Historians and political scientists have deemed the twentieth century 'the Conservative Century', owing to the electoral and cultural dominance of the Conservative Party in Britain. This book traces the relationship among women, gender and the Conservative Party from the 1880s to the present, and thereby seeks to fill that gap. A gender inclusive approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of political machinations, power and the unprecedented popularity of both conservatism and unionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, was regarded as a charismatic, radical figure, who was the co-leader of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a notorious suffrage organization campaigning for the parliamentary vote for women in Edwardian Britain. In 1928 Lady Iveagh, Vice-Chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations (NUCA), claimed that one million women were members of the Conservative Party. The book focuses on how the Primrose League re-made itself for its female members between 1914 and 1932. It shows that the Conservative Party leadership and male candidates were keen to present themselves as the champions of home interests, playing up their family-man credentials against their rowdy electoral culture of Labour. The book also examines inquires how the deliberate choice of middlebrow rhetoric as well as the language of citizenship enabled Conservative women to construct a cross-class language of democracy. It explores British conservatism, highlighting the history of the Tory Party as part of the study of women and their sectional interest in 'the politics of gender'.
Making (a) difference:
building the political machine
If things seem under control, you’re just not going fast enough. (Mario Andretti,
quoted on a sheet of paper pinned to a noticeboard in the local ToryParty office in
Castle Street, Dumfries)
Following the destruction of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party at
the 1997 general election, local Tories were unable to rely on a centralised Party
organisation for direction and support in their preparations for the 2003 Scottish
Parliament and local council elections. Drawing on a much-diminished base
put their own spin on this,
dubbing him ‘William Squitt’.
Fisher’s judgement is only one of many ill-fated generalisations about the
nature of Tory leadership. The dictum that loyalty to a leader was the
Conservative Party’s secret weapon was repeated so often that it lapsed into
a cliché. But it had never been true. Before the advent of economic liberalism
the ToryParty believed in hierarchy, so it was hardly a surprise that its
members should place special emphasis on the leadership role. But the same
doctrine suggested that when a leader seemed unequal to the
-Klein 2002: 50). At the same time, such efforts
mimicked the practices of new organisational elites such as the bureaucrats
and civil servants tasked with running elections.1 Through close observation of
what did and did not happen on Polling Day, ToryParty strategists hoped to
gain an overview of what did or did not work. Such an overview would then
allow the Core Campaign Team to hold individual Party activists and candidates
If someone did not achieve what was projected for them in Mr Duncan’s
spreadsheet, key strategists would at least know where to look
This book is an ethnographic study of devolution and politics in Scotland, as well as of party-political activism more generally. It explores how Conservative Party activists who had opposed devolution and the movement for a Scottish Parliament during the 1990s attempted to mobilise politically following their annihilation at the 1997 General Election. The book draws on fieldwork conducted in Dumfries and Galloway – a former stronghold for the Scottish Tories – to describe how senior Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this crisis included losses of financial and other resources, legitimacy and local knowledge for the Scottish Conservatives. The book ethnographically describes the processes, practices and relationships that Tory Party activists sought to enact during the 2003 Scottish and local government elections. Its central argument is that, having asserted that the difficulties they faced constituted problems of knowledge, Conservative activists cast to the geographical and institutional margins of Scotland became ‘banal’ activists. Believing themselves to be lacking in the data and information necessary for successful mobilisation during Parliamentary elections, local Tory Party strategists attempted to address their knowledge ‘crisis’ by burying themselves in paperwork and petty bureaucracy. Such practices have often escaped scholarly attention because they appear everyday and mundane, and are therefore less noticeable. Bringing them into view analytically has important implications for socio-cultural anthropologists, sociologists and other scholars interested in ‘new’ ethnographic objects, including activism, bureaucracy, democracy, elections and modern knowledge practices.
When members of that oft-maligned institution, the Anglican Church – the 'Tory Party at prayer' – encountered the far-flung settler empire, they found it a strange and intimidating place. Anglicanism's conservative credentials seemed to have little place in developing colonies; its established status, secure in England, would crumble in Ireland and was destined never to be adopted in the 'White Dominions'. By 1850, however, a global ‘Anglican Communion’ was taking shape. This book explains why Anglican clergymen started to feel at home in the empire. Between 1790 and 1860 the Church of England put in place structures that enabled it to sustain a common institutional structure and common set of beliefs across a rapidly-expanding ‘British world’. Though Church expansion was far from being a regulated and coordinated affair, the book argues that churchmen did find ways to accommodate Anglicans of different ethnic backgrounds and party attachments in a single broad-based ‘national’ colonial Church. The book details the array of institutions, voluntary societies and inter-colonial networks that furnished the men and money that facilitated Church expansion; it also sheds light on how this institutional context contributed to the formation of colonial Churches with distinctive features and identities. The colonial Church that is presented in this book will be of interest to more than just scholars and students of religious and Church history. The book shows how the colonial Church played a vital role in the formation of political publics and ethnic communities in a settler empire that was being remoulded by the advent of mass migration, democracy and the separation of Church and state.
Imagined communities in the Conservative Party’s discourse on Europe (1997– 2016)
The freedom of movement within the EU continues to be a hotly contested topic in British politics. This chapter argues that this debate is closely connected to the enlargement of the European Union – most notably the ‘Eastern enlargement’ in 2004. The author explores how the accession of ten new members was discussed by Conservative Party leaders in Parliament in the years preceding the Brexit referendum, asking if EU member states and their citizens were framed as part of a new ‘imagined community’ (Benedict Anderson), or as culturally different outsiders. The analysis reveals that while the support for EU enlargement endured throughout the researched years, Tory party leaders, even when in opposition, exclusively emphasised the economic benefits of enlargement for Britain. This only changed in 2011 when UKIP had successfully put immigration on the agenda. Subsequently, a major shift occurred from highlighting benefits to the national interest to calls for stricter border control and active discouragement of migration.
Return of the lesser-spotted Tory
‘Politics has changed and politics is changing.’ (South of Scotland Conservative
MSP Alex Fergusson, addressing local ToryParty activists in February 2003)
In this chapter I will briefly sketch some of the incidents that took place in the
aftermath of the 2003 elections to ask whether local Conservatives had successfully addressed their crisis of irrelevance. One question with which senior Tories
sought to grapple was what, if anything, had changed as a result of their campaign? With much resting on the reading of a letter
Chapter 2, I discuss how the
ToryParty similarly continued to exercise a presence in the imaginations of their
opponents despite their apparent absence from local and national politics in
Scotland after 1997.
Annelise Riles (2001) explores similar questions in her groundbreaking and
innovative ethnography of Fijian human rights activists participating in the UN
Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Focusing on those social practices that are constitutive of international networking, she draws on the work of
Marilyn Strathern (1988, 1992, 1996) in particular to
This book examines the impact that nostalgia has had on the Labour Party’s political development since 1951. In contrast to existing studies that have emphasised the role played by modernity, it argues that nostalgia has defined Labour’s identity and determined the party’s trajectory over time. It outlines how Labour, at both an elite and a grassroots level, has been and remains heavily influenced by a nostalgic commitment to an era of heroic male industrial working-class struggle. This commitment has hindered policy discussion, determined the form that the modernisation process has taken and shaped internal conflict and cohesion. More broadly, Labour’s emotional attachment to the past has made it difficult for the party to adjust to the socioeconomic changes that have taken place in Britain. In short, nostalgia has frequently left the party out of touch with the modern world. In this way, this book offers an assessment of Labour’s failures to adapt to the changing nature and demands of post-war Britain.