UK party leaders are ‘preeminent’, but can also be ‘predominant’: Cameron and the Conservatives, 2005–2010
- 159 Downloads
The power of the party leader, because it is such a moveable feast, is hard to measure, understand or theorise. This article, using Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative party in opposition as a case study, contends that the modern party leader (singular) can play by far the leading role within their party and parliamentary leadership (plural). Opposition party leaders have the potential to be powerful (that is they will be ‘preeminent’) because they (1) lead the ‘shadow government’; (2) have the right of proposal and veto over party policy and electoral strategy; (3) have a powerful private office which is able to lead and direct the party both within and without parliament; and (4) control the party’s ‘official’ news media operation, which can represent the leader’s policy preferences as the party’s policy preferences. But the preeminent leader will be considerably empowered (that is, they will become ‘predominant’) when they possess and make use of four personal power resources (and they will be disempowered if they do not): (1) having a reputation for being ‘leadership material’; (2) being associated with actual or anticipated political success; (3) being electorally popular; and (4) having a high standing in his or her parliamentary party. Under certain contextual circumstances the modern electoral professional, office-seeking UK party leader can be both preeminent and predominant. Even if they lack the entirely free hand to do whatever they want, such a party leader will ‘lead’, not simply ‘follow’ their party. The leadership style of Cameron, building upon that of Thatcher and Blair, was not his singular invention, but rather a reaction to and a trend-setter of far-reaching transformations wrought in the form of the UK political party.
KeywordsBritish politics political parties party leadership
- Bale, T. (2010) The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Bale, T. and Webb, P. (2011) The conservative party. In: N. Allen and J. Bartle (eds.) Britain at The Polls 2010. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- BBC News. (2007) ‘Cameron steps up grammar’s attack’, 22 May, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6679005.stm.
- Blair, T. (2007) Speech on Public Life and the Media, 6th June, http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKZWE24585220070612.
- Blair, T. (2010) The Journey. London: Random House.Google Scholar
- Campbell, A. (2010) The Alastair Campbell Diaries: Volume One Prelude to Power. London: Hutchingson.Google Scholar
- Campbell, J. (2003) Margaret Thatcher: Volume Two – The Iron Lady. London: Jonathin Cape.Google Scholar
- Daalder, H. and Mair, P. (eds.) (1983) Western European Party Systems. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Goodman, P. (2011) ‘George Osborne grows up’, ConservativeHome, 28 July, http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2011/07/george-osborne-grows-up.html#tp.
- Gould, P. (1998) The Unfinished Revolution: How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party. London: Little Brown.Google Scholar
- Grice, E. (2010) Alastair Campbell: ‘I want my kids to think I've been a good dad’, Daily Telegraph, 3 February, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/7139496/Alastair-Campbell-I-want-my-kids-to-think-Ive-been-a-good-dad.html.
- Heffernan, R. (2009) Political parties. In: M. Flinders, and A. Gamble, C. Hay and M. Kenny (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of British Politics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Heffernan, R. (2013) There’s no need for the -ization: The prime minister is merely prime ministerial. Parliamentary Affairs, forthcoming.Google Scholar
- Hurst, G. (2006) Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw. London: Politicos.Google Scholar
- Jones, D. (2008) Cameron on Cameron. London: Fourth Estate.Google Scholar
- Katz, R. and Mair, P. (2002) The ascendancy of the party in public office: Party organisational change in twentieth century democracies. In: R. Gunther, J.R. Montero and J. Linz (eds.) Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Kavanagh, D. and Cowley, P. (2010) The British General Election of 2010. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Laws, D. (2010) Twenty Two Days in May. London: Biteback.Google Scholar
- Mandelson, P. (2010) The Third Man: Life at the Heart of New Labour. London: HarperPress.Google Scholar
- Mayer, C. (2008) ‘David Cameron: The UK’s next leader?’ Time, 11 September, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1840461-2,00.html#ixzz0gYY8T23s.
- Montgomerie, T. (2011) ‘The New 10 Downing Street’, http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2011/02/the-new-10-downing-street.html#t.
- Panebianco, A. (1988) Political Parties: Organisation and Power. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Parker, G. (2011) ‘Osborne’s long game’, Financial Times, 19 March.Google Scholar
- Snowden, P. (2010) Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection. London: Harper Press.Google Scholar
- Swanson, D. and Mancini, P. (1996) Politics, Media, and Modern Democracy: An International Study of Innovations in Electoral Campaigning and their Consequences. Westport, CT: The Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
- Watt, N. (2011) ‘George Osborne - The man who would be prime minister’, The Observer, 27 November, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/nov/27/george-osborne-chancellor-prime-minister.
- Webb, P. (2004) Party responses to the changing electoral market in Britain. In: P. Mair, W.C. Muller and F. Plasser (eds.) Political Parties and Electoral Change. London: Sage.Google Scholar