Mark Garnett
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Ideology and the Conservative Party, 1997–2001

In the wake of election defeats in 1970, 1974 and 1979 both the Labour Party and the Conservatives held prolonged inquests into the reasons for their apparent failures in office. The 1975 Conservative leadership contest, in which Edward Heath was defeated by Margaret Thatcher, took place against a background of fierce ideological conflict between what came to be known as economic 'wets' and 'dries'. The nature of British conservatism has been vigorously contested for much of the post-war period, and after the electoral meltdown of 1997 it was reasonable to expect a flurry of impassioned speeches and pamphlets, setting out rival interpretations. Conservative Party practice after 1979 supports the view that electoral recovery need not bear any relation to ideological clarity, or even unity.

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The Conservatives in Crisis

The Tories after 1997

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