Tories and Hunters : Swinton College and the landcapes of modern Conservatism

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Black, Lawrence Edward Ian (2014)

For twenty-eight years from 1948 Swinton College was the Conservative Party’s activist training base in North Yorkshire. It was founded by Butler, hosted Heath’s policy ‘away days’ in the late 1960s, promoted the rise of neoliberal ideas and, notwithstanding this, was closed by Thatcher. Housed in Lord Swinton’s stately home, it was also one of Macmillan’s preferred venues for grouse shooting and won the affection of figures like Powell and a generation of activists as a sort of Country Life picture of Englishness. This article merges these political and cultural histories to outline an alternative history of modern Conservatism, both upper and lower-case. It notes the parallels and linkages between the form of Butler’s original conception of the College’s role and Thatcher’s ideological project. It also examines the persistence of the public association between Conservatism and this lifestyle of elite houses, country sports and rural escape – Tories and Hunters. Despite Thatcher’s modernizing aims this association was, if anything, emboldened through the 1980s and after, suggesting limits to the degree of change represented by the New Right.
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