R. A. Butler was one of the most influential and yet enigmatic of twentieth century politicians. He did more than anyone to stimulate the revival of post-war Conservatism, which led to three consecutive general election victories. He was a powerful figure in all Conservative Cabinets from 1951 to 1964, serving in each of the three main offices of state, and he nearly became Prime Minister twice. This thesis seeks to challenge the commonly held belief that the post-war Conservative policies developed by Butler represented an acceptance of the mixed-economy welfare-state, as established by the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951. The weakness of the Conservatives' electoral position had led Butler to accept the need for state intervention in the economy and social policy in the late 1940s. However, in the various positions occupied by Butler after 1951, he pursued a distinctive course in economic and social policy. He sought to reclaim a far greater role for private enterprise, individual initiative and responsiblity; the traditional themes of Tory philosophy. This involved the creation of a free-enterprise economy and an 'opportunity' as opposed to a 'welfare' state. Butler's reputation for ambiguity, evasiveness and indecision obscured this political achievement at the time - playing a part in his failure to gain the Party leadership - and his record has not been recognised by biographers and historians subsequently.

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