Does The UK Political System Tend Towards

Conflict Or Consensus Essay, Research Paper In order to have a stable government it is important to have consensus.? Consensus is a general understanding and agreement on fundamental principles.? In politics there are three main types of

Conflict Or Consensus Essay, Research Paper

In order to have a stable government it is important to

have consensus.? Consensus is a general

understanding and agreement on fundamental principles.? In politics there are three main types of

consensus, Societal Consensus, Political Consensus and consensus in policy


consensus is overall public opinion, the political beliefs of the public.? Normally most people?s political opinions

are not too diverse, the majority falling somewhere around the centre

ground.? The area of the political

spectrum where the bulk of the public?s opinion lies is called the

consensus.? To get elected, a political

party must also fall in this area, in order to appeal to the public.Therefore

the main political parties all have policies that are similar, as they all want

to appeal to the public.? This is

Political Consensus.? The parties may

still disagree over certain policies or issues, but on key issues their

policies are very similar.? If a party

was to introduce policies that were outside the consensus, they would lose

popularity and would not be elected.?

This means that governments often continue the policies of their


in policy making is the practice of involving other groups in determining

policies, in addition to the cabinet.?

This may be Trade Unions, pressure groups or other appropriate group.Historically

Britain has enjoyed consensus politics.?

Following the Second World War a consensus between the main political parties

developed.? There was a climate of

co-operation between Labour and Conservatives following their coalition

government during the war and the parties agreed in certain key areas.? Both parties accepted Keynesianism, an

economics system that bridged Capitalism and socialism, arguing for full

employment brought about by government intervention in the economy.? There was cross-party support for the report

by William Beveridge calling for a ?Welfare State?The

Labour government of 1945, led by Clement Atlee introduced policies in six key

areas, which became the foundation for the post-war consensus.? These were – the commitment to full

employment, using Keynesian economic ideas to achieve it.? To have a mixed economy, including both

publicly and privately owned industries.?

The introduction of a ?Welfare State?, with the establishment of the NHS

and benefits for those in need.? The

formalisation of links with Trade Unions, involving them in policy making.? The commitment to reducing the gap between

the rich and poor and to help regions with economic problems.? The commitment to NATO and to make Britain a

nuclear power, maintaining close ties to America.In

1951 the Conservative Party was elected and although there were some minor

changes, they continued the policies of the previous Labour Government.? They only had a very small majority and so

had to rule out any unpopular policies.?

This meant keeping most of Labours policies.? The Conservative Party leadership was moderate and the more

right-wing MPs were marginalised.? The

Tories therefore had no choice or indeed no desire to change the policies

started by Labour.The

Conservative economic policy was so similar to Labour?s previous one that the

phrase ?Butskellism? was coined after R.A. Butler the Tory chancellor and Hugh

Gateskell the chancellor under Labour.? Moderates

succeeded Churchill as Prime Minister and so these consensus policies were

continued.? They remained unchanged when

Labour came to power in 1964.The

consensus policies had remained unchallenged until the 1970?s when they began

to be put under pressure.? When Edward

Heath came to power in 1970, he did so with a commitment to more right-wing

policies, such as curtailing the power of the Unions, reducing state control of

industry and promoting the free market.?

However in 1972 as unemployment rose to over one million and his

policies became less popular he did a ?U-turn?.? He abandoned his right-wing policies and adopted more consensus

policies; he even adopted some left-wing policies such as nationalisation.? However despite continued consultation and

involvement of the Unions, it was the Unions who brought down his government in

1974 with the miner strike.This

followed by a labour government, but they only had a tiny majority of 3 seats.? This meant that the Labour government had to

pursue moderate policies despite pressure to introduce radical left-wing

policies.? It had to give up on

Keynesian economics because of economic problems, causing disputes with

Unions.? This led to the ?Winter of

Discontent?.? This was when public

sector workers brought the country to a stand still by widespread strikes.? They were very unpopular and the public

called for Union power to be curbed.This

spelled the end for the post-war consensus as on the back of this public

dissatisfaction Margaret Thatcher came to power with radical right-wing

policies.? She abandoned Keynesianism in

favour of Monetarism and the free market.?

She severed links with the unions and took away much of their

power.? She did not pursue full

employment, and did not see it as the government?s responsibility to lessen

inequality, instead seeing it as an incentive to work harder.? She was however unable to drastically reform

the welfare state as it had wide spread public support.? Foreign and defence policy was continued

with support for NATO and the nuclear deterrent.? During this time Labour moved further left outside of the

societal consensus, making itself unelectable.?

Mrs Thatcher?s years in government saw much conflict, with social unrest

and inner-city riots in 1981 and 1985 and the Poll-Tax demonstrations in 1989.With

the election of John Major more moderate policies were followed and today a new

consensus has emerged to the right of the previous one, with Tony Blair and his

so called ?Third Way? continuing many policies that would not have seemed out

of place in Thatcher?s or Major?s governments.?

His belief in ?inclusive? politics has seen him abandon many traditional

socialist Labour ideas and adopt traditional Tory ones.? The new consensus could be described as not

an ideological consensus but as a pragmatic consensus, based around individual

issues as they arise rather than deep-seated political beliefs.New

Labours policies of privatising air-traffic control and its commitment to

cutting tax are in line with Tory beliefs, but there are still many points on

which New Labour and the Conservative don?t agree.? The EU and the Euro is a major source of disagreement in British

politics with the Conservatives staunchly Euro-sceptic and against the single

currency with New Labour in favour.?

However even this divisive issue has brought about a consensus, one

between New Labour, the Lib Dems and dissident Tories, in the Britain in Europe


are however many conflicts today in Britain, the obvious one being in Northern

Ireland, with the troubles starting in 1969 and having been a source of serious

conflict ever since.? The violence

between Loyalists and Republicans within Northern Ireland and the IRA terror

campaign on the mainland have been the main threat to Britain?s internal

security for many years.? There are also

many other sources of conflict in Britain today, including the Anti-Hunt lobby

and the Countryside alliance and the Anti-capitalist riot in London in the summer.? There are many organisations that may pose a

threat in the future such as the ALF, Reclaim the Streets and Earth First.? A potential source of future conflict could

be Scottish and Welsh devolution.? This

may in fact weaken the union not strengthen it as English resentment at not

having an English parliament grows and as Scottish and to a lesser extent Welsh

nationalism grows in popularity.Despite

these sources of conflict, British politics tends mostly towards consensus,

since there is an agreement amongst both the public and the major political

parties on the key issues, such as the belief in the existence of a National

Health Service and benefits.? Britain

has a stable government with no risk of being overthrown.? This is because the public recognises the

government?s right to govern even if they don?t agree with what the government

is doing.? The public accepts the

democratic principle and therefore the government has legitimacy.? There is no party that wishes to drastically

change the political system, although New Labour has introduced the reform of

the House of Lords and limited electoral reform, but this is not too

drastic.? This is helped by Britain?s

mainly two party system as this keeps extreme parties out of parliament.? The new consensus does not appear to have

any major opponents and so it is likely to continue well in to the next