Conservative Party (UK)
Overview
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right
Centre-right
The centre-right or center-right is a political term commonly used to describe or denote individuals, political parties, or organizations whose views stretch from the centre to the right on the left-right spectrum, excluding far right stances. Centre-right can also describe a coalition of centrist...

 political party in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 and British unionism
British unionism
British unionism is a political ideology favouring the continued existence of the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, consisting of four constituent countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland....

. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House of Commons with 307 seats. It governs in coalition with
United Kingdom coalition government (2010–present)
The ConservativeLiberal Democrat coalition is the present Government of the United Kingdom, formed after the 2010 general election. The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats entered into discussions which culminated in the 2010 coalition agreement, setting out a programme for government...

 the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

, with party leader David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

.

Colloquially referred to as the Tory Party or the Tories, the Conservative Party emerged in 1834 out of the original Tory Party, which dates to 1678.
Encyclopedia
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right
Centre-right
The centre-right or center-right is a political term commonly used to describe or denote individuals, political parties, or organizations whose views stretch from the centre to the right on the left-right spectrum, excluding far right stances. Centre-right can also describe a coalition of centrist...

 political party in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 and British unionism
British unionism
British unionism is a political ideology favouring the continued existence of the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, consisting of four constituent countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland....

. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House of Commons with 307 seats. It governs in coalition with
United Kingdom coalition government (2010–present)
The ConservativeLiberal Democrat coalition is the present Government of the United Kingdom, formed after the 2010 general election. The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats entered into discussions which culminated in the 2010 coalition agreement, setting out a programme for government...

 the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

, with party leader David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

.

Colloquially referred to as the Tory Party or the Tories, the Conservative Party emerged in 1834 out of the original Tory Party, which dates to 1678. The party was one of two dominant parties in the nineteenth century, along with the Liberals
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

. It changed its name to Conservative and Unionist Party in 1912 after merging with the Liberal Unionist Party
Liberal Unionist Party
The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party. Led by Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, the party formed a political alliance with the Conservative Party in opposition to Irish Home Rule...

, although that name is rarely used and it is generally referred to as simply the Conservative Party. It is the oldest political party in the world.

In the 1920s, the Liberal vote greatly diminished and the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 became the Conservatives' main rivals. Conservative Prime Ministers led governments for 57 years of the 20th century, including Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 (1940–45, 1951–55) and Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 (1979–90). Thatcher's tenure led to wide-ranging economic liberalisation
Economic liberalization
Economic liberalization is a very broad term that usually refers to fewer government regulations and restrictions in the economy in exchange for greater participation of private entities; the doctrine is associated with classical liberalism...

, placing the Conservatives firmly as the most free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 and eurosceptic
Euroscepticism
Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union , and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state...

 of the three major parties. The party was returned to government in 2010 under the more liberal leadership of David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

.

In the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

, the Conservatives are the largest British party with 25 MEPs
Member of the European Parliament
A Member of the European Parliament is a person who has been elected to the European Parliament. The name of MEPs differ in different languages, with terms such as europarliamentarian or eurodeputy being common in Romance language-speaking areas.When the European Parliament was first established,...

, who sit with the European Conservatives and Reformists
European Conservatives and Reformists
The European Conservatives and Reformists, abbreviated to ECR, is a conservative anti-federalist political group in the European Parliament. The group currently comprises 57 MEPs, making it the fourth-largest group in the European Parliament....

 (ECR) group, while the party is a member of the soft eurosceptic AECR
Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, abbreviated to AECR, is a centre-right anti-federalist European political party defending broader conservative and classical liberal principles. It consists of twelve parties in nine EU member states and Iceland...

. They are the third-largest party in the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 and second-largest in the Welsh Assembly
National Assembly for Wales
The National Assembly for Wales is a devolved assembly with power to make legislation in Wales. The Assembly comprises 60 members, who are known as Assembly Members, or AMs...

. They are currently allied to the Ulster Unionist Party
Ulster Unionist Party
The Ulster Unionist Party – sometimes referred to as the Official Unionist Party or, in a historic sense, simply the Unionist Party – is the more moderate of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland...

, which is part of the five-party Northern Ireland Executive
Northern Ireland Executive
The Northern Ireland Executive is the executive arm of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland. It is answerable to the Assembly and was established according to the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which followed the Good Friday Agreement...

.

History


Origins in the Whig Party

The Conservative Party traces its origins to a faction, rooted in the 18th century Whig Party
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

, that coalesced around William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24 . He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806...

 (Prime Minister of Great Britain 1783-1801 and 1804–1806). Originally known as "Independent Whigs", "Friends of Mr Pitt", or "Pittites", after Pitt's death the term "Tory" came into use. This was an allusion to the Tories, a political grouping that had existed from 1678, but which had no organisational continuity with the Pittite party. From about 1812 on the name "Tory" was commonly used for the newer party.

