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Union, England and Europe
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This book focuses on the idea of the nation in Conservative Party politics. It represents an attempt to make sense of the way in which flows of sympathy from the past help to shape the changing patterns of Conservatism in the present; it does so by examining one of the party's preoccupations: its claim to be the 'national party'. The first three chapters are concerned mainly with flows of sympathy within Conservatism, the currents of which can still be traced today. The character (or political culture) of the Conservative Party is explored and the significance of the nation in its self-understanding is discussed. The book considers the interconnection of party and patriotism by revisiting one of the key texts for a previous generation, Andrew Gamble's The Conservative Nation. Andrew Gamble believed that Conservative leaders have always been uneasily aware of the fragility of the political raft upon they sail on democratic waters. The book assesses the changing influence on party competition of class and nation, especially how this influences the Conservative Party's electoral identity. It also reflects the impact on the Conservative nation of the British, English and European Questions. A postscript considers the impact of the 2017 general election and makes some final reflections on the party.

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This book provides a digest of the debates about England and Englishness, as well as a unique perspective on those debates. Not only does it provide readers with ready access to and interpretation of the significant literature on ‘The English Question’, but it also enables them to make sense of the political, historical and cultural factors which constitute that question, addressing the condition of England in three interrelated parts. The first part looks at traditional narratives of the English polity and reads them as legends of political Englishness, of England as the exemplary exception, exceptional in its constitutional tradition and exemplary in its political stability. The second part considers how the decay of that legend has encouraged anxieties about English political identity, of how English identity can be recognised within the new complexity of British governance. The third part revisits these legends and anxieties, examining them in terms of the actual and metaphorical ‘locations’ of Englishness: regionalism, Europeanism and Britishness.

Arthur Aughey

When considering the character of the Conservative Party, it was argued that its capacity to achieve office lay in presenting itself as most capable of steering the ship of state on Oakeshott's 'boundless and bottomless sea'. One distinguishing aspect of Conservative Euroscepticism involved redeeming time, and one can detect two distinct but related propositions in their case for Brexit. The first is future and the second is past. Supporting Brexit meant prominent Conservatives involving themselves in a campaign asserting popular sovereignty in order to recover parliamentary sovereignty. The unity of Britain was essential as the negotiation of Brexit proceeded and was more necessary than ever for the credibility of the Conservative Party. David Cameron 'experienced high levels of Conservative parliamentary dissent on Europe' and Heppell thought it was because he was not fully trusted on the issue.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Arthur Aughey

This chapter explores the Conservative conundrum by examining the theme of 'missing England' and what it would mean politically to 'find' England. The possibility of giving distinctive recognition to English interests is considered in two main ways: either a modification of Westminster procedures to permit English votes on English laws or a thorough revision of the constitution to provide for English self-government. Both variations of the Bermuda Triangle effect, missing England and sightings of England, have existed and continue to exist intertwined in Conservative politics. Like Ernest Barker's conclusion on English national character, Conservatives have tended to murmur to themselves that 'the English constitution might be worse, and England, after all, is not a bad country'. The inability to achieve cross-party consensus on England compelled the Conservative leadership to establish a Cabinet committee, chaired by William Hague, in order to formulate the party's own proposals to implement the McKay principle.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Arthur Aughey

This chapter considers the distinctive character of the nation in Conservative political thinking and examines three intimately related aspects of the party's claim to be uniquely 'national'. The first is the notion of the 'constitutional people' which the Conservative Party has defended. The second is the effort to reconcile the party's English and its British identities in national discourse. The third is the historical vocation of Conservatives to maintain the Union. As Julia Stapleton went on to argue, the obstacle to ideas of citizenship as 'multicultural, European, cosmopolitan, and associationalist' was a 'visceral patriotism', rooted in an older tradition of the constitutional people and their customs. There has been an attempt, where possible, to avoid using either 'England' or 'Britain', 'English' or 'British'. Of course the relationship, and the possible tension, between 'English' and 'British' have special significance for the Conservative Party.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Arthur Aughey

The constitution and the nation have been central ideas in Conservative politics. Kitson Clark's view that the constitution had changed 'out of all knowledge' reflected a wider Conservative anxiety about the terms of trade in post-war politics. It was Margaret Thatcher who set in motion the politics of differentiation, in the process attempting to discern afresh the 'national' identity of Conservatism. According to Thatcher in 1986, the purpose of Conservatism was to enable more and more people to own property: Popular capitalism is nothing less than a crusade to enfranchise the many in the economic life of the nation. The political value of one nation is that it associates the Conservative Party with a further proposition, that the party which represents 'one nation' is also the 'natural party of government'. One nation Conservatism became the patriotic alternative to class antagonism, appealing to the nation in the language of historical birthright.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Arthur Aughey

This chapter explores the Conservative understanding of the United Kingdom which was maintained throughout the twentieth century. The old Tory conception of territorial politics became redundant and one is tempted to conclude that the Conservative reconciliation with New Labour's idea of Britain meant that politics had become universally Gladstonian. Those disposed to a revision of the Conservative nation, and who thought that neither high unionism nor continuity conservatism were adequate to the constitutional challenges facing the party, believed that the danger lay in confusing sentimentality with realism. Michael Kenny concluded his study on the matter of English nationhood with a message. The message was: 'a vital struggle over the political soul of Englishness is steadily emerging as the important of the various English questions that need to be faced in British politics'. The chapter identifies some of the elements of that struggle within the Conservative Party.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
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Class and nation
Arthur Aughey

This chapter begins with Vernon Bogdanor's observation that, despite the Conservative victory in the general election of 2015, it was uncertain whether the UK would survive. Generations of Conservatives have claimed that defence of the Union is the fons et origo of the party's purpose. The chapter considers claims about the modification of class politics, the return of the nation and the challenges presented for the Conservative Party. The possibility of reconstructing the Conservative nation by consolidating David Cameron's coalition and by attracting back to the party those who had migrated to UK Independence Party (UKIP) was opened up by the fluidity of class identity. There was potential to release a contemporary version of the Conservative working-class 'angels in marble' which The Times in 1883 had attributed to Benjamin Disraeli's political vision, but it was to be Joseph Chamberlain whose ideas were revisited under May.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
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Conservatism confounded
Arthur Aughey

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book discusses widespread opposition within the Conservative Party to David Cameron's commitment to push through legislation on same-sex marriage. It explains the Brexit commitment which meant that the Conservative Party and a Conservative government no longer seemed the secure bet to reconcile Andrew Gamble's politics of power and politics of support. The book argues that one nation is in the DNA of the party and the codes of 'high unionism' have endured. One may argue that fifty years ago there had been an intimate connection not only in the Conservative imagination between the party as the one nation party and its being the 'natural' party of government, but also in the country's imagination.

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Arthur Aughey

This chapter reflects on the relationship between conservatism as a term historically associated with the nation and with Conservative as a political practice. It is also possible to 'discern' the meaning of 'Conservative' according to the Edmund Burke's expressions: that a party is best understood 'in balances between differences' and in the compromises attending any political enterprise. The chapter considers the identity or culture of the party as a representative institution. In 1912, at the height of the Irish Home Rule crisis, the leadership wanted to drop the word Conservative altogether and rebrand the party exclusively as Unionist. The leadership has done so to demonstrate the party's constitutional and patriotic purpose and also to integrate the associated Liberal Unionist Party. The chapter examines the purpose of Conservative politics according to Burke's 'balances between differences'.

in The Conservative Party and the nation