland, “The Transition from Capitalism,” in Crossman, New Fabian Essays, 33–68, at 38–39, 44.

38 On which, see Ross McKibbin, “Class and Conventional Wisdom: The Conservative Party and the ‘Public’ in Inter-war Britain,” in The Ideologies of Class: Social Relations in Britain, 1880–1950 (Oxford, 1990), 259–93; David Jarvis, “British Conservatism and Class Politics in the 1920s,” English Historical Review 111, no. 440 (1996): 59–84.

39 Outside the party, the phrase was particularly favored (in exhortatory mode) in the Times; see, for example, “Labour Thinking,” editorial, Times, 27 June 1952, 7; “Mr. Bevan's Pronouncement,” editorial, Times, 16 October 1952, 7; “A Sorry Affair,” editorial, Times, 30 January 1953, 7; “Need for a Policy,” editorial, Times, 5 March 1953, 9; and “Substitutes for a Policy,” editorial, Times, 17 June 1953, 7. Within the party, see “The Duty of an Opposition: Mr. Morrison's Call for Party Unity,” Times, 27 October 1952, 2; “Labour and Conservative Attacks on Mr. Bevan,” Times, 7 March 1955, 6.

40 For example, Tom Burns, “The Cold Class War,” New Statesman, 7 April 1956, 330–31, at 330; R. H. S. Crossman, “Changing the Climate of Opinion,” New Statesman, 12 May 1956, 526–28; A. J. P. Taylor, “The Way We Live Now,” New Statesman, 8 September 1956, 288–89.

41 For example, Peter Townsend, “A Society for People,” in Conviction, ed. Norman MacKenzie (London, 1958), 93–120, at 108; also Dennis Potter, “Base Ingratitude?,” New Statesman, 3 May 1958, 560–62; E. P. Thompson, “At the Point of Decay,” in Out of Apathy, ed. E. P. Thompson (London, 1960), 3–15, at 9.

42 R. T. McKenzie, British Political Parties: The Distribution of Power within the Conservative and Labour Parties (London, 1955), 582, 590.

43 “Mr. Bevan's Broadside,” New Statesman, 11 February 1956, 140.

44 Aneurin Bevan, “Being Very, Very Practical (The David Astor Way),” Tribune, 24 February 1956, 4.

45 For example, Aneurin Bevan, “A Declaration of Class War,” Tribune, 22 March 1957, 4.

46 Aneurin Bevan, “Now Let's Give a Socialist Lead,” Tribune, 12 October 1956, 5.

47 Paul Johnson, “Hunting the Hydra,” New Statesman, 31 December 1955, 874.

48 Johnson, “Hunting the Hydra,” 874.

49 Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 6 January 1956, 5–6.

50 Richard Crossman, Socialism and the New Despotism, Fabian tract 298 (London, 1956), 5–6, 11.

51 See, for example, John Marullus [pseud.], “Were the Webbs So Wonderful?,” Tribune, 13 April 1956, 4; “Tribune Never (Well, Hardly Ever) Forgets,” Tribune, 28 December 1956, 6.

52 Aneurin Bevan, “This Minor Caesar,” Tribune, 28 September 1956, 4. See also Kingsley Martin, “The Swing towards Sanity,” New Statesman, 11 August 1956, 153; “Resist Eden Every Inch of the Way,” Tribune, 17 August 1956, 1; John Marullus [pseud.], “These Weak and Cowardly Tories Should Hang Their Heads in Shame!,” Tribune, 9 November 1956, 4; John Raymond, “The Fall of the House of Ushers,” New Statesman, 8 December 1956, 749–50.

53 Aneurin Bevan, “Save Democracy—Have a General Election Now,” Tribune, 18 January 1957, 5. See also Michael Foot, “Get Out Now—Face the Country!” Tribune, 11 January 1957, 1; Michael Foot, “The Awful Choice for the Queen,” Tribune, 18 January 1957, 1–2; “Familiar Faces and Old Problems,” New Statesman, 19 January 1957, 57; J. P. W. Mallalieu, “Westminster: The Kissing Ring,” New Statesman, 60–61.