Not all members of the party were content with the "Tory" name. George Canning
George Canning
George Canning PC, FRS was a British statesman and politician who served as Foreign Secretary and briefly Prime Minister.-Early life: 1770–1793:...

 first used the term 'Conservative' in the 1820s and it was suggested as a title for the party by John Wilson Croker
John Wilson Croker
John Wilson Croker was an Irish statesman and author.He was born at Galway, the only son of John Croker, the surveyor-general of customs and excise in Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1800...

 in the 1830s. It was later officially adopted under the aegis of Sir Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

 around 1834. Peel is acknowledged as the founder of the Conservative Party, which he created with the announcement of the Tamworth Manifesto
Tamworth Manifesto
The Tamworth Manifesto was a political manifesto issued by Sir Robert Peel in 1834 in Tamworth, which is widely credited by historians as having laid down the principles upon which the modern British Conservative Party is based....

.

Conservatives and Unionists (1886-1965)

The widening of the electoral franchise in the nineteenth century forced the Conservative Party to popularise its approach under Lord Derby
Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby
Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, KG, PC was an English statesman, three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and to date the longest serving leader of the Conservative Party. He was known before 1834 as Edward Stanley, and from 1834 to 1851 as Lord Stanley...

 and Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS, was a British Prime Minister, parliamentarian, Conservative statesman and literary figure. Starting from comparatively humble origins, he served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom...

, who carried through their own expansion of the franchise with the Reform Act of 1867
Reform Act 1867
The Representation of the People Act 1867, 30 & 31 Vict. c. 102 was a piece of British legislation that enfranchised the urban male working class in England and Wales....

. In 1886 the party formed an alliance with Lord Hartington (later the 8th Duke of Devonshire) and Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain was an influential British politician and statesman. Unlike most major politicians of the time, he was a self-made businessman and had not attended Oxford or Cambridge University....

's new Liberal Unionist Party and, under the statesmen Lord Salisbury
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury
Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, KG, GCVO, PC , styled Lord Robert Cecil before 1865 and Viscount Cranborne from June 1865 until April 1868, was a British Conservative statesman and thrice Prime Minister, serving for a total of over 13 years...

 and Arthur Balfour
Arthur Balfour
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, KG, OM, PC, DL was a British Conservative politician and statesman...

, held power for all but three of the following twenty years before suffering a heavy defeat in 1906
United Kingdom general election, 1906
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1906*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

 when it split over the issue of free trade. In 1912 the party formally merged with the Liberal Unionists.
The Conservatives served with the Liberals in an all-party coalition government during World War I, and the coalition continued under Liberal PM David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 (with half of the Liberals) until 1922. Then Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

 led the break-up of the coalition and the party governed until 1929, when it was defeated by Labour in a close election. In 1931, following the collapse of the Labour minority government, it entered another coalition, which was dominated by the Conservatives with some support from fractions of both the Liberals and Labour party (National Labour and Liberal Nationals). In May 1940 a more balanced coalition was formed, the National Government
UK National Government
In the United Kingdom the term National Government is an abstract concept referring to a coalition of some or all major political parties. In a historical sense it usually refers primarily to the governments of Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain which held office from 1931...

, which, under the leadership of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, saw the United Kingdom through World War II. However the party lost the 1945 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

 to the resurgent Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

.

Upon their election victory in the 1951 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1951
The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held eighteen months after the 1950 general election, which the Labour Party had won with a slim majority of just five seats...

, the Conservatives supported part of Labour's 'welfare state' policies and industry nationalisation programme, though Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

, Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 and Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Alec Douglas-Home
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC , known as The Earl of Home from 1951 to 1963 and as Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1974, was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 1963 to October 1964.He is the last...

 continued to promote relatively liberal trade regulations and less state involvement throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. They oversaw a period of economic prosperity, with Macmillan proclaiming during the 1959 General Election that Britain had 'never had it so good'. Macmillan's bid to join the European Economic Community in early 1963 was blocked by French President Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

, and the period saw the decline of the UK as a prominent world figure, with the loss of many British overseas territories.

Edward Heath

Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

's 1970-1974 government was notable for its success in taking the UK into the EEC, although the right of the party objected to his failure to control the trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

s at a time when a declining British industry saw many strikes, as well as a recession which started in 1973 and lasted for two years.

Since accession to the EU, British membership has been a source of heated debate within the Conservative party.

Heath had come to power in June 1970
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

 and had until mid-1975 to call the next general election, but chose to do so in February 1974
United Kingdom general election, February 1974
The United Kingdom's general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the first election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party,...

 in a bid to win public support as tensions ran high over the miners strike. However, his attempt to win a second term in power at this "snap" election backfired spectacularly as a deadlock result left no party with an overall majority
Hung parliament
In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament . It is also less commonly known as a balanced parliament or a legislature under no overall control...

