With the British Conservative Party in crisis, the survival of conservative ideology has come into question. Recent publications by John Gray and Robert Eccleshall have inadvertently added to the confusion which seems inseparable from this most contestable of ideological terms, by failing consistently to distinguish the party from the ideology . The debate will always lack clarity unless some distinction is made. The authors analyse the political ideas of Sir Keith Joseph, in the belief that the terms of debate between Gray and Eccleshall have been too abstract. Although no individual can prove a general thesis, Joseph was both a senior politician and a respected thinker, making him a more representative figure than those usually cited in this context. Joseph's ideas can only be satisfactorily explained by reference to the tradition of nineteenth-century British liberalism. His career provides persuasive evidence in support of Gray's thesis that contemporary British conservatism is 'hollowed out'.