Keith Joseph

British barrister and politician (1918-1994)

Sir Keith Sinjohn Joseph, Baron Joseph, Bt, CH, PC (17 January 191810 December 1994) was a British barrister, politician, and Conservative Cabinet Minister under three different Ministries.



  • Perhaps there is at work here a process, apparent in many situations but imperfectly understood, by which problems reproduce themselves from generation to generation. If I refer to this as a cycle of deprivation.
    • Speech to Pre-school playgroups association (29 June 1972), quoted in Local Government Review, Vol. 136, p. 617
  • It was only in April 1974 that I was converted to Conservatism. (I had thought I was a Conservative but I now see that I was not really one at all.)
    • Keith Joseph, Reversing the Trend: A Critical Reappraisal of Conservative Economic and Social Policies (Barry Rose, 1975).
  • The question we must all ask ourselves is how Mr. Benn was able to come within striking distance of the very heart of our economic life in the first place... an important part of the answer must be that our industry, economic life and society have been so debilitated by 30 years of Socialistic fashions that their very weakness tempts further inroads. The path to Benn is paved with 30 years of interventions: 30 years of good intentions: 30 years of disappointments. These have led the collectivists to say that we are failing only because we are taking half measures. The reality is that for 30 years the private sector of our economy has been forced to work with one hand tied behind its back by government and unions. Socialist measures and Socialist legacies have weakened free enterprise.
  • We are now more Socialist in many ways than any other developed country outside the Communist bloc—in the size of the public sector, the range of controls and the telescoping of net income. And what is the result? Compare our position today with that of our neighbours in north west Europe—Germany, Sweden, Holland, France. They are no more talented than we are. Yet, compared with them, we have the longest working hours, the lowest pay and the lowest production per head. We have the highest taxes and the lowest investment. We have the least prosperity, the most poor and the lowest pensions. We have the largest nationalized sector and the worst labour troubles.
  • Yes, we have to get economics back into proportion, as one aspect of politics, important but never really the main thing. This may be unfashionable, indeed anti-fashionable, because it is the current intellectual fashions which have wrought so much havoc in this country.
  • The balance of our population, our human stock is threatened. A recent article in Poverty, published by the Child Poverty Action Group, showed that a high and rising proportion of children are being born to mothers least fitted to bring children into the world and to bring them up. They are born to mothers who were first pregnant in adolescence in socio-economic classes IV and V.
    • Speech in Birmingham (19 October 1974), quoted in "Speech seen as attempt to swing party to right", The Times, 21 October 1974, p. 1. The speech called for a "remoralization" of Britain but ended Joseph's chance of winning the Conservative leadership owing to criticism of Joseph's link between births to working-class mothers and promoting birth control.
  • I thought I was a Conservative. I thought I was a Conservative, but all the time I was in favour of... I was in favour of shortcuts to Utopia. I was in favour of the government doing things, because I was so impatient for good things to be done.
    • Interview in 1975, broadcast in "The Commanding Heights: The Battle of Ideas", PBS.
  • Making the rich poorer does not make the poor richer, but it does make the state stronger—and it does increase the power of officials and politicians, power more menacing, more permanent and less useful than market power within the rule of law. Inequality of income can only be eliminated at the cost of freedom. The pursuit of income equality will turn this country into a totalitarian slum.
    • Keith Joseph, Stranded on the Middle Ground? Reflections on Circumstances and Policies (Centre for Policy Studies, 1976).
  • Keynes was certainly not a Keynesian.
    • Stockton Lecture ("Monetarism Is Not Enough") 1976
  • We are over-governed, over-spent, over-taxed, over-borrowed and over-manned.
    • Stockton Lecture ("Monetarism Is Not Enough") 1976
  • Monetarism is not enough.
    • Stockton Lecture ("Monetarism Is Not Enough") 1976
  • Low output a man, which is what overmanning comes to, means low pay a man. Overmanning does not protect British jobs except in the short-term. The jobs protected by it are German and Japanese jobs. Overmanning is a large part of the British disease and the Labour Government actually encourages it. The industrial strategy, a verbal smokescreen, may blather on about being competitive but nearly every action taken under it involves a subsidy from the taxpayer to overmanning.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton (12 October 1978), quoted in The Times (13 October 1978), p. 6


  • We need to develop within our children and young people the capacity to respect the cultures and beliefs of the different groups that make up our society; and we need to develop the resolve to treat each other justly. Secondly, we must eliminate, so far as any society can, the under-achievement of many of our children and young people from all sections of the community. We need to raise the performance of all pupils and to tackle the obstacles to higher achievement which are common to all. But we also need to tackle those special factors which additionally may contribute to the under-achievement of many members of our ethnic minorities.
    • Speech in London (20 May 1986).
  • The entrepreneur is the person who seeks to identify what consumers, at home or abroad or both, want and would be willing to buy at a profitable price. These entrepreneurs are the job-creators because it is they who gather the men and women, the material, the machinery, and the money to turn the vision of a market into a reality.
    • in 1986 introduction to Self-Help, Samuel Smiles originally published in 1859.


  • All my life, I thought I was a Conservative. Now I know that I have never been one. The scales have dropped from my eyes.
    • Obituary, The Independent, Monday 12 December 1994.

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