. The Conservatives had more votes than Labour, who had four more seats. Heath resigned within days after failing to gain Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 support in order to form a coalition government, paving the way for Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 and Labour to return to power as a minority government. Heath's hopes of returning to power later in the year were ended when Labour won the October 1974 election
United Kingdom general election, October 1974
The United Kingdom general election of October 1974 took place on 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. It was the second general election of that year and resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson, winning by a tiny majority of 3 seats.The election of...

 with a majority of three seats.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 won her party's leadership election in 1975
Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 1975
Edward Heath, leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had called and unexpectedly lost the February 1974 general election...

 and led them to subsequent victory in the 1979 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1979
The United Kingdom general election of 1979 was held on 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats...

. In the years preceding her election, the UK had experienced sustained inflation (above 20% by the time of the election, and rarely below 10%), rising unemployment and the "Winter of Discontent
Winter of Discontent
The "Winter of Discontent" is an expression, popularised by the British media, referring to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by local authority trade unions demanding larger pay rises for their members, because the Labour government of...

" in which the UK was blighted by a series of strikes.

As prime minister, Thatcher focused on establishing a political ideology that became known as the "New Right
New Right
New Right is used in several countries as a descriptive term for various policies or groups that are right-wing. It has also been used to describe the emergence of Eastern European parties after the collapse of communism.-Australia:...

" or Thatcherism
Thatcherism
Thatcherism describes the conviction politics, economic and social policy, and political style of the British Conservative politician Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of her party from 1975 to 1990...

, based on social and economic ideas from the United States. Thatcher believed that too much socialist orientated government policy was leading to a long term decline in the British economy. As a result, her government pursued a programme of Economic Liberalism
Economic liberalism
Economic liberalism is the ideological belief in giving all people economic freedom, and as such granting people with more basis to control their own lives and make their own mistakes. It is an economic philosophy that supports and promotes individual liberty and choice in economic matters and...

, adopting a free-market approach to public services based on the sale of publicly-owned industries and utilities, as well as a reduction in trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 power. She held the belief that the existing trend of Unions was bringing economic progress to a standstill by enforcing "wildcat" strikes, keeping wages artificially high and forcing unprofitable industries to stay open.

Thatcher led the Conservatives to two further election victories with landslide majorities in 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 and 1987
United Kingdom general election, 1987
The United Kingdom general election of 1987 was held on 11 June 1987, to elect 650 members to the British House of Commons. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd...

. She was greatly admired by her supporters for her leadership in the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 of 1982 - which coincided with a dramatic boost in her popularity — and for policies such as giving the right to council house tenants to buy their council house at a discount on market value. However, she was also deeply unpopular in certain sections of society due to unemployment, which reached its highest level since the 1930s, peaking at over 3 million following her economic reforms, and her response to the miners' strike
UK miners' strike (1984–1985)
The UK miners' strike was a major industrial action affecting the British coal industry. It was a defining moment in British industrial relations, and its defeat significantly weakened the British trades union movement...

. While unemployment had doubled between 1979 and 1982, this was largely due to Mrs Thatcher's committed battle against the inflation which had ravaged the British economy throughout the 1970s. At the time of the 1979 election, inflation was at a modern day high of 27%; but it had fallen to 4% by the start of 1983.

However, the period of deep unpopularity of the Conservatives in the early 1980s coincided with a crisis in the Labour Party which now formed the opposition. The Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

 was formed in 1981 and consisted of more than 20 breakaway Labour MPs, who quickly formed an alliance
SDP-Liberal Alliance
The SDP–Liberal Alliance was an electoral pact formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom which was in existence from 1981 to 1988, when the bulk of the two parties merged to form the Social and Liberal Democrats, later referred to as simply the Liberal...

 with the Liberals. By the turn of 1982, the Alliance was ahead of the Conservatives in the opinion polls, but the Falklands triumph in June that year, along with the recovering British economy, saw the Conservatives returning quickly to the top of the opinion polls and winning the 1983 General Election with a landslide majority.

Thatcher now faced, arguably, her most serious rival yet after the 1983 election, when Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

 resigned as Labour leader and was succeeded by Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

. With a new leader at the helm, Labour were clearly determined to topple the Conservatives at the next election and for virtually the entirety of Mrs Thatcher's second government it was looking a very serious possibility, as the lead in the opinion polls constantly saw a change in leadership from the Conservatives to Labour, with the Alliance occasionally scraping into first place.

By the time of the election in June 1987, however, the economy was stronger, with lower inflation and falling unemployment and Mrs Thatcher secured her third successive election victory with a second landslide majority.

