This chapter provides an assessment of some of the most important streams of political thinking in the UK between 2010 and 2015. Most political commentary tends to home in on the personalities, factions and tactics that figure in the daily political battle. But this makes it harder to see the broader ideological patterns which shape perceptions of, and thinking within, politics, and that ultimately provide essential resources which enable political behaviour. In order to bring these into view, we need to take several steps backwards to get a better sight of the language, concepts and ideas that actors – be they politicians, parties, campaigning groups, think tanks or citizens – employ when they are formulating plans, justifying their actions and arguing with opponents. Political ideologies are best seen as fluid webs of belief that offer flexible, but familiar, maps of the political world, and furnish the conceptual language that make possible the many ‘speech acts’ that lie at the heart of politics (Freeden 1998). Academic specialists disagree profoundly about whether traditional ideologies, like conservatism and socialism, have disappeared as a source of ideas and allegiance in British politics, with some viewing the current era as a post-ideological one, and others stressing the ubiquitous and shifting character of ideological patterns in political life.
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