Richard Hayton
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National identity and the English question
in Reconstructing conservatism?
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Devolution and immigration present difficult questions for the Conservatives in the politics of nationhood, testing the viability of Thatcherite conceptions of national identity. This chapter explores the Conservative Party’s conception of national identity in the contemporary context of the emergence of a stronger and more visible sense of Englishness: the so-called ‘English Question’. As a way of exposing this dilemma, party policy on devolution and immigration since 1997 is mapped out. In the light of these two areas, the chapter considers the Conservatives’ reluctant drift towards becoming an English party. It concludes that the Conservatives betrayed a lack of confidence in their conception of nationhood, which is significant as traditionally it forms a central aspect of both their identity and their electoral appeal. How this relates to Cameron’s modernisation project is also explored.

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Reconstructing conservatism?

The Conservative Party in opposition, 1997–2010


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