The introduction of the Community Charge
Community Charge
The Community Charge, popularly known as the "poll tax", was a system of taxation introduced in replacement of the rates to part fund local government in Scotland from 1989, and England and Wales from 1990. It provided for a single flat-rate per-capita tax on every adult, at a rate set by the...

 (known by its opponents as the poll tax) in 1989 is often cited as contributing to her political downfall. The summer of 1989 saw her fall behind Neil Kinnock's Labour in the opinion polls for the first time since 1986, and her party's fall in popularity continued into 1990. By the autumn of that year, opinion polls were showing that Labour had a lead of up to 16 points over the Conservatives and they faced a tough 18 months ahead of them if they were to prevent Neil Kinnock's ambition to be prime minister from being realised. At the same time, the economy was sliding into another recession.

Internal party tensions led to a leadership challenge by the Conservative MP Michael Heseltine
Michael Heseltine
Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, CH, PC is a British businessman, Conservative politician and patron of the Tory Reform Group. He was a Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001 and was a prominent figure in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major...

, and after months of speculation about her future as prime minister she finally resigned on 22 November 1990, making way for a new Conservative leader more likely to win the next general election in the interests of party unity.

John Major

John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 won the party leadership contest on 27 November 1990, and his appointment led to an almost automatic boost in Conservative fortunes. A MORI poll six days before Mrs Thatcher's resignation had shown the Conservatives to be 11 points behind Labour, but within two months the Conservatives had returned to the top of the opinion polls with a slim lead.

An election had to be held within the next 18 months and the UK economy was sliding into recession, but 1991 was a year of electoral uncertainty as the Conservatives and Labour regularly swapped places at the top of the opinion polls, and Major resisted Neil Kinnock's numerous calls for an immediate election.

The election
United Kingdom general election, 1992
The United Kingdom general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992, and was the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in 20th Century politics, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil...

 was finally held on 9 April 1992 and the Conservatives won, even though the economy was still in recession and most of the pollsters had predicted either a Labour win or a hung parliament. Major's vigorous campaigning, notably his claim that the UK would have higher prices and higher taxes under a Labour government, was seen to have been crucial in his election win (in which he became the first prime minister to attract 14,000,000 votes in a general election), as was a high profile campaign by The Sun
The Sun (newspaper)
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...

newspaper against Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who resigned in the aftermath of the election to be succeeded by John Smith.

The UK economy was deep in recession by this stage and remained so until the end of the year. The pound sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism
European Exchange Rate Mechanism
The European Exchange Rate Mechanism, ERM, was a system introduced by the European Community in March 1979, as part of the European Monetary System , to reduce exchange rate variability and achieve monetary stability in Europe, in preparation for Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of...

 on 16 September 1992, a day thereafter referred to as "Black Wednesday
Black Wednesday
In politics and economics, Black Wednesday refers to the events of 16 September 1992 when the British Conservative government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism after they were unable to keep it above its agreed lower limit...

".

Soon after approximately one million householders faced re-possession of their homes during a recession that saw a sharp rise in unemployment, taking it close to 3,000,000. The party subsequently lost much of its reputation for good financial stewardship although the end of the recession was declared in April 1993 bringing economic recovery and a rise in employment.

The Conservative government was also increasingly accused in the media of "sleaze". Their support reached its lowest ebb in late 1994, after the death of Labour Party leader John Smith and the election of Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 as his successor, when Labour had up to 60% of the vote in opinion polls and had a lead of some 30 points ahead of the Conservatives. The Labour lead was gradually narrowed over the next two years, as the Conservatives gained some credit for the strong economic recovery and fall in unemployment. But as the 1997 general election loomed, it was still looking certain that Labour would win.

An effective opposition campaign by the Labour Party culminated in a landslide defeat for the Conservatives in 1997
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

 that was Labour's largest ever parliamentary victory. The 1997
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

 election left the Conservative Party with MPs in just England, all remaining seats in Scotland and Wales having been lost and not a single seat having been gained anywhere.

Back in opposition: William Hague

John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 resigned as party leader after the Conservatives were voted out of power and was succeeded by William Hague
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

. Though a strong debater, a Gallup poll for the Daily Telegraph found that two-thirds of voters regarded him as "a bit of a wally", for headlines such as his claim that he drank 14 pints of beer in a single day in his youth. He was also criticised for attending the Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill Carnival
The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event which since 1964 has taken place on the streets of Notting Hill, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea , London, UK each August, over two days...

 and for wearing a baseball cap
Baseball cap
A baseball cap is a type of soft cap with a rounded stiff brim. The front of the cap typically contains designs or logos of sports teams ,...

 in public in what were seen as poor attempts to appeal to younger voters. Shortly before the 2001 election, Hague was much maligned for a speech in which he predicted that a re-elected Labour government would turn the UK into a "foreign land". The BBC also reported that Conservative peer Lord Taylor
John Taylor, Baron Taylor of Warwick
John David Beckett, Baron Taylor of Warwick is a British member of the House of Lords who became the first black Conservative peer in 1996, after unsuccessfully standing as their parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham in the 1992 general election. Taylor initially practised as a barrister and has...

 criticised Hague for not removing the whip from Conservative MP John Townend
John Townend
John Ernest Townend is a United Kingdom politician. Educated at Hymers College in Hull, he served in the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer from 1957–59 and then worked as an accountant. He was managing director of House of Townend wine merchants in Hull, and was active in local government...

