The Conservative Party in opposition, 1997–2010
Author: Richard Hayton

Why did it take the Conservative Party so long to recover power? After a landslide defeat in 1997, why was it so slow to adapt, reposition itself and rebuild its support? How did the party leadership seek to reconstruct conservatism and modernise its electoral appeal?

This highly readable book addresses these questions through a contextualised assessment of Conservative Party politics between 1997 and 2010. By tracing the debates over strategy amongst the party elite, and scrutinising the actions of the leadership, it situates David Cameron and his ‘modernising’ approach in relation to that of his three immediate predecessors: Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague. This holistic view, encompassing this period of opposition in its entirety, aids the identification of strategic trends and conflicts and a comprehension of the evolving Conservative response to New Labour’s statecraft.

Secondly, the book considers in depth four particular dilemmas for contemporary Conservatism: European integration; national identity and the ‘English Question’; social liberalism versus social authoritarianism; and the problems posed by a neo-liberal political economy. The book argues that the ideological legacy of Thatcherism played a central role in framing and shaping these intraparty debates, and that an appreciation of this is vital for explaining the nature and limits of the Conservatives’ renewal under Cameron.

Students of British politics, party politics and ideologies will find this volume essential reading, and it will also be of great interest to anyone concerned with furthering their understanding of contemporary British political history.

‘Cameronism’ in context
Richard Hayton

8 Reconstructed conservatism? ‘Cameronism’ in context This book has focused on the Conservative Party leadership in opposition, between 1997 and 2010. The aim was to comprehend and explain the strategies employed by elite party actors in this period, in order to develop a better understanding of the Conservatives’ electoral performance. The question underlying this study was a simple one: why did it take the Conservatives so long to recover power? The answer is rather more complex, but the book has argued that the ideological legacy of Thatcherism played a

in Reconstructing conservatism?
Richard Hayton

7 The political economy of twenty-first-century conservatism Introduction This chapter argues that the political economy of twenty-first-century conservatism has remained firmly within neo-liberal parameters. The endurance of neo-liberalism in the Conservative Party was illustrated by the response offered to the financial crisis of 2007–8 and the subsequent recession, which was characterised by an overriding concern about the size of the fiscal deficit. However, the ideological hold of Thatcherism on Conservative economic thinking can be traced throughout the

in Reconstructing conservatism?
Open Access (free)
Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Conservatism is one of the major intellectual and political strains of thought in Western culture over the last two centuries. Originating as something of a ‘reaction’ to the radical, liberal and, later, socialist movements during the early period of industrialisation in Britain and Europe, conservatism remains a powerful ideological force in Western societies today. We explore

in Understanding political ideas and movements
Conservative cultures and the challenge of mass politics in early twentieth-century England
Author: David Thackeray

This book offers a new interpretation of the Conservative party’s revival and adaptation to democratic politics in the early twentieth century, a period in which the British electorate more than tripled in size.

We cannot appreciate the Conservatives’ unique success in British politics without exploring the dramatic cultural transformation which occurred within the party during the early decades of the century. This was a seminal period in which key features of the modern Conservative party emerged: a mass women’s organisation, a focus on addressing the voter as a consumer, targeted electioneering strategies, and the use of modern media to speak to a mass audience. New insights are provided into how the Conservatives met the challenges provided by class, gender and regional identities and the means by which the party adapted to innovations made by their opponents. Rather than offering a conventional party political history, this book provides the first substantial attempt to assess the Conservatives’ adaptation to democracy across the early twentieth century from a cultural perspective.

This book will appeal to academics and students with an interest in the history of political communication, gender and class in modern Britain.

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Late-twentieth-century conservatism in context
Richard Hayton

2 Thatcher’s legacy: late-twentieth-century conservatism in context It was a totally no win situation. (Lord Parkinson, private interview, 2006) Introduction In 1997 the Conservative Party faced dual crises: an ideological crisis of the purpose of conservatism, and an electoral crisis of the politics of support. This chapter explores the context faced by the new leader of the opposition through an examination of both of these dimensions. Whilst these can be distinguished for analytical purposes, the two are inextricably linked. The chapter argues that these

in Reconstructing conservatism?
Leadership strategy in opposition, 1997–2005
Richard Hayton

over the direction and purpose of conservatism contributed to the difficulties the party experienced in terms of developing a new programme and narrative to combat New Labour’s appeal. This chapter develops this argument through an examination of leadership strategy under William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. It contends that the dominance of neo-Thatcherism within the party limited its capacity for strategic re-orientation and electoral recovery: the Conservatives could not simply relocate themselves in the ‘centre-ground’ median voter position. The

in Reconstructing conservatism?
Richard Hayton

1970s. This view ‘rejected the pluralism of traditional Conservatism, taking from Enoch Powell the idea of the supreme importance of Parliament as the sovereign decision-maker, with the elected executive at its pinnacle’ (Smith, 1999: 188). This perspective continues to underpin the predominant Conservative position, that European integration threatens to undermine national sovereignty and with it the integrity of the state and the legitimacy of its institutions. In this sense, the current Conservative view of the state is a traditional and rather inflexible variant

in Reconstructing conservatism?
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Class and nation
Arthur Aughey

4 Conservatism: class and nation In an interview with the Daily Telegraph (Wallop 2015) shortly before the 2015 general election, the eminent psephologist Sir David Butler was asked who would win. For the first time in seventy years he was unwilling to make a prediction because, he conceded, there were too many possible outcomes. This admission of doubt captured well a moment when previous assumptions about British politics no longer appeared adequate to explain either motivations or events. Butler, along with his co-author Donald Stokes, had written one of the

in The Conservative Party and the nation
Ideology and values
Richard Hayton

2 Constructing a new conservatism? Ideology and values Richard Hayton Introduction Following three severe election defeats, the Conservatives elected David Cameron as leader on an explicitly modernising platform. His agenda for change encompassed revitalising the Party image through a concerted effort to rebrand the Party, an extensive review of policy and ideological repositioning towards the centre ground. While these three strands are of course intertwined, this chapter will focus on the last, namely the attempt to distance the Conservatives from the legacy

in David Cameron and Conservative renewal