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Twentieth Century British politics was dominated by two parties, Conservative and Labour, each accustomed to delivering policies and programmes, the products of internal argument and ideological debate, with little thought or reflection upon what the voters might actually want or need. Both parties remained rooted in an inflexible class structure which by the 1970s was in an advanced state of decay. Increasingly affluent and better educated, ‘the people' became more assertive and demanding while the expanding print and electronic media made politics more accessible by facilitating and accelerating popular and populist themes. No longer passive recipients of class-based support the parties became obliged to supply policies designed to meet electoral demand. The political arena began to display the characteristics of a commercial marketplace with the people, the voters, cast in the role of demanding ‘consumers' and parties the suppliers of policy ‘product'. This presented politicians with an uncomfortable choice between the purity of ideas and the pursuit of power, between supply side ‘top down' ideology or demand-led, ‘bottom up' pragmatism in the market for votes. This paper seeks to analyse the tensions between the complacent paternalism and supply driven culture of the Labour and Conservative parties and the demands of an electorate, ever more politically engaged and aware. It investigates the timing and nature of their response to the new paradigm and the influence of an increasingly professional and commercial approach to political marketing and communications in the final quarter of the twentieth century.
Born and educated in York, I qualified by practice and correspondence course as a Chartered Surveyor in 1971 and spent my career in Commercial Real Estate, initially for 10 years in the public sector in the North East of England and 32 years in private practice in London. Prior to retirement in 2009 I held the positions of Group Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of DTZ Holdings plc a global property services business listed on the London Stock Exchange. Between 2008-2012 I was Non-Executive Chairman of Aukett Fitzroy Robinson plc an architectural services practice listed on the Alternative investment Market. I enrolled as a part-time student at Kingston in 2009 studying for a BA in History graduating in 2015 whereupon I commenced a MA in History graduating in 2017. I am married with 4 grown up children and my wife and I live in Hampton South West London.