, after the latter made a speech in which he said the British were becoming "a mongrel race", although Hague did reject Townend's views.

The 2001 election
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

 resulted in a net gain of just one seat for the Conservative Party, just months after the fuel protests of September 2000 had seen the Conservatives briefly take a narrow lead over Labour in the opinion polls.

Having privately set himself a target of 209 seats, matching Labour's performance in 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 – a target which he missed by 43 - William Hague resigned soon after.

Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith
George Iain Duncan Smith is a British Conservative politician. He is currently the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and was previously leader of the Conservative Party from September 2001 to October 2003...

 (2001–2003) (often known as IDS and by satirists as "the quiet man") is a strong Eurosceptic
Euroscepticism
Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union , and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state...

, but the issue did not define Duncan Smith's leadership, though during his tenure Europe ceased to be an issue of division in the party as it united behind calls for a referendum on the proposed European Union Constitution
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

.

However, before he could lead the party in a general election Duncan Smith lost the vote on a motion of no confidence
Motion of no confidence
A motion of no confidence is a parliamentary motion whose passing would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government.-Overview:Typically, when a parliament passes a vote of no...

 by MPs who felt that the party would not be returned to government under his leadership. This was despite the Conservative support equalling that of Labour in the months leading up to his departure from the leadership.

Michael Howard
Michael Howard
Michael Howard, Baron Howard of Lympne, CH, QC, PC is a British politician, who served as the Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition from November 2003 to December 2005...

 then stood for the leadership unopposed on 6 November 2003
Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2003
The 2003 Conservative leadership election was caused by the enforced resignation of incumbent leader Iain Duncan-Smith after the loss of a confidence vote amongst his parliamentary party...

.

Under Howard in the 2005 general election
United Kingdom general election, 2005
The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but with a majority of 66, reduced from 160....

, the Conservative Party increased their total vote share by around 0.6% (up to 32.3%) and – more significantly – their number of parliamentary seats by 33 (up to 198 seats). This gain accompanied a large fall in the Labour vote, and the election reduced Labour's majority from 167 to 66. The Conservative party actually won the largest share of the vote in England, though not the largest number of seats. The campaign, based on the slogan "Are you thinking what we're thinking?", was designed by Australian pollster Lynton Crosby
Lynton Crosby
Lynton Crosby AO is an Australian political strategist.Having masterminded four successive election victories for John Howard, he has been described as a "master of the dark political arts," "the Australian Karl Rove," and in 2002 The Age newspaper described Crosby as "one of the most powerful and...

. The day after the election, on 6 May, Howard announced that he did not feel it was right to continue as leader after defeat in the general election, also saying that he would be too old to lead the party into another campaign and would therefore step down after allowing time for the party to amend its leadership election rules.

David Cameron

David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 won the subsequent leadership campaign. Cameron beat his closest rival, David Davis
David Davis (British politician)
David Michael Davis is a British Conservative Party politician who is the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Haltemprice and Howden...

, by a margin of more than two to one, taking 134,446 votes to 64,398. He then announced his intention to reform and realign the Conservatives, saying they needed to change the way they looked, felt, thought and behaved, advocating a more centre-right stance as opposed to their recent staunchly right-wing platform. Although Cameron's views are probably left of the party membership and he has sought to make the Conservative brand more attractive to young, socially liberal voters, he has also expressed his admiration for former PM Margaret Thatcher, describing himself as a "big fan of Thatcher's", though he questions whether that makes him a "Thatcherite". For most of 2006 and the first half of 2007, polls showed leads over Labour for the Conservatives.

Polls became more volatile in the summer of 2007 with the accession of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister although polls gave the Conservatives a lead after October of that year and, by May 2008, with the UK's economy sliding into its first recession since 1992
Late 2000s recession
The late-2000s recession, sometimes referred to as the Great Recession or Lesser Depression or Long Recession, is a severe ongoing global economic problem that began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp downward turn in September 2008. The Great Recession has affected the entire world...

