The nature of conservative ideology is and will continue to be warmly contested. In this short history, Mark Garnett contends that the disagreements have been particularly strong in the instance of British conservatism because the ideological label continues to be used by a prominent political party. Whether hostile or friendly in intent, commentators on conservatism have found it difficult to avoid the assumption that British "conservatism" must, at all times, be reflected at least to some degree in the policy platforms of the Conservative Party.
This book presents an account of British conservativism which avoids the usual confusion between the ideology and the stated principles of a party which prides itself on an ability to change its views according to circumstances. It shows, since the Tory Party adopted the name "Conservative" in the 1830s it has become increasingly difficult to associate its varying positions with a coherent "conservative" position, so that it is more profitable to discuss its ideological history from the perspective of liberalism and nationalism. This argument is presented by tracing the histories of the party and the ideology in separate chapters, whose themes and cast of characters rarely coincide.
Mark Garnett is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Lancaster University. He has written widely on Brtitish politics, in particular the relationship between ideas and practice. His books on the Conservative Party include acclaimed biographies of Tory grandees, Keith Joseph and Willie Whitelaw.