54 “Government Determination to Achieve Opportunity State,” Times, 19 March 1957, 4.

55 Rodney Lowe, “The Replanning of the Welfare State, 1957–1964,” in The Conservatives in Modern British Society, 1880–1990, ed. Martin Francis and Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska (Cardiff, 1996), 255–73, at 261; Bevan, “Declaration of Class War,” 4.

56 Ben Pimlott, Harold Wilson (London, 1992), 186, 189–90. For a particularly notable example of the New Statesman's employment of the term, see “Lords, Ladies and Reactionaries,” New Statesman, 16 November 1957, 637.

57 Harold Wilson, “Remedies for Inflation II—The Unemployment School,” Manchester Guardian, 24 October 1957, 8; Harold Wilson, Post-war Economic Policies in Britain, Fabian tract 309 (London, 1957), 14; Harold Wilson, Speech to the House of Commons, 26 November 1959, Parliamentary Debates, Commons, 5th series, vol. 614 (1959–60), col. 601; Thomas Balogh, “A New Orthodoxy?,” New Statesman, 12 April 1958, 482; Thomas Balogh, “The Apotheosis of the Dilettante,” in The Establishment, ed. Hugh Thomas (London, 1959), 83–126.

58 Jim Tomlinson, “Inventing ‘Decline’: The Falling Behind of the British Economy in the Postwar Years,” Economic History Review, n.s. 49, no. 4 (1996): 731–57.

59 J. B. Priestley, Topside, or the Future of England (London, 1958), 14 (emphasis in original).

60 See, for example, “Comments on the Week's News,” New Statesman, 1 March 1958, 254; J. B. Priestley, “Campaign Report,” New Statesman, 29 March 1958, 402–3; J. P. W. Mallalieu, “Aldermaston: Against the Establishment,” New Statesman, 12 April 1958, 455–56.

61 See, for example, Peter Sedgwick, “NATO, the Bomb and Socialism,” Universities and Left Review, no. 7 (1959): 7–13, at 10; Critic [pseud.], “London Diary,” New Statesman, 19 April 1958, 495–96 (although not using the word itself); for Bevan's usage, see “May Be Labour's Last Chance,” Manchester Guardian, 2 October 1958, 2: “I am fundamentally against the Establishment. I do not like it. It is squalid, it is ugly, it is mean, it is disillusioning and altogether unpleasant.”

62 Grant, “Historians, the Penguin Specials.”

63 “The Insiders” (forum), Universities and Left Review, no. 3 (1958): 26–64; Michael Barratt-Brown, “The Controllers,” Universities and Left Review, no. 5 (1958): 53–61; C. A. R. Crosland, “Insiders and Controllers” in The Conservative Enemy: A Programme of Radical Reform for the 1960s (London, 1962), 68–96.

64 Nicola Wilson, “Working-Class Fictions,” in The Oxford History of the Novel in English, vol. 7, British and Irish Fiction since 1940, ed. Peter Boxall and Bryan Cheyette (Oxford, 2016), 64–79, at 64. For contemporary constructions of the angry young man/men as hostile to “the Establishment,” see Doris Lessing, “The Small Personal Voice,” in Declaration, ed. Tom Maschler (London, 1957), 13–27; John Osborne, “They Call It Cricket,” in Maschler, Declaration, 61–84, at 67; Kenneth Tynan, “Theatre and Living,” in Maschler, Declaration, 107–29, at 124; Kenneth Allsop, The Angry Decade: A Survey of the Cultural Revolt of the Nineteen-Fifties (1958; repr., Wendover, 1985), 31.

65 Blake Morrison, The Movement: British Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s (Oxford, 1980), 75.

66 John Wain, “How It Strikes a Contemporary: A Young Man Who Is Not Angry,” Twentieth Century, no. 161 (1957): 227–36, at 229–30.