, and a week after local council elections, a YouGov
YouGov
YouGov, formerly known as PollingPoint in the United States, is an international internet-based market research firm launched in the UK in May 2000 by Stephan Shakespeare, now Chief Executive Officer, and Nadhim Zahawi...

 poll commissioned by The Sun newspaper was published giving the Conservative Party a 26-point lead over Labour, its largest lead since 1968. The Conservatives gained control of the London mayoralty
Mayor of London
The Mayor of London is an elected politician who, along with the London Assembly of 25 members, is accountable for the strategic government of Greater London. Conservative Boris Johnson has held the position since 4 May 2008...

 for the first time in May 2008 after Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British journalist and Conservative Party politician, who has been the elected Mayor of London since 2008...

 defeated Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone
Kenneth Robert "Ken" Livingstone is an English politician who is currently a member of the centrist to centre-left Labour Party...

.

The Conservative lead in the opinion polls had been almost unbroken for nearly three years when Britain finally went to the polls on 6 May 2010, though since the turn of 2010 most polls had shown the Conservative lead as less than 10 points wide. The election ended in a hung parliament
Hung parliament
In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament . It is also less commonly known as a balanced parliament or a legislature under no overall control...

 with the Conservatives having the most seats (306) but being 19 seats short of an overall majority. Following the resignation of Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

 as prime minister and Labour Party leader five days afterwards, David Cameron was named as the country's new prime minister and the Conservatives entered government in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

 - the first postwar coalition government
Coalition government
A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several political parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament...

.

Economic policy

The party's reputation for economic stewardship was dealt a blow by Black Wednesday
Black Wednesday
In politics and economics, Black Wednesday refers to the events of 16 September 1992 when the British Conservative government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism after they were unable to keep it above its agreed lower limit...

 in 1992, in which billions of pounds were spent in an effort to keep the pound within the European Exchange Rate Mechanism
European Exchange Rate Mechanism
The European Exchange Rate Mechanism, ERM, was a system introduced by the European Community in March 1979, as part of the European Monetary System , to reduce exchange rate variability and achieve monetary stability in Europe, in preparation for Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of...

 (ERM) system at an overvalued rate. Combined with the recession of the early 1990s 'Black Wednesday' allowed Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 and then-Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

 to promise greater economic competence.

One concrete economic policy of recent years has been opposition to the European single currency
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

. Anticipating the growing Euroscepticism
Euroscepticism
Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union , and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state...

 within his party, John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 negotiated a British opt-out from the single currency in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty
Maastricht Treaty
The Maastricht Treaty was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. On 9–10 December 1991, the same city hosted the European Council which drafted the treaty...

, although several members of Major's cabinet, such as Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Harry "Ken" Clarke, QC, MP is a British Conservative politician, currently Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970; and appointed a minister in Edward Heath's government, in 1972, and is one of...

, were personally supportive of EMU participation. Following Major's resignation after the 1997 defeat, each of the four subsequent Conservative leaders, including David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

, have positioned the party firmly against the adoption of the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

. This policy is broadly popular with the British electorate, although voters typically rank Europe as an issue of low importance compared to education, healthcare, immigration and crime.

Following Labour's victory in the 1997 general election, the Conservative Party opposed Labour's decision to grant the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

 independent control of interest rates - on the grounds that it would be a prelude to the abolition of the pound sterling
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 and acceptance of the European single currency, and also expressed concern over the removal of monetary policy from democratic control. However, Bank independence was popular amongst the financial community as it helped to keep inflation low. The Conservatives accepted Labour's policy in early 2000.

The Conservative Party under David Cameron has redirected its stance on taxation, still committed to the general principle of reducing direct taxation whilst arguing that the country needs a "dynamic and competitive economy", with the proceeds of any growth shared between both "tax reduction and extra public investment".

In the wake of the 2008-9 recession, the Conservatives have not ruled out raising taxes, and have said it will be difficult to scrap the 50% top rate of income tax. They have said how they would prefer to cut a recent rise in national insurance
National Insurance
National Insurance in the United Kingdom was initially a contributory system of insurance against illness and unemployment, and later also provided retirement pensions and other benefits...

. Furthermore, they have stated that government spending
Government spending
Government spending includes all government consumption, investment but excludes transfer payments made by a state. Government acquisition of goods and services for current use to directly satisfy individual or collective needs of the members of the community is classed as government final...

 will need to be reduced, and have only ringfenced international aid and the NHS
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

.

Social policy

In recent years, 'modernisers' in the party have claimed that the association between social conservatism
Social conservatism
Social Conservatism is primarily a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the federal government should have a greater role...

 and the Conservatives (manifest in policies such as tax incentives for married couples, the removal of the link between pensions and earnings, and criticism of public financial support for those who do not work) have played a role in the electoral decline of the party in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since 1997 a debate has continued within the party between 'modernisers' such as Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo
Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo is a British journalist, broadcaster, and former Conservative Party politician and Cabinet Minister...

