One-Nation Conservatism

 

One-Nation Conservatism One-Nation Conservatism

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Contents
Table of contents

    Before we get started, let's clear up what we mean by One-Nation Conservatism.

    Definition of One Nation Conservatism

    As the name suggests, One-Nation Conservatism is an offshoot of Conservatism ideology. At the very centre, One-Nation Conservatism places an emphasis on the interconnectedness of a society which collectively forms a nation.

    One-nation Conservatism

    A form of conservative ideology which advocates for the importance of a society working together as part of one nation.

    As an ideology, One-Nation Conservatism can be described as reactionary. For example, in its inception, One-Nation Conservatism was developed to respond to the challenges of socialism, class conflict and free-market capitalism. As a reactionary ideology, it is important to note, that One-Nation Conservatism has evolved over time to adapt to the different political challenges and economic issues. We will take a deep dive into the different applications of One-Nation Conservatism later on in the article.

    One-Nation Conservatism ideology

    The ideological foundations of One-Nation Conservatism originated from Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) who used to be a chief Conservative spokesman and then went on to become Prime Minister in February 1868. In his novel Sybil (1845), Disraeli critically examined the class relationship between the wealthy elites and the working classes in Britain. Disraeli consequently stated that they were “as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were … inhabitants of different planets.”1

    One-Nation Conservatism Photograph of Prime Minister Disraeli StudySmarterFig. 1 Prime Minister Disraeli


    Owing to Disraeli's influence on One-Nation Conservatism, the ideology is also commonly referred to as "One-Nation Disraeli".

    During Disraeli’s term in government, the One-Nation Conservatism ideology was a cornerstone in shaping and informing policy. In particular, a number of significant social reforms were passed by the British parliament.

    An example of one of Disraeli's One-Nation Conservative policies includes the Employers and Workmen Act of 1875. Which attempted to put both "masters" and "men" on a more equal footing in the workplace.

    Under Disraeli's government, the 10 hour working day was also introduced to improve the well-being of the working classes.

    The Tory party, unless it is a national party, is nothing" - Disraeli, 1872

    One-Nation Conservatism ideology and Paternalism

    Paternalism is a key aspect of One-Nation Conservatism ideology. When applied in politics, Disraeli advocated for the ruling elite to govern in the best interests of the wider population, arguing it was in the collective interests of everyone. Such an approach forms the basis of One-Nation Conservatism, as Disraeli observed that the interconnectedness of society meant that an issue amongst the working classes resulted in a widespread impact across a whole nation.

    Therefore, according to Disraeli’s vision, the ruling class had an obligation to look out for the lower classes to provide social stability. Consequently, it would also deter the birth of revolutionary consciousness amongst the working classes and ensure greater societal stability.

    An example of a paternalist One-Nation Conservatism includes building safety nets for unemployed citizens to protect them from extreme poverty.

    One-Nation Conservatism beliefs and principles

    One Nation Conservatism is an ideology based on conservative, paternalist and nationalist principles. While emphasising the need for a strong state, ideologically, One-Nation Conservatives advocate for the importance of the individual and therefore, oppose the state interfering in the lives of its citizens.

    One-Nation Conservatives advocate for the role of the state to provide a stable and strong government but to resist any actions which would seek to extinguish the individual rights of citizens.

    For example, One-nation conservative and former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill opposed the introduction of personal ID cards during World War II, arguing they were an infringement on people's individual freedom.

    Having considered the ideological foundations of One-Nation Conservatism, the key principles of this ideology centre on paternalism; stable and strong government; and the preservation of personal freedoms.

    One Nation Conservatism application

    So we've considered what One-Nation Conservatism looks like in theory, well now it's time to look at this ideology in action!

    The concept and the application of One-Nation Conservatism has evolved since Benjamin Disraeli coined it in 1837. Owing to the evolutionary nature of this ideology, the Economist goes as far to say that One-Nation Conservatism “changed confusingly over the years”2.

    Below we will take a whistle-stop tour of some of the most influential One-Nation Conservative leaders, considering how they have each uniquely applied this ideology.

    Lord Salisbury, Disraeli’s successor, became Prime Minister in 1895. Salisbury applied Disraeli's ideological approach, however, deviated from concentrating on classes and rather sought to unite a strong and stable society under the banner of a united kingdom.

    Additionally, Salisbury also placed a strong emphasis on the importance of individual freedoms within the context of a stable societal order.

    One-Nation Conservatism Photograph of Lord Salisbury StudySmarter

    Fig. 2 Lord Salisbury

    After all, the great characteristic of this country is that it is a free country, and by a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like." - Salisbury, 1883

    From the 1940s, we can see that the term changed for the age of the welfare state. This marker a new era of One-Nation Conservative paternalism. The Conservative Party continued to embody the philosophy throughout the post-war consensus from 1945. As well as the formation of a welfare state, one-nation thinking also influenced the formation of the NHS.