67 A. J. P. Taylor, “Is There a Power Elite? 1: The Thing,” Twentieth Century, no. 162 (1957): 293–97, at 295.

68 Henry Fairlie, Political Commentary, Spectator, 25 May 1956, 709–11. See also the contrast between “the Establishment” and “Utopia” in Christopher Johnson, “Piecemeal Philosophy,” Crossbow 2, no. 1 (1958): 16–20, at 18.

69 T. E. Utley, “The Great Soft Centre,” Crossbow 1, no. 1 (1957): 15–18, at 18.

70 T. E. Utley, Not Guilty (The Conservative Reply) (London, 1957), v.

71 Utley, “Great Soft Centre,” 18.

72 T. E. Utley, “England Today: 2, Reaction,” Twentieth Century, no. 161 (1957): 23–29, at 29.

73 See, for example, David Ovens, “An Expanding Society, 1: Look to the Future,” Crossbow 1, no. 2 (1958): 13–14; John Ward, “An Expanding Society, 3: The Unions Have a Part,” Crossbow 1, no. 2 (1958): 17–18; “Democracy and the Unions,” Crossbow 1, no. 4 (1958): 5; Patrick Medd, “The Trade Unions—II. Menace to Individual Liberty,” Crossbow 1, no. 4 (1958): 10–11.

74 W. F. Frank, “New Laws for New Unionism,” Crossbow 3, no. 3 (1960): 45–51, at 47.

75 Taylor, Trade Union Question, chap. 2, at 46.

76 Taylor, 81–90.

77 Taylor, 101–2.

78 “Putting on the Best Face,” New Statesman, 8 August 1959, 149.

79 See, for example, Henry Fairlie, “The British Radical in 1959: Romantic Imperialist,” Spectator, 19 June 1959, 876–77; Lord Altrincham [John Grigg], “The British Radical in 1959: Untapped Resources,” Spectator, 17 July 1959, 60.

80 Norman MacKenzie, “The Up and Comers,” New Statesman, 13 June 1959, 819.

81 Mike Savage, “Working-Class Identities in the 1960s: Revisiting the Affluent Worker Study,” Sociology 39, no. 5 (2005): 929–46, at 939–40.

82 Ralph [Raphael] Samuel, “The Deference Voter,” New Left Review 1, no. 1 (1960): 9–13. Two years later, Richard Rose ascribed a broadly similar “desire to defer to the old elite” to parts of the new or “mobile middle class”—although by this time Rose believed it was alloyed by more critical attitudes. Richard Rose, “Going Up and in Between,” Crossbow 6, no. 1 (1962): 35–38, at 36.

83 “The Establishment Game,” Spectator, 14 August 1959, 179–80.

84 For example, in Cronin, Politics of State Expansion, 229; Grant, “Historians, the Penguin Specials,” 30, 35–36.

85 Henry Fairlie, “The B.B.C.,” in Thomas, The Establishment, 191–208; Simon Raven, “Perish by the Sword,” in Thomas, The Establishment, 49–79; Christopher Hollis, “Parliament and the Establishment,” in Thomas, The Establishment, 169–88, at 187.

86 Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Straw Man of the Age,” New Statesman, 3 October 1959, 434; T. R. Fyvel, “The B.B.C. Image,” Encounter, December 1959, 56–57.

87 F. W. S. Craig, British General Election Manifestos, 1918–1966 (Chichester, 1970), 207.

88 “The Labour Inquest,” New Statesman, 17 October 1959, 493.

89 R. H. S. Crossman, Labour in the Affluent Society, Fabian tract 325 (London, 1960), 3.

90 See, for example, Ralph Miliband, “The Sickness of Labourism,” New Left Review 1, no. 1 (1960): 5–9, at 9; “Silencing the Watchdogs,” New Statesman, 26 March 1960, 438; “The Meaning of Aldermaston,” New Statesman, 31 March 1961, 500–1; R. H. S. Crossman, “The Labour Left,” New Statesman, 20 October 1961, 564–66; J. B. Priestley, “Ambience or Agenda?,” New Statesman, 2 February 1962, 156–58.

