British Politics

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 148–168 | Cite as

Conservatism, feminisation and the representation of women in UK politics

  • Rosie Campbell
  • Sarah Childs
Original Article


The Feminization of the Conservative party was one of the most visible leitmotifs of Cameron’s modernization strategy in the period 2005–2010. In this article we assess the extent to which the party, while in coalition with the Liberal Democrats from 2010–2015, delivered on its pre-2010 commitments for women. We consider two dimensions of feminizing politics; the descriptive representation of women within the Conservative party in the House and in Government, and the substantive representation of women’s interests in the form of policy programmes and legislation. In respect of descriptive representation we find that the Conservative party has faltered since 2010: refusing to use quotas and even dropping the 2010 ‘A list’ equality promotion strategy. Turning to the substantive representation of women it is clear that the Conservative party has instituted an array between these inclinations, although there is a tension between the party’s liberal inclinations and its continued emphasis on the value of the traditional family. A more radical critique is levelled at the party’s commitment to financial austerity and the disproportionate effect this has had on women; the question as to whether women are viewed as the target of spending cuts or collateral damage depends on whether one employs an economically liberal or more leftist definition of feminization.


gender equality descriptive representation substantive representation conservative feminism 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosie Campbell
    • 1
  • Sarah Childs
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsBirkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.SPAIS, University of BristolBristolUK

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