    These policies highlight the One-Nation Conservative principle of providing political and economic support to working-class people to ensure a stable society.

    My government will legislate in the interests of everyone in the country. It will adopt a one-nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together.” - Cameron, 2015

    For instance, in 2010 Cameron's coalition government introduced austerity measures, causing cuts to public sector spending and therefore having an impact on a number of essential health, welfare and education services, to name just a few.

    The policy of austerity continued for a decade in the UK, hitting those most vulnerable in society and leading to an estimated 50,000 deaths during Cameron's years as Prime Minister. Such a statistic undermines Cameron's credentials as a paternalism practising One-Nation Conservative.

    One-Nation Conservatism remains a significant and influential ideology in UK politics. For instance, in 2019 a new caucus, the One Nation Group, was established. This group enjoys the support of 60 Conservative MPs, almost a fifth of the Conservative parliamentary party.

    In a declaration, the One Nation Group described the key ideological beliefs of contemporary One-Nation Conservatives to centre on:

    1. Active global leadership
    2. Social responsibility
    3. Localism
    4. Environmental Stewardship
    5. A "United" Kingdom

    Boris Johnson and One Nation Conservatism

    As evidenced in Johnson's speeches and throughout the 2019 election campaign, it is clear that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to identify with the One-Nation Conservatism ideology.

    • Firstly, throughout the 2019 election campaign, Johnson pledged repeatedly to lead a “One Nation Conservative administration”.

    • In the days following the election, Boris Johnson repeatedly pledged to fashion a “one-nation government”.

    • Following the 2019 election result, newly elected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson stated: “we must recognise the incredible reality that we now speak as a One-nation Conservative party literally for everyone from Woking to Workington; from Kensington, I'm proud to say, to Clwyd South; from Surrey Heath, to Sedgefield; from Wimbledon to Wolverhampton”3.

    • Johnson alluded to his paternalistic One-Nation Conservative policy priorities by highlighting his commitment to strengthening the NHS and opening new accessible hospital facilities within his campaign pledges.

    One-Nation Conservatism - Key takeaways

    • The term itself originated from Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) who used to be a chief Conservative spokesman and then went on to become Prime Minister in February 1868.

    • One-nation Conservatism is a type of British political Conservatism. Ideologically, conservatives who follow this school of thought believe the role of the state is to provide a stable and strong government and should never do anything which would seek to extinguish the individual rights of citizens.

    • The key principles of this ideology centre on paternalism; stable and strong government; and the preservation of personal freedoms.

    • The concept and the application of One-Nation Conservatism has evolved since Benjamin Disraeli coined it in 1837. One-Nation Conservatism has evolved over time to adapt to the different political challenges and economic issues.

    • Today contemporary One-Nation Conservatism remains an influential political ideology in the UK. The One Nation Group enjoys the support of 60 Conservative MPs.

    References

    1. B. Disraeli, Sybil, 1845
    2. Bagehot, A brief history of one-nation Conservatism, 2017
    3. Election results 2019: Boris Johnson's victory speech in full, 13 December 2019
    4. Fig. 3 David Cameron outside No 10 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_Cameron_outside_No_10.jpg) by UK Government (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/scottish-independence-referendum-statement-by-the-prime-minister) licensed by OGL v1.0 (https://nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/) on Wikimedia Commons
    Frequently Asked Questions about One-Nation Conservatism

    What is one nation conservatism?

    As the name suggests, One-Nation Conservatism is an offshoot of Conservatism. At its core, One-Nation Conservatism places an emphasis on the interconnectedness of a society which collectively forms a nation. The term "One-Nation Conservative" originated from former Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). 

    How does one-nation conservatism differ from traditional conservatism?

    One-Nation Conservatism differs from traditional conservatism due to its paternalist aspect. 


    Key One-Nation Conservative thinker, Benjamin Disraeli, argued that it was in the interests of the ruling elite to adopt a stance of paternalism towards those less fortunate. Such an approach forms the basis of One-Nation Conservatism, as Disraeli observed that the interconnectedness of society meant that an issue amongst the working classes resulted in a widespread impact across a whole nation. Therefore, according to Disraeli’s vision,  the ruling class had an obligation to look out for the lower classes to provide social stability. 

    What type of conservative is Boris Johnson?

    Throughout the 2019 election campaign, Johnson pledged repeatedly to lead a “One Nation Conservative administration”. 

    Is Theresa May a One Nation Conservative?

    Since coming to power as Prime Minister in 2016, May publically referred to herself as a "one nation conservative". 

    Who is in the One Nation Tory Group?

    In 2019 a new caucus, the One Nation Group, was established. This group enjoys the support of 60 Conservative MPs, almost a fifth of the Conservative parliamentary party. 

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