FAQ: What is the Conservative Party?
Posted by Matt Walker on November 2, 2009
The Conservative Party have been around for a long time, and can trace their roots right back to the 17th century. Originally a party of landed interests, over the 19th century they became the party of the middle classes.
In the 20th century, the Conservative Party have adapted very successfully to a changing society and a new electorate. Consequently, they found themselves in government for the majority of the century, successfully combining middle and working class support. Although massively defeated by Attlee’s Labour Party in 1945, the party were able to recover dominating politics for the next 50 years, with occasional Labour governments.
In the 1970s, the party elected Margaret Thatcher their leader. She became the first woman prime minister in 1979, her impact being larger than any other prime minister since Clement Attlee. Thatcher won elections in 1979, 1983, and 1989. In 1990, following her unpopular poll tax and persistent disagreements over European integration, the Tories traumatically dumped Thatcher. John Major unexpectedly won the 1992 election, but the scars of Thatcher’s defenestration left deep divisions in the party, which were only resolved in 2005.
In 1997, the Tories suffered their worst general election defeat since the early 19th century. William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard all had difficulties as Conservative leader, and election defeats in 2001 and 2005 followed. However, In 2005 their new leader David Cameron seemed to add a new lease of life to the party, attempting as he did to shift the party’s image away from its immediate past.
With the Tories currently ahead in the polls, a Conservative victory at the next election seems increasingly likely.