The Conservative Party, as is suggested in the name, has throughout its history been associated with a Conservative ideology. However, there are two main types that the party has adopted post-WWII. These are One Nation Conservatism and Thatcherism, or the New right. From 1945 to 1979, the party was a one nation party, but when Margaret Thatcher took over, she created her own ideology, basing the party entirely around her personal views. The effect of her legacy is still seen to this day, with a split in the party between Thatcherites and One Nation Conservatives, which Prime Minister David Cameron describes himself as.
However, whether the party's official policies fit under either of these banners is very much up for discussion. In regards to law and order, the Conservative Party has seen a departure from its traditional stance. While in the past policies have stated that the prison system works and that there should therefore be tougher sentences in order to deter people from crime, there is now an emphasis on rehabilitation, with a reduced number of custodial sentences. This has certainly moved the party to more central policies in this aspect, but is also fairly similar to One Nation Conservatism.
The official Conservative Party stance on human rights has changed significantly under the leadership of David Cameron. Whereas in the past the belief that human rights should be sacrificed for the sake of law and order, the party now says that rights are more important than security, and that they cannot be neglected. This has been seen in there official opposition to the use of ID cards. Conservatives have in the past been strong supporters of a selective secondary education. However, in 2007, their stance officially changed.
The party now supports the creation of different types of educational institutions to cater for the different needs and paths for pupils. Cameron has insisted that the schools should be available to anyone, regardless of social background. This is a massive departure from the traditional acceptance of inequality in society. The term 'social justice' has entered Conservatives vocabulary for the first time, meaning that there is now support for the idea that society has a responsibility to improve the lives of those who are deprived opportunities.
The One Nation view is held in regards to welfare, in that it is available for those who need it. However, it is accepted that claiming welfare should be made more difficult for those unwilling to look for work themselves. Since creating a Government in 2010, Cameron has been emphasising his idea of the 'Big Society'. This idea refers mainly to the chance for communities to take control of their local services through volunteering. It also refers to less state control in many public services.
This is extremely similar to the 'communitarian' policies held by New Labour under Blair and Brown. While one might expect this to mean the party has strayed away from Conservatism, this is actually very similar to Thatcherism in that it implies that it is not the role of the state to fix things and that society as a whole has an obligation to do this. Traditionally, Conservatives have supported tax cuts, even at the expense of public services. However, it is now generally agreed within the party that taxes should be at such a level that public services can be sustained at a good quality.
However, the party stance is also that taxes shouldn't be so high that they put people off working. It remains to be seen whether this is the genuine belief of the majority of the party, or whether it is merely a pragmatic approach. The party now believes, under Cameron's initiatives, that environmental protection must be of the highest priority, but that it is not the sole responsibility of the state to look after it. It is believed that the people must take responsibility, as well as the state, and that they should do all they can to reduce their carbon footprint.
This is a change from the traditional view that the environment is not the highest priority and that over-regulation should not affect the ability for businesses to make as high a profit as possible. Finally, the traditional party stance on the UK's political system has been that reform is completely unnecessary. The argument 'if it ain't broken don't fix it' has been given, meaning that the political system has stood the test of time, so why does it need to be changed?
However, the party now accepts that the people should be able to decide if they wants reform through referendums, and this has been seen in the May referendum on the Alternative Vote. From this, one can see that although the party is definitely moving towards the centre, there are still enough elements from both Thatcherism and One Nation Conservatism to call the party Conservative. However, the party does lack a traditional ideology, and it remains to be seen if they will adopt one or continue using the pragmatic approach in use today.