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UK Politics – Progressive Conservatism

1. Messy Ideologies

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In this lecture we explore the complex relationship between party and ideology, particularly in the British context, drawing on Barker’s notion of a ‘Constantinian’ relationship between ideas and institutions. From the alleged classical liberalism of Thatcher to the self-proclaimed progressivism of Cameron, we highlight the messiness of ideologies as well as the frequent gap between rhetorical ideology and actual party policies. It quickly becomes clear that the concepts we associate with certain ideologies are not as clear-cut as they first appear, e.g. the paternalistic elements of Fabian socialism. The inherent complexity of any ideological claim is a crucial feature of subsequent lectures in this course.


In this course, Dr Simon Griffiths (Goldsmiths, University of London) discuss the ideolog(ies) of the contemporary Conservative party in the UK. We begin in the first lecture by exploring the complex relationship between party and ideology, before in the second lecture putting contemporary conservatism into context through an exploration of the “One-Nation Conservative” tradition. In the third lecture, we ask “How did we get Thatcherism?”, considering another dominant strand in conservative thought – one that is individualistic, anti-statist and libertarian. In the fourth lecture, we explore the ways in which Cameron, as party leader, attempted to distance himself and the party from electorally unpopular Thatcherism through a rebranding as a “progressive conservative”. But what does being a progressive conservative entail? We answer this question by drawing on the historian E. Robinson’s three definitions of “progressive”, and explore the difference between Cameron’s “rediscovery of the One-Nation tradition” rhetoric and his actual policies in office. Then, in the fifth and final lecture, we explore the extent to which Boris Johnson’s tenure as leader of the Conservative party has continued – or departed from – that strategy.


Dr Simon Griffiths writes about and teaches British politics and public policy. In 2010-11, he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Political Ideologies at Oxford University. Simon has also taught at Queen Mary, University of London, and the LSE. He has written for newspapers such as The Independent, Times and The Guardian, and regularly appears on TV and radio to discuss British politics. In 2018 he wrote "British Politics" with Robert Leach.

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APA style

Griffiths, S. (2022, January 25). UK Politics – Progressive Conservatism - Messy Ideologies [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Griffiths, S. "UK Politics – Progressive Conservatism – Messy Ideologies." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 25 Jan 2022,

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