Introduction
The Conservative Party and electoral failure
in Reconstructing conservatism?
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This chapter introduces the subject of study, outlines why it is important, and sets out the key questions that inform the rest of the book. These are: why has it taken the Conservative Party so long to get back into a position to challenge for power? After landslide defeat in 1997, why was it (seemingly) so slow to adapt, reposition itself and begin rebuilding its support? And finally, how and why has this situation apparently been reversed under the leadership of David Cameron? The chapter argues that addressing these issues requires an assessment of party strategy over an extended period, so that contemporary developments can be adequately contextualised.

The bulk of the introduction situates the book in relation to the existing literature on Conservative politics. This is characterised as falling into two broad categories: a historical tradition which has emphasised the role of pragmatic elite leadership, and a Marxist-inspired analytical tradition which has emphasised the institutionalised sources of Conservative power. Contemporary analyses of the Conservatives in opposition since 1997 are then reviewed, and both the value and limitations of this literature are discussed.

Reconstructing conservatism?

The Conservative Party in opposition, 1997–2010

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