, who believe that the Conservatives should modify their public stances on social issues, and 'traditionalists' such as Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British journalist and Conservative Party politician, who has been the elected Mayor of London since 2008...

 and William Hague
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

, who believe that the party should remain faithful to its traditional conservative platform. This may have resulted in William Hague's and Michael Howard's pre-election swings to the right in 2001 and 2005, as well as the election of the stop-Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Harry "Ken" Clarke, QC, MP is a British Conservative politician, currently Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970; and appointed a minister in Edward Heath's government, in 1972, and is one of...

 candidate Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith
George Iain Duncan Smith is a British Conservative politician. He is currently the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and was previously leader of the Conservative Party from September 2001 to October 2003...

 in 2001. Iain Duncan Smith, however, remains influential. It has been argued by analysts that his Centre for Social Justice
Centre for Social Justice
The Centre for Social Justice is an independent, not-for-profit thinktank set up by the Rt. Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, to advance the education of the public in the subject of social justice and to promote the role of the voluntary sector...

 has forced Cameron to the right on many issues, particularly crime and social welfare.

The party has strongly criticised Labour's "state multiculturalism
Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism is the appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g...

". Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said in 2008 that multiculturalism had created a "terrible" legacy, a cultural vacuum that has been exploited by "extremists". However conservative critics such as Peter Hitchens
Peter Hitchens
Peter Jonathan Hitchens is an award-winning British columnist and author, noted for his traditionalist conservative stance. He has published five books, including The Abolition of Britain, A Brief History of Crime, The Broken Compass and most recently The Rage Against God. Hitchens writes for...

 assert that Cameron's is an equally multicultural outlook and accuse the Conservative Party of promoting what they see as "Islamic extremists."

Foreign policy

For much of the twentieth century the Conservative party took a broadly Atlanticist stance in relations with the United States, favouring close ties with the United States and similarly aligned nations such as Canada, Australia and Japan. The Conservatives have generally favoured a diverse range of international alliances, ranging from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

.

Close US-British relations have been an element of Conservative foreign policy since World War II. Winston Churchill during his 1951–1955 post-war premiership built up a strong relationship with the Eisenhower Administration in the United States. Harold Macmillan demonstrated a similarly close relationship with the Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 administration of John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

. Though the US-British relationship in foreign affairs has often been termed a 'Special Relationship
Special relationship
The Special Relationship is a phrase used to describe the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations between the United Kingdom and the United States, following its use in a 1946 speech by British statesman Winston Churchill...

', a term coined by Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, this has often been observed most clearly where leaders in each country are of a similar political stripe. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher built a close relationship with American President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 in his opposition to the former Soviet Union, but John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 was less successful in his personal contacts with former Presidents George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 and Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

. Out of power and perceived as largely irrelevant by American politicians, Conservative leaders Hague, Duncan-Smith, and Howard each struggled to forge personal relationships with presidents Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 and George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. However, Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 2008 presidential candidate John McCain
John McCain
John Sidney McCain III is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 United States election....

 spoke at the 2006 Conservative Party Conference.

The Conservatives have proposed a Pan-African Free Trade Area
Free trade area
A free trade area is a trade bloc whose member countries have signed a free trade agreement , which eliminates tariffs, import quotas, and preferences on most goods and services traded between them. If people are also free to move between the countries, in addition to FTA, it would also be...

, which it says could help entrepreneurial
Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is the act of being an entrepreneur, which can be defined as "one who undertakes innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods". This may result in new organizations or may be part of revitalizing mature organizations in response...

 dynamism of African people. The Conservatives have also pledged to increase aid spending to 0.7% of national income by 2013.

David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 had sought to distance himself from former US President Bush and his neoconservative foreign policy, calling for a "rebalancing" of US-UK ties and met with Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 during his 2008 European tour. Despite traditional links between the UK Conservatives and US Republicans
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

, and between Labour and the Democrats
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

, London Mayor Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British journalist and Conservative Party politician, who has been the elected Mayor of London since 2008...

, a Conservative, endorsed Obama in the 2008 election.

Beyond relations with the United States, the Commonwealth and the EU, the Conservative Party has generally supported a pro free-trade foreign policy within the mainstream of international affairs. The degree to which Conservative Governments have supported interventionist
Interventionism (politics)
Interventionism is a term for a policy of non-defensive activity undertaken by a nation-state, or other geo-political jurisdiction of a lesser or greater nature, to manipulate an economy or society...

 or non-interventionist Presidents in the US has often varied with the personal relations between a US President and the British Prime Minister.

Welfare

Improving the welfare of Britain's military service personnel is a priority for the Conservative Party
Conservative Party
-Africa:*Conservative Party *Conservative Party *Conservative Party -Europe:*Conservative Party *Conservative Party of Armenia *Conservative Party *Conservative Party...

