Ideology and the Conservative Party


Daniel Cowdrill


Ian Gilmour claimed that the Conservative Party is not an ideology. Instead others have argued that Conservatives are essentially pragmatic. This widely-held view has precluded research into Conservative ideology, leaving us with only a vague idea. 


However, I think the current recession gives us some pointers. In response to the financial crisis David Cameron has pledged to reduce the rate of public spending growth. However, this positioning can’t simply be put down to Tory pragmatism. To oppose a fiscal stimulus just as the economy enters a recession is a major political gamble. As a strategy it has advantages, but it is not supremely pragmatic.Read the rest of this article here


5 thoughts on “Ideology and the Conservative Party

  1. Daniel, good to have you back writing blogs and even better to see you writing on the CPS blog!

    I am going to take issue with you though, as this weekend I am about to embark on the second chapter of my dissertation, which is on pragmatism!

    There are many writers such as Bulpitt who believe conservatives are just obbessed with winning power, and therefore that even goes beyond pragmatism.

    What I believe though, is that there is a huge wealth of conservative ideology from which all of leaders pick in, many of these are in contradiction (Europe being a prime example)

    These are committment to minimal state through low taxes, strong law and order, strong defence of soverignty, committment to traditional institutions.

    The list could and is endless,

    It is my firm belief, that Conservatives often have an ideology but are clever enough to realise that it is pragmatism which will win the day.

    Therefore, there is a bae of ideology for a leader to choose, which is strongly blunted by pragmatism, and this I believe is the way you see Cameron acting the way he does currently

  2. I don’t disagree. In fact I think pragmatism is essential to a political party whose object is to win power. This inevitably involves some positioning, and the success of the Conservative party is in part due to its pragmatic approach.

    However, I do not think that pragmatism is unique to the Conservative Party, nor do I think ideology is unique to the Labour party. I think that this view has damaged our understanding of conservative thought, reducing the Conservative party to a purely pragmatic movement or a movement that simply reacts to the ideologies of other movements. I think this is an inadequate grasp of what it is to be a Conservative.

    Quite what Conservative ideological precepts are is hugely difficult to identify. In fact not much work has been done further to the traditional view of Conservatism which tends to revolve around Burkean and Oakshott concepts of Conservative attitude.

    I’d recommend EHH Green for a brilliant historical study of the role of Conservative ideas.

  3. i have to research the conservitive party for a college thing and wtf its boring waste of my life cbaaaaaaaaaa

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