91 H. A. Turner, “Labour's Diminishing Vote: Decline from Natural Causes?,” Guardian, 20 October 1959, 8; Crosland, Can Labour Win?, Fabian tract 324 (London, 1960), 10–11. The same development was also discussed in terms of a “new” middle class: see, for example, “Growing Electoral Importance of Black Coated Workers,” Times, 28 September 1959, 7; D. E. Butler and Richard Rose, The British General Election of 1959 (London, 1960), 14. Crosland's rebuttal of New Left analyses of power was presented in Crosland, Conservative Enemy, chap. 5.

92 Notably, Walt Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge, 1960).

93 Beau Giles, “Bow Notebook,” Crossbow 4, no. 2 (1961): 51–53, at 53; David Howell, Principles in Practice: A Series of Bow Group Essays for the 1960s (London, 1961); Beau Giles, “Bow Notebook,” Crossbow 4, no. 3 (1961): 47–50, at 49.

94 J. P. W. Mallalieu, “Apostle of Conflict,” New Statesman, 17 September 1960, 366–67.

95 Audrey Harvey, Casualties of the Welfare State, Fabian tract 321 (London, 1960), 31.

96 On the “rediscovery of poverty,” see Middleton, ‘“Affluence’ and the Left in Britain,” 121–22, 126–27; R. M. Titmuss, Income Distribution and Social Change: A Study in Criticism (London, 1962).

97 Titmuss, Income Distribution and Social Change, 188.

98 R. M. Titmuss, The Irresponsible Society, Fabian tract 323 (London, 1960); R. M. Titmuss, “The Irresponsible Society,” Listener, 11 August 1960, 207–8.

99 One Nation Group, The Responsible Society (London, 1959), 7–9, at 7.

100 Middleton, “‘Affluence’ and the Left in Britain,” 116–17.

101 “Never So Good?,” Spectator, 15 January 1960, 63. Fairlie had raised similar concerns before the election in Fairlie, “The British Radical in 1959,” 877.

102 David Fairbairn, “Production without End?,” Crossbow 3, no. 1 (1959): 31–36, at 33.

103 Fairbairn, “Production without End?,” 36.

104 “The European Idea,” Spectator, 2 June 1961, 783; Tomlinson, “Inventing ‘Decline’”; Andrew Shonfield, British Economic Policy since the War (Harmondsworth, 1958); Michael Shanks, The Stagnant Society: A Warning (Harmondsworth, 1961).

105 See, for example, William Rees-Mogg, “The Tories: Survival or Revival?,” Sunday Times, 1 April 1962, 25; Beau Giles, “Bow Notebook,” Crossbow 5, no. 4 (1962): 9–12, at 9.

106 “Into the Club,” Spectator, 4 August 1961, 160; Nicholas Davenport, “Three Wiser Men,” Spectator, 4 August 1961, 182. See also Davenport's derision of “the fuddy-duddy establishment at the Treasury”: Nicholas Davenport, “A Treasury Obsession?,” Spectator, 2 June 1961, 809.

107 White-Collar Militants,” New Statesman, 25 August 1961, 233.

108 Charles Curran, “The New Model Bourgeoisie,” Crossbow 6, no. 1 (1962): 19–24, at 23.

109 “Kennedy's Travels,” Spectator, 9 June 1961, 824.

110 Jonathan Miller, “Can English Satire Draw Blood?,” Observer, 1 October 1961, 21.

111 Kenneth Baker, “A Liberal Revival?,” Crossbow 5, no. 1 (1961): 41–44; Anthony Howard, “The Message of Orpington,” New Statesman, 16 March 1962, 358; David Marquand, “The Liberal Revival,” Encounter 19, nos. 1–2 (1962): 63–67.

