What is 'the right' in British politics?
The main right ideas in the British tradition are:-
- A free market is the most successful way of generating economic wealth and government intervention, except to prevent monopolies taking over a market and for basic safeguards, is always harmful and distorts the market. Since the 1980s this argument has been extended by ideas from the New Right to deregulate markets as far as possible but also to apply market principles to public services, such as health, housing, education and refuse collection. Where possible the actual provision of services should be contracted out by central and local government to firms who will provide the service more efficiently. If this is not feasible then an internal market should be created so that schools compete for pupils and hospital trusts for patients’ operations. Public expenditure must be controlled otherwise it will, through taxation, take up resources that could be used by private investment to create wealth.
- Some inequality is inevitable. State intervention to create equality infringes on private property and stifles entrepreneurs who are the creators of wealth. Wealth that is created by entrepreneurs through the market trickles down to all groups in society so that living standards are raised for all even though relative inequality between groups may remain.
- The State should not interfere with people’s lives and so attempts to control aspects of it infringe individual freedom. On the other hand, there has been, on the right, a view of the need for a Strong State. Where people have not met their responsibilities in society then there should be a strict law and order policy enforced by the police with the use of prison sentences to deter future criminal activity or the eviction of tenants who cause problems.
- Conservative ideas stress the need for limited change in the institutions that make up society so that they gradually evolve and adapt to change as opposed to wholesale reform. Thus Conservatives have supported the continuation of the House of Lords rather than wholesale reform and originally opposed the devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales. Conservatives also argue that it is important to have a range of institution between the State and the Individual and independent of the State, such as voluntary organisations, churches and professional bodies. This is the basis of Cameron’s Big Society idea by which these institutions would take over the running of some services from the State.
- The right stresses national interest rather than international intervention for idealistic reasons. Britain’s national economic and security interests should be paramount in foreign policy. Although the then Conservative leader, Iain Duncan-Smith led most Conservative MPs to support Tony Blair as Prime Minister over the invasion of Iraq, many senior Conservatives such as Hurd and Clarke, former Foreign Secretaries, and Edward Heath, former Prime Minister, made it clear that they did not think that Britain’s interests were affected by Iraq. Although Cameron followed similar interventionist ideas to Blair to justify action in Libya, he has been more cautious in relation to Syria and used arguments of national interest.