Mrs Thatcher and the Conservative Party: Another Institution ‘Handbagged’?

  • Philip Norton


One undisputed growth industry under the present government has been the study of the character and ideology of the prime minister. The premiership of James Callaghan provoked one biography, and nothing on ‘Callaghanism’.1 Margaret Thatcher, since becoming leader of the Conservative Party, has provoked several biographies, and her premiership has been the subject of numerous analyses.2 ‘Thatcherism’ is regularly agonised about, analysed, criticized and — far less often — defined.


Prime Minister Leadership Style Party Leader Conservative Party Party Organization 
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  1. 1.
    The biography is P. Kellner and C. Hitchens, Callaghan: The Road to No. 10 (London: Cassell, 1976).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Among such works, in addition to those listed in footnotes below, are B. Arnold, Margaret Thatcher: A Study in Power (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1984);Google Scholar
  3. D. Bell (ed.), The Conservative Government 1979–84 (London: Croom Helm, 1985);Google Scholar
  4. J. Bruce-Gardyne, Mrs Thatcher’s First Administration (London: Macmillan, 1984);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. P. Cosgrave, Thatcher: The First Term (London: Bodley Head, 1985);Google Scholar
  6. S. Hall and M. Jacques (eds), The Politics of Thatcherism (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1983);Google Scholar
  7. J. Ross, Thatcher and Friends (London: Pluto Press, 1983);Google Scholar
  8. and N. Wapshott and G. Brock, Thatcher (London: Macdonald, 1983).Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    J. Critchley, Westminster Blues (London: Futura, 1986) p. 126.Google Scholar
  10. 4.
    As Peter Riddell has observed, Mrs Thatcher has changed the question as well as the answer. P. Riddell, The Thatcher Government, revised edn (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985) p. 1.Google Scholar
  11. See also A. Aughey, ‘Mrs Thatcher’s Philosophy’, Parliamentary Affairs, 36 (4), Autumn 1983: 389–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 5.
    See P. Norton and A. Aughey, Conservatives and Conservatism (London: Temple Smith, 1981) pp. 240–1.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    P. Norton, Conservative Dissidents (London: Temple Smith, 1978) Chapter 9.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    P. Norton (ed.), Parliament in the 1980s (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985) Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    M. Brown MP, quoted in M. Holmes, The First Thatcher Government, 1979–83: Contemporary Conservatism and Economic Change (Brighton: Wheatsheaf, 1985) p. 83.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    M. Burch, ‘Mrs Thatcher’s Approach to Leadership in Government’, Parliamentary Affairs, 36 (4), Autumn 1983: 409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. See also H. Stephenson, Mrs Thatcher’s First Year (London: Jill Norman, 1980) p. 94.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    More serious in terms of party feeling was the split over top peoples’ pay in 1985: see M. Rutherford, Financial Times, 27 July 1985,Google Scholar
  19. and P. Norton, ‘“Dr Norton’s Parliament” — A Response’, Public Administration Bulletin, 48, 1985: 76.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    See G. Gardiner, Margaret Thatcher (London: William Kimber, 1975) pp. 192, 202.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See, for example, the comments of C. Patten, quoted in H. Young and A. Sloman, The Thatcher Phenomenon (London: BBC, 1986) p. 33.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    See especially R. Lewis, Margaret Thatcher: A Personal and Political Biography (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975) pp. 140–1.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    On its role in policy-making in 1974–9, see C. Patten, ‘Policy Making in Opposition’, in Z. Layton-Henry (ed.), Conservative Party Politics (London: Macmillan, 1980) pp. 17–20.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    See R. Behrens, The Conservative Party from Heath to Thatcher (Farnborough: Saxon House, 1980) p. 33.Google Scholar
  25. 32.
    This rough estimate derives from my analysis of the Conservative Right — encompassing economic liberals — in the 1970–4 and 1974–9 parliaments, though the nature of cross-voting in the latter parliament made it difficult to assess with any measure of confidence. Norton, Conservative Dissidents, pp. 244–54; P. Norton, Dissension in the House of Commons 1974–1979 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980) pp. 452–3. (Several members identified as right-wingers in the 1970–4 parliament retired or were defeated in 1974.)Google Scholar
  26. 39.
    M. Rush, ‘The Member of Parliament’, in S. A. Walkland (ed.), The House of Commons in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979) pp. 97–102.Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    M. Rush, ‘The Members of Parliament’, in S. A. Walkland and M. Ryle (eds), The Commons Today (London: Fontana, 1981) p. 61. The only marginal change was in the number of members from ‘miscellaneous’ occupations.Google Scholar
  28. 42.
    Sir N. Fisher, The Tory Leaders (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977) p 185.Google Scholar

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© Government & Opposition Ltd. 1987

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  • Philip Norton

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