16th – 17th April at Newcastle University
The Fourth Annual Thatcher Network Conference
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Political Secretary to the Prime Minister (2016-19)
We invite abstracts (for papers lasting 20 minutes) by Friday 6th March
The general election of 2019 saw the Conservative Party win more seats than in any election since 1987, while Labour’s performance under Jeremy Corbyn was worse than even that of Michael Foot in 1983. These two references – to Thatcher and to Foot – were used repeatedly on the televised election night coverage to put into historical context an exit poll prediction that neither party fully anticipated.
ITV responded to the Conservatives’ success, and to the scale of Labour’s defeat, by displaying the headline “Biggest Tory Majority Since Thatcher” seconds after showing the exit poll. Sky News’ presenters similarly declared that Boris Johnson had obtained “a majority of Thatcherite proportions” and had become “the most successful Conservative Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher”.
But many of the Conservatives’ gains were in former mining communities which have long been Labour strongholds, like County Durham, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire (where a former Labour supporting miner was elected a Conservative MP). While the scale of the victory was deemed “Thatcherite”, what does the Conservatives’ success in such areas say about the party’s current relationship with Thatcherism?
Electoral success aside, the policies of this new government have also been branded “Thatcherite”. Labour figures like Richard Burgon have written about the new Prime Minister’s intention to usher in “Thatcherism 2.0”. But Boris Johnson’s commitment to increased public spending and a larger, more interventionist state may indicate a direction for the Conservatives under his leadership that is not strictly “Thatcherite”. What will happen to the key economic tenets of Thatcherism under a Johnson government?
Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine’s conclusion that the election result renders Brexit inevitable raises questions about the origins of a debate that goes back to (and precedes) his and Thatcher’s time in office. How are we to view Thatcher’s contribution – either direct or in terms of influence and inspiration – to the Conservatives’ evolution into a party now fully committed to withdrawal from the EU?
30 years after her resignation, the 2020 annual Thatcher Network conference invites scholars of Thatcher and Thatcherism (from all academic disciplines) and political commentators to share and discuss new research and ideas about Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and subsequent legacy. We welcome proposals focusing upon all aspects of “Thatcher studies”: papers do not need to be linked to the 2019 election.
Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words (for papers lasting 20 minutes) and a brief biography (50 words max.) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 6th March 2020.
Women and speakers from groups underrepresented within academia are strongly encouraged to submit. Speakers at this conference will be invited to contribute to our next edited collection of essays. Our first, Thatcherism in the 21st Century, will be published will Palgrave Macmillan in 2020.