Liberalism is hugely influential in British politics, moulding the value systems and policies of all the mainstream political parties, Discuss

AQA A2 government and politics exam question June 2011

Rather than Strengths and Weaknesses, I am presenting it as a yes and no list of points


Liberalism is hugely influential in British politics, moulding the value systems and policies of all the mainstream political parties, Discuss


  • Labour party has been strongly influenced by liberal thinkers such as Beveridge and Keynes, seeing the need to adopt a welfare system and using keynesianism economics
  • The Labour party under Blair introduced many constitutional reforms which is a liberal belief :- e.g devolution, house of lords reforms
  • One of the main liberal values is freedom and individualism and the HRA 1999 safeguarded these rights
  • Blair in fact, emphasised on individualism even at the cost of collectivism
  • Thatcher's government brought the revival of neo-liberalism which believed in the free market and laissez-faire economics and the influence of Adam Smith which was a classical liberal idea which moulded the policies of the conservatives
  • Thatcher - 'there is no such thing as society' but instead it is a collection of individuals
  • The current government is in a coalition with the liberals so has direct influence of liberalism and Cameron describes himself as a compassionate conservative and has emphasised the importance of the environment
  • Conservatives over the years have seen the need to safeguard minority rights
  • The age of consensus under Attlee was indebted to liberalism
  • The liberal democrats are of course liberal in their believe for individualism, freedom, rights for minorities and toleration


  • Thatcher's strong central government concentration is not liberal as it supports tyranny of the majority. e.g - Thatcher abolished london council
  • Cameron during the August riots 2011 wanted to introduced water cannons, plastic bullets and the use of the army which is not liberal
  • Thatchers treatment to the IRA is not seen as liberal
  • Similary the Iraq war under Blair was mainly seen as illiberal and Blair wanting to increase the time a suspected terrorist could be held was not liberal as it was against freedom
  • Labours introducing of ID cards
  • Liberal democrats focus less on the ideas of classical liberalism and laissez-faire economics for example


Thus, the suggested statement that 'we are all liberals now' fits in well with the political programmes of Britain today. Whilst it is incorrect to suggest that the political parties demonstrate all of the liberal beliefs, many are hugely influential in British politics, there is an overwhelming acceptence that rights of the individual need to be corrected, as displayed in the Human Rights Act and many key liberal thinkers have influenced policies among the labour and conservative parties


Natasha Robson


just to say, the HRA was 1998 not 99