The idea of a ‘Right to Buy’ for council house tenants originated after 1945 as part of the Conservative attempt to build a ‘property-owning democracy’; however, it was deemed inappropriate and of doubtful political value by party elites until Conservative councils enacted profitable local sales schemes during the late 1960s. This article argues that the success of the ‘Right to Buy’ was contingent on the changing socio-economic context of the post-war decades, and determined by the specific nature of the British housing market. The expansion of working-class owner-occupation, and changes to the public and private rental sectors, created the conditions in which the ‘Right to Buy’ idea was liberated from its immediate post-war constraints. The article provides evidence of the deeper origins of ‘Thatcherite’ policies within the post-war Conservative Party, and suggests that the post-war ‘consensus’ was a soft set of political parameters that were easily discarded once new political possibilities arose out of a changing electorate.
- Property-owning Democracy