British Politics

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

Whatever happened to Conservative Party modernisation?

  • Peter KerrEmail author
  • Richard Hayton
Original Article


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.


David Cameron Conservative Party modernisation party change conservatism 



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.


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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

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