112 This slogan had been used in Conservative poster campaigns throughout the 1950s, before being employed in the 1959 manifesto; see Craig, British General Election Manifestos, 188.

113 Peter Goldman, Some Principles of Conservatism (London, 1961), 10.

114 “What Is to Be Done?,” editorial, Crossbow 5, no. 1 (1961): 5–7, at 6.

115 On the Conservative Government's anticipation of the “modernizing” initiatives of the subsequent Labour governments, see Jim Tomlinson, “Conservative Modernisation, 1960–64: Too Little, Too Late?,” Contemporary British History 11, no. 3 (1997): 18–38.

116 Harold Wilson, “Planning in a Vacuum,” New Statesman, 26 October 1962, 558.

117 This was noted at the time in, for example, William Rees-Mogg, “The Tories: Survival or Revival?,” Sunday Times, 1 April 1962, 25.

118 Anthony Howard, “Dawn over Llandudno,” New Statesman, 12 October 1962, 474. Howard had previously presented entry to the European Economic Community as a favored policy of the “new” middle class. Anthony Howard, “The New Loyalists,” New Statesman, 28 September 1962, 390.

119 “Mr. H. Wilson: Security Presented as a Leaky Vessel,” Times, 8 May 1963, 6.

120 Harold Wilson, “Scarborough Eve-of-Conference Speech on Foreign Affairs, 1963,” in Purpose in Politics: Selected Speeches (London, 1964), 3–13, at 7, 12.

121 Wilson, “Speech Opening the Science Debate at Scarborough, 1963,” in Purpose in Politics, 14–28, at 14, 28.

122 Anthony Sampson, Anatomy of Britain (London, 1962), 632.

123 Callum G. Brown, The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation, 1800–2000 (London, 2001), chap. 8; Sam Brewitt-Taylor, “The Invention of a ‘Secular Society’? Christianity and the Sudden Appearance of Secularization Discourses in the British National Media, 1961–4,” Twentieth Century British History 24, no. 3 (2013): 327–50.

124 “Labour Would Reject Move to Postpone M.P.s’ Return,” Times, 21 October 1963, 6. See also “The ‘True’ Aristocracy at Kinross,” Guardian, 5 November 1963, 2.

125 “Three T.U.C. Votes on Wages—Narrow Majority for Complete Opposition to Restraint,” Times, 5 September 1963, 6.

126 “Huge Labour Conference Majority for Planned Economy,” Times, 3 October 1963, 16.

127 “‘Seize Chances to Expand Production,’ Mr. Wilson Tells the T.U.C. Delegates,” Times, 8 September 1964, 14.

128 For example, in Russell Lewis, “Planning within a Free Economy,” Crossbow 8, no. 4 (1964): 19–24, at 20.

129 Lionel H. Grouse, “Right, Left, Right?,” Crossbow 7, no. 1 (1964): 53–54, at 54.

130 Grouse, “Right, Left, Right?,” 55.

131 Harold Wilson, “Speech at the Labour Party Annual Conference, Blackpool, 28 September 1965,” in Purpose in Power: Selected Speeches by Harold Wilson (Boston, 1966), 133–55, at 134.

132 “Unions’ Right to Threaten Strikes,” Times, 17 February 1965, 18.

133 Nora Beloff, “In Search of Edward Heath,” Observer, 1 August 1965, 9.

134 “A New Image for Conservatism,” Times, 29 July 1965, 11; “A Useful Blueprint for the Next Five Years,” Times, 4 October 1965, 4.

135 William Davis, “A Yawn? This Is No Parlour Game,” Guardian, 23 March 1966, 15. See also, from a non-Labour perspective, “The Art of Keeping Issues out of Politics,” Times, 5 July 1965, 7.

136 See, for example, Watkins, Alan, “Labour in Power,” in The Left: A Symposium, ed. Kaufman, Gerald (London, 1966), 167–80Google Scholar, at 170, 176; Shanks, Michael, Is Britain Viable?, Fabian tract 378 (London, 1967), 14Google Scholar.

137 Middleton, “‘Affluence’ and the Left in Britain,” 127–30.

138 Thorpe, Keir, “The ‘Juggernaut Method’: The 1966 State of Emergency and the Wilson Government's Response to the Seamen's Strike,” Twentieth Century British History 12, no. 4 (2001): 461–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 464.

139 See, for example, Nora Beloff, “Will Enoch Powell Save Harold Wilson?,” Observer, 16 June 1968, 5; PHS [pseud.], “The Times Diary,” Times, 16 June 1970, 10.

140 Peter Jay, “Powell's Theory of Inflation: A False Premise,” Times, 16 May 1968, 32.

141 The currency of the idea of a “progressive establishment” is noted in Robinson, Languages of Progressive Politics, 180–83.

142 An early usage appeared in “Was It a Watershed?,” Economist, 9 April 1966, 120–21.

143 Pimlott, Harold Wilson, 552; “Door Open for Union Reforms, Wilson says,” Times, 5 May 1969, 8; David Wood, “The Tactics of Compromise,” Times, 12 May 1969, 10.

144 “Mr Wilson's Warning That Big Pay Deals Might Lead to Unemployment,” Times, 29 November 1974, 8; “Wilson Grasps the Prize but Pays the Price,” Guardian, 1 October 1975, 1.

145 See, for example, “Mr Wilson Appeals for Regeneration of the ‘Natural Party of Government,’” Times, 1 October 1975, 5.

146 For examples of its contestation, see “Censure Call,” Guardian, 9 October 1975, 7; “New Social Climate Needed to Cure Britain's Malaise,” Guardian, 9 October 1975, 7.

147 Margaret Thatcher, “Speech to Conservative Party Conference,” 10 October 1975, Margaret Thatcher Foundation,

148 Jon Lawrence and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, “Margaret Thatcher and the Decline of Class Politics,” in Jackson and Saunders, Making Thatcher's Britain, 132–47, at 143. Thatcher's use of “the Establishment” has been discussed in slightly more detail in Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics and the Decline of Deference in Britain, 1968–2000 (Oxford, 2018), chap. 7 and conclusion.

149 David Wood, “Mrs Thatcher Defines New Mood for Tory Politics,” Times, 11 October 1975, 1.

150 Barker, Rodney, “Political Ideas since 1945, or How Long Was the Twentieth Century?,” Contemporary British History 10, no. 1 (1996): 219CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 7. On the larger transitions, see Lukes, Steven, “Epilogue: The Grand Dichotomy of the Twentieth Century,” in The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Political Thought, ed. Ball, Terence and Bellamy, Richard (Cambridge, 2003), 602–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

151 “Was It a Watershed?,” 121. On “dealignment,” see, most recently, Denver, David and Garnett, Mark, British General Elections since 1964: Diversity, Dealignment, and Disillusion (Oxford, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, chap. 3, esp. 67–72.

152 Utley, Not Guilty, 36.

153 See, for example, “TV Interview for Thames TV This Week,” 5 February 1976, Margaret Thatcher Foundation,; Margaret Thatcher, “Speech to Conservative Rally in Cardiff,” 16 April 1979, Margaret Thatcher Foundation, . Stapleton, “T. E. Utley,” 221.

154 Camilla Schofield, “‘A Nation or No Nation?’ Enoch Powell and Thatcherism,” in Jackson and Saunders, Making Thatcher's Britain, 95–110.

155 Edgerton, David, Warfare State: Britain, 1920–1970 (Cambridge, 2006)Google Scholar.

Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Concept of “the Establishment” and the Transformation of Political Argument in Britain since 1945
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The Concept of “the Establishment” and the Transformation of Political Argument in Britain since 1945
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The Concept of “the Establishment” and the Transformation of Political Argument in Britain since 1945
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *