Thatcherism set in motion perpetual revolution in every area of British life—except the Tory Party, whose ideas are still frozen in the 1980s. Regime change in Downing Street must now be a prompt for a serious overhaulby Tim Montgomerie / July 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
It has been 40 years since Margaret Thatcher arrived in 10 Downing Street to begin her revolution. She unleashed an era of change—not just one-off events but a process of incessant, repeated convulsion that the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.” Her impact wasn’t just felt in Britain and in the many other nations that embraced her free market creed but within the Labour Party, too.
Over the four decades since the Iron Lady overturned the postwar economic consensus the Labour Party has thoroughly reviewed its political priorities twice. There was the Kinnock-Blair phase of accommodation, which saw the party abandon unilateral nuclear disarmament and an active role for the state in economic management. More recently there has been the Jeremy Corbyn revolution and a marked shift to a form of socialism that is both redder and greener than its immediate predecessor. While Michael Foot and other pre-Blair Labour left-wingers would recognise and welcome the interventionist economic policies of Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, they would barely recognise the socio-economic make-up of Labour’s new coalition. Labour’s rainbow policies on LGBT rights, university education, climate change and the Middle East have won friends in prosperous places like Islington and Cambridge but aroused suspicion in old industrial heartlands.
In adapting and re-adapting Labour has echoed so many post-Thatcher private and public institutions, and responded to the shifting preferences and values of consumers—or, in this case, voters. But one institution has been doggedly trapped in the 1980s and that is the Conservative Party itself. This summer’s leadership election saw welcome flickers of new thinking, but also many of the old records being replayed. As a long-term Conservative activist who sees this—the Brexit moment—as the point that can finally force a wider renewal, this piece is the memo that I would like to put at the top of the in-tray of the new man in No 10.
We’ve seen massive modernisation of the royal family, the City of London, higher education and industries like the media. But despite the arrival of the -internet and social media, the rise of China, the collapse of many working-class families and mass global migrations, conservatism has been far too conservative. The 1980s recipe, popularised as…