. One of their main goals is to repair the Military Covenant
Military Covenant
The Military Covenant is a term introduced in 2000 into British public life to refer to the mutual obligations between the nation and its Armed Forces....

 and strengthen the ties between the armed forces and government. Policies introduced in 2010 include those to double the operational bonus for troops serving in Afghanistan; to fund higher education for children of those service personnel killed in action; and to properly resource and staff the NHS to deal optimally with the particular needs of the Armed Forces.

Mental health has always a been a very important issue for the Conservative Party, particularly when it comes to service personnel. The Party is committed to addressing issues of mental health before they arise with a mental health follow-up telephone service for veterans and personnel who have deployed on operations or to places in support of operations. This is customer-service driven and at the convenience of the veteran. The Conservative Party have also pledged to support greater awareness of the programmes that offer help to armed forces personnel.

Afghanistan

Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Conservative party has supported the coalition military action in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. The Conservative Party believes that success in Afghanistan is defined in terms of the Afghans achieving the capability to maintain their own internal and external security. They have repeatedly criticised the former Labour Government
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 for failing to equip British Forces adequately in the earlier days on the campaign—especially highlighting the shortage of helicopters for British Forces resulting from Gordon Brown's £1.4bn cut to the helicopter budget in 2004.

Strategic Security and Defence Review

The Conservative Party believes that in the 21st century defence and security are interlinked. They have pledged to break away from holding a traditional Strategic Defence Review
Strategic Defence Review
The Strategic Defence Review was a British policy document produced by the Labour Government that came to power in 1997. Then Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson, set out the initial defence policy of the new government, with a series of key decisions designed to enhance the United...

 and have committed to carrying out a more comprehensive Strategic Defence and Security Review
Strategic Defence and Security Review
The Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom in May 2010, and published on 19 October 2010...

 (SDSR) immediately upon coming into office. This review will include both defence and homeland security related matters. The Labour Government last conducted a review in 1998. To prevent a long gap in the future they have also pledged to hold regular defence reviews every 4–5 years, and if necessary will put this requirement into legislation. Party officials claim that the SDSR will be a major improvement, and will ensure that Britain maintains generic and flexible capability to adapt to any changing threats. It will be a cross-departmental review that will begin with foreign policy priorities and will bring together all the levers of domestic national security policy with overseas interests and defence priorities.

As well as an SDSR, the Conservative Party pledged in 2010 to undertake a fundamental and far reaching review of the procurement process and how defence equipment is provided in Britain. They have pledged to reform the procurement process, compile a Green Paper on Sovereignty Capability, and publish another Defence Industrial Strategy following on from the Defence Industrial Strategy in 2005. The Conservative Party has said that there will be four aims for British defence procurement: to provide the best possible equipment at the best possible price; to streamline the procurement process to ensure the speedy delivery of equipment to the front line; to support our industry jobs at home by increasing defence exports; to provide defence procurement that underpins strategic relationships abroad and; to provide predictability to the defence industry.

The Conservative Party also pledged to increase Britain's share of the global defence market as Government policy.

Europe and NATO

The Conservative Party aims to build enhanced bilateral defence relations with key European partners and believes that it is in Britain's national interest to cooperate fully with all its European neighbours. They have pledged to ensure that any EU military capability must supplement and not supplant British national defence and NATO, and that it is not in the British interest to hand over security to any supranational body.

The Conservatives see it as a priority to encourage all members of the European Union to do more in terms of a commitment to European security at home and abroad.

Regarding the defence role of the European Union, the Conservatives pledged to re-examine some of Britain's EU Defence commitments to determine their practicality and utility; specifically, to reassess UK participation provisions like Permanent Structured Cooperation, the European Defence Agency
European Defence Agency
The European Defence Agency is an agency of the European Union based in Brussels. It is a Common Foreign and Security Policy body set up on 12 July 2004, reporting to the Council of the European Union. All EU member states, except Denmark which has an opt-out of the CFSP, take part in the agency...

 and EU Battlegroups to determine if there is any value in Britain's participation.

The Conservative Party upholds the view that NATO should remain the most important security alliance for United Kingdom. They believe that NATO, which has been the cornerstone of British security for the past 60 years, should continue to have primacy on all issues relating to Europe's defence, and pledged in 2010 to make NATO reform a key strategic priority.

They have also called on the so called fighting/funding gap to be changed and have called on the creation of a fairer funding mechanism for NATO's expeditionary operations. As well as this, the Conservatives believe that there is scope for expanding NATO's Article V to include new 21st Century threats such as energy and cyber security.

Nuclear Deterrent

The 2010 manifesto said the Conservatives will maintain Britain's continuous at sea, independent, submarine based strategic nuclear deterrent based on the Trident missile
Trident missile
The Trident missile is a submarine-launched ballistic missile equipped with