Advertisement

British Politics

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 114–130 | Cite as

Whatever happened to Conservative Party modernisation?

  • Peter KerrEmail author
  • Richard Hayton
Original Article

Abstract

By way of an introduction to this special issue, our aim here is to bring together and interpret some of the main themes and issues to come out of the selection of articles presented below in order to make sense of the overall fate of David Cameron’s attempted modernisation of the Conservative Party. On the basis of the evidence highlighted by each of the contributors to this issue, we make a number of arguments. First, that Cameron’s early attempts to steer the party into the centre ground of British politics can be judged to have been reasonably effective. Second, that in 2007–2008, in the context of the emergence of economic difficulties leading to the financial crisis, the party found itself at a crossroads, and it chose to exit that crossroads with a turn, across a number of policy areas, back towards a more traditional Thatcherite or neo-liberal agenda. Third, we argue that the financial crisis and the political instability it generated is not enough on its own to explain this turn to the right. Rather, these events should be seen as having acted as a catalyst for the exposure of three main fault lines in the party’s modernisation strategy: (i) its lack of ideological coherence; (ii) its potential for serious performance deficits because of a lack of consistency in the political leadership displayed by Cameron; and (iii) its vulnerability to party management problems.

Keywords

David Cameron Conservative Party modernisation party change conservatism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Peter Kerr and Steve Kettell would like to thank Richard Hayton for his lead role in organising the workshop and co-ordinating and bringing together this collection of articles. We would also like to thank the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds for hosting the event, and the Political Studies Association Conservatives and Conservatism Specialist Group for co-sponsoring the workshop in conjunction with this journal.

References

  1. Bentley, T. (2007) Can the centre hold? British politics after Tony Blair. British Politics 2 (1): 111–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Byrne, C., Foster, E. and Kerr, P. (2012) Understanding conservative modernisation. In: T. Heppell and D. Seawright (eds.) Cameron and the Conservatives: The Transition to Coalition Government. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 16–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Campbell, R. and Childs, S. (2015) Conservatism, feminisation and the representation of women in UK politics. British Politics 10 (2): 148–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carter, N. and Clements, B. (2015) From ‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’: David Cameron, the conservatives and the environment. British Politics 10 (2): 204–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cowley, P. and Stuart, M. (2012) A coalition with two Wobbly Wings: Backbench dissent in the house of commons. Political Insight 3 (1): 8–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dommett, K. (2015) The theory and practice of party modernisation: The Conservative Party under David Cameron 2005–2015. British Politics 10 (2): 249–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dorey, P. (2007) A new direction or another false dawn? David Cameron and the crisis of British conservatism. British Politics 2 (2): 137–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Finlayson, A. (2003) Making Sense of New Labour. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  9. Gamble, A. (1994) The Free Economy and the Strong State: the Politics of Thatcherism, 2nd edn. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Giddens, A. (1998) The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  11. Giddens, A. (2007) New labour: Tony Blair and after. British Politics 2 (1): 106–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hay, C. (1999) The Political Economy of New Labour: Labouring Under False Pretences? Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hayton, R. (2012) Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997–2010. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hayton, R. (2014) Conservative party statecraft and the politics of coalition. Parliamentary Affairs 67 (1): 6–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hayton, R. and McEnhill, L. (2015) Cameron’s conservative party, social liberalism and social justice. British Politics 10 (2): 131–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heppell, T. (2012) Ministerial selection and the Cameron government: Female ministerial representation and the one-third objective. Representation 48 (2): 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kerr, P. (2007) Cameron Chameleon and the current state of Britain’s consensus. Parliamentary Affairs 60 (1): 46–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kerr, P., Byrne, C. and Foster, E. (2011) Theorising cameronism. Political Studies Review 9 (2): 193–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lynch, P. (2015) Conservative modernisation and European integration: From silence to salience and schism. British Politics 10 (2).Google Scholar
  20. McAnulla, S. (2012) Liberal conservatism: Ideological coherence? In: T. Heppell and D. Seawright (eds.) Cameron and the Conservatives: The Transition to Coalition Government. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 166–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Partos, R. and Bale, T. (2015) Immigration and asylum policy under Cameron’s conservatives. British Politics 10 (2): 169–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith, M. and Jones, R. (2015) From big society to small state: Conservatism and the privatisation of government. British Politics 10 (2): 226–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and International StudiesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.School of Politics and International Studies, University of LeedsLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations