UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Conservative Party / Tory Party

The term "Tory" is derived from the Irish Tar a Ri, "Come, oh king!" associated with the creed of the Irish native levies enlisted in the civil wars on behalf of the loyalist cause; the outlaws who fought for James in Ireland after the revolution were similarly nicknamed Rapparees or Tories. The persistency of the names of the two parties is mainly owing to their essential unmeaningness. As new questions arose, the names of the old parties were retained, though the objects of contention were no longer the same.

Despite Edward Heath's personal achievement in taking Britain into the Common Market, the failures of the Heath ministry of 1970-1974 were the catharsis of modern Conservatism. The reversals of policy, the failure to control inflation or contain the trade unions through legislation on industrial relations, and two defeats at the hands of the coal-miners led first to the fall of Heath and second to the rise and development of Thatcherism. After losing the two elections of February and October 1974, Heath was forced to hold a ballot for the Party leadership in February 1975 in which he was defeated by Margaret Thatcher.

In opposition during 1975-1979 the new leader developed a radical agenda founded upon the 'free market', rolling back government intervention and leaving as much as possible to individual initiative. This was the core of Thatcherism.

Concern over economic decline and the power wielded by the trade unions created a receptive public mood, and Mrs Thatcher led the Conservatives to three successive victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987. She was the dominant political personality throughout the 1980s, especially after securing victory in the Falklands war of 1982. She is widely credited with restoring Britain's status as an enterprise-based economy and as a significant influence on the international stage. However, at the end of the decade economic recession, her commitment to the deeply unpopular 'poll tax', and internal disputes over European policy led to Mrs Thatcher's defeat in a leadership ballot in November 1990.

The successor to emerge from this contest was the relatively unknown figure of John Major, the candidate thought most able to unify a divided and traumatised party. Major abandoned the 'poll tax' and presented a more 'caring' image, and support for the Conservatives improved enough for him to hold on to a narrow majority in the general election of April 1992. However, this margin was steadily eroded during the following parliament, and by 1997 his administration was clinging on by its fingertips.

The most serious problems of the Major government were caused by a recession which hit Conservative support in southern England, a collapse of normal party unity over the increasingly contentious issue of Europe, and 'sleaze' - a string of personal scandals involving Conservative ministers and MPs. On 1 May 1997 they suffered their third and final sweeping defeat of the twentieth century. Only 165 MPs survived, and Major at once resigned the leadership; in his place, the Party selected its youngest leader in modern times, William Hague.

The party remained unpopular with the public, while the Labour government’s careful management of the economy meant that it survived any other difficulties without lasting damage. Hague followed a more ‘Euro-sceptic’ policy, ruling out joining the single European currency. This caused tensions in the party but also led to its greatest success in the period, doubling its seats to 36 in the European Parliament elections of June 1999.

However, concentration on Europe was less effective in the June 2001 general election, and Conservative hopes of at least a partial recovery were dashed. 166 MPs were elected, only one more than in 1997, and on the morning after the poll Hague announced his resignation. A new selection procedure had been introduced, and after ballots of Conservative MPs the two leading candidates went forward to a vote of the party membership in September 2001. Iain Duncan Smith became the new leader of the Conservative Party.

During the following two years there was little sign of improvement in the Party's fortunes, as the domestic political and economic situation remained largely unchanged. The Conservatives supported the policy of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003. This was in tune with Conservative opinion whilst the Labour Party was deeply divided over the issue. The criticism of Duncan Smith culminated in a ballot of Conservative MPs on 29 October 2003, in which Duncan Smith was defeated by 75 votes to 90. The desire of the party to avoid further disunity was shown when only one candidate was nominated for the vacant leadership, and so a contest was avoided. Michael Howard was declared Leader on 6 November; although older than both of his predecessors, he had the asset of considerable experience of government, having been a cabinet minister from 1990 to 1997.

On 6 May 2005 after the General Election Michael Howard announced his resignation and in a leadership contest involving a final postal ballot of all Conservative Party members a 39 year old David Cameron was chosen to lead the Party into a new era.

The Conservative Party elected a new leader, David Cameron, in December 2005. Cameron ran his leadership race on a moderate platform and has begun to woo the middle class swing voters who brought so-called "New Labour" to power in 1997 with a "New Tory" centrist policy package. The party did fairly well in local council elections that took place in May 2006 and polling since showed a small but persistent lead over Labour nationwide.

In March 2015 David Cameron said he would not serve a third term as Prime Minister. He confirmed that if he was re-elected [he was], he would serve the next five year term but then bow out, which would take him up to the year 2020 in control of the country. Cameron tipped Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson as potential successors. Then Cameron announced his resignation following the 23 June 2016 EU referendum, having failed to convince the nation that Britain would be better off staying in the union.

On 07 July 2016 Conservative MPs voted to replace outgoing David Cameron as leader of the ruling Conservative Party -- and of the country -- with MPs Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, after Michael Gove was eliminated in the second round of voting by their party's MPs. May secured 199 votes, Leadsom 84, while Gove won just 46 votes. The 150,000 members of the Conservative Party will choose between the remaining candidates. Conservative Party officials said the winner will be announced 09 September 2016.

Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said customers were going all-out with bets on the Home Secretary: "Theresa May is cruising to victory in the race to become the next Prime Minister. Punters have now forced the Home Secretary's odds down from 1/3 (75% chance) to 1/5 (83%) to win the current Tory leadership contest."

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 07-07-2022 18:51:05 ZULU