‘The electoral successes of the Conservatives under Thatcher was due more to the divisions of the Labour party than to the ideology of Thatcherism’. Assess the validity of this view.

  • Created by: eva
  • Created on: 15-01-18 14:45

Throughout Margaret Thatcher’s time as the Conservative party leader, she managed to win three elections consecutively, defeating Labour – their main opposition. It could be argued that the divisions within the Labour party was the main reason that Thatcher had such success in popularity of her party. In January 1981, Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rogers, known as the ‘Gang of Four’, broke away from the Labour party and formed the Council for Social Democracy. Rogers claimed that they were driven out by Labour’s extremism ever since Michael Foot had been unexpectedly elected as leader of the party and held far left policies. This created shock and confusion amongst the MPs, which inevitably lead to the split. The SDP had a huge impact on Labour’s security in elections, they lost their ‘safe seat’ of Bermondsey to the Liberal party which was a major blow to their reputation, allowing the Tories to relax in their campaign as their opposition was not progressing as easily as previously thought. The Liberals even claimed that they had broken the ‘two-party mould’. If previous Labour supporters were leaning away from the, once very popular party for the working class, then Thatcher had a window of opportunity to seize these voters.  Even though they were not voting Conservative, these people were turning to other parties meaning that Labour was becoming less relevant, and, therefore, less of a threat.

In the 1983 election, Labour had 27.5% of the vote but lost 59 seats and the Alliance (a combination of the SDP party and the Liberals) gained 13% of the vote. This meant that almost half of Labour’s supporters had shifted to a more centralist party, reducing their popularity. This also meant that the Tories were given security in knowing that Labour did not have substantial representation of the people; even though these voters had not turned to the Conservatives, it guaranteed that their opposing party was not going to be a problem. The SDP Liberal Alliance overtook Labour as the ‘credible’ option until 1987 and Labour were deemed unelectable. The amount of controversy surrounding the party was another issue that worked in the favour of Thatcher. Labour’s 1983 election manifesto was nicknamed ‘the longest suicide in history’ which held them back massively, making Britain more likely to vote Tory. The working class still made up the vast majority of the population and Labour was rapidly losing their support too. Newspapers, such as the Guardian and the Mirror, were manipulated by the Tories and so people turned against their original party of choice, some voting Conservative with promises of buying their own council houses and others desiring more centralist policies, turning to the Alliance.

Additionally, Labour were divided due to the Militant Tendency, which was derived from the Revolutionary Socialist League. The Militants demanded change in Labour’s policies, such as large-scale nationalism and public works schemes. The group were against Thatcher’s government and her local budget cuts, this gained them much support. The Militants cleared




I just wanted to ask how many marks out of 25 did this get?