„Vor politik er den eneste liberale“. Konservatismens liberalisering 1947-1959
„Our policy is the only liberal one“. The „liberalization“ of Danish conservatism 1947–1959
The early postwar years had witnessed Danish Conservatives position themselves as a centrist force – One Nation Conservatives – avoiding close alignment to the right. Yet in the period from 1947 to 1959, the Conservative People’s Party realigned itself and formed a close political alliance with the agrarian liberal party Venstre, together becoming the focal point of centre-right opposition to the Social Democrats and in turn to the nascent welfare state. The process was initially legitimized pragmatically and had been rife with conflict because many conservatives understood themselves to be different from not only socialism but also liberalism. Yet, Conservative political leader Ole Bjørn Kraft understood the political value of cooperating with Venstre and, hence, gently maneouvered the party into a position that both sides saw as acceptable. However, the realignment was soon interpreted as the expression of a deeper ideological affinity between conservatism and liberalism, and, after the first conservative–liberal government 1950–1953, it grew hard to distinguish between the two ideologies. Leading conservatives even embraced the adjective „liberal“ to describe the ideas of the Conservative People’s Party. This process of „liberalization“ was also evident in the rhetoric surrounding the staunch Conservative opposition to the welfare state from the middle of the 1950’s under the leadership of Aksel Møller and Poul Sørensen. Leading conservatives even entertained ideas of a fusion between the two parties. The realignment of the Conservative People’s Party was thus more than political maneouvering: it amounted to a transformation of conservative ideology that even questioned the notion of conservatism as an independent ideological position. The ensuing ideological confusion was strengthened by a parallel process of secularization in society as well as in politics, where traditional notions of order and morality waned as emphasis was placed on individual autonomy.