Between 1964-2007, the Conservative party ceased t
Between 1964 to 2007 the Conservative party was in office for a total of 22 years under Heath, Thatcher and Major. Some historians would argue that during this time the Conservative party ceased to be te natural party of government as consensus became integral to political life and the Labour party began to become more representative of the whole population rather than just the working class. Others would argue that the Conservatives were the natural party of government and Labour was only able to come to office when the Conservative image had been tarred. I would personally argue that the Conservative party ceased to be the natural party of governement during most of the time period due to the establishment of consensus during these years and also the modernisation of Labour Party. I would also argue that the change in voting patterns at the end of the period also contributed to the demise of the Conservative party as people began to vote over vallence issues and not where there stood on the political spectrum of 'left' and 'right'.
Consesnus,alongside a more modern Labour Party, in my view is critical in explaining why the Conservatives ceased to be the natural party of government. The Labour government in 1964 appeared youthful, ermeging with their grammar school educated leader Wilson. The Labour's 1964 manifesto promised a modern Britain, the slogan 'a white heat of technology,' in addition to their promise of a fairer Britain struck a chord with the electorate. In contrast Sire Alex Douglas Home appeared to stand at the opposite end of the spectrum ; as an old etonian whose cabinet only held 3 people who were not educated by a public school, he appeared elitist and out of touch with the common man. The conservatives had ceased to be the natural party of government as the majority of the electorate could not relate to the 'magic circle.' Furthermore, the Profumo affair and sex scandals such as the Vassall affair acted to further alienate the government from the electorate, and when it came to vote the people went for Labour.
As Addison and other historians highlight, the period 1964-79 was a time of consensus between Labour and Conservative policies. The electorate could expect very similar policies from each party so sonsequently the Conservative party would cease to be the natural choice. Both parties after 1964 tried to reduce the unions' role in society rather rather encourage it. Wilson demonstarted this by his attempt to implement Castle's 'In place of strife', Heath introduced the Industrial Act in 1971 and Wilson and Callaghan intoduced the voluntary social contract Britain's mixed economically was largely the same in 1979 as it was in 1964, other than Heaths nationalisation of Rolls Royce. In education, the movement of comprehensive schools was continued. Wilson implemented the 10/65 circular, and when Heath left office 2/3 children went to a comprehensive school. Full employment was also followed by both parties as the average unemployment rate between 1964-73 was 2%. Although Heath did begin to move towards monetarist policies under the instuctions of his adviser, Sir Keith Joesph (later to become Thatcher's adviser), the Labour party followed this trend. In 1967 Callaghan affirmed a "breaking away" from keynesian policies. Thus a new consensus appeared to have blossomed in economics. Clearly there was little to differentiate the two parties and as a result the Conservatives failed to be seen as the natural choice.
1979 - 90
By 1979, however, the Conservative Party could be seen as having established itself as the natural party of government and did so until 1990. The 1979 election came at a crippling point for Labour, the Winter of Discontent at the forefront of the mind of the voters. The electorate was looking for a break of consensus, and Thatcher's manifesto delivered. Thatcher offered voters a decisive alternative. The campaign posters such as 'Labour isn't working' highlight the fact that unemployment rose above one million under Labour. In addition, the winter of discontent also proved to be a formidable tool for the conservatives. Thier 1979 manifesto appealed to the skilled worker, a traditional Labour supported by promising to slay the drag of inflation, to reform trade unions and to be tough on immigration. Callaghan himself saw that there had been a "seach change." However, Thatcher could have easily lost the 1983 election if not for the 'Falkland factor' and perhaps this implies that the Conservatives were not the natural party of government. However, following the 1983 victory problems within the Labour party began to emerge with the 'loony left' rising to the fore and their manifestos began to lack appeal. Therefore, between 1979 - 90 perhaps the Conservatives were the natural party due to valence issues, but also the division of the Labour party that made them unelectable.
1997 - 2007
Under Kinnock, Smith and Blair Labour pulled itself back from the wilderness and became acceptable to the electorate again. To do this, however they became more like the Conservative party and emerged as 'new Labour'. It was apparent that a new type of consensus had developed. Blair's chancellor of Exchequer, Brown announced that the Labour party would follow the Conservative's spending plans for the next three years and would not reverse the privatisation movement. In an article in the New Statesman Blair stated that the unions would not have a place in the Labour party, instead they would work with them, but not for them. In 2006 Blair claimed that 'on policy cross dressing is rampant,' he was effectively declaring the end of left and right as political terms and so ensuring that the Conservative Party could no longer be the natural party of government. Blair remained in office for 13 years, and at this time the Conservative party imploded on itself as the Labout party had done so previous in the 1980s, over issues such as Europe.
In conclusion, between the years 1964-2007 it appears that the Conservative party were no longer the natural party of government for the majority of this time, although i would argue this was not the case between the years 1979-90 as the Labour party had become unelectable by being 'too far left' and also the disaster of the Winter of Discontent. The pattern of consensus and Labour modernisation ultimately contributed to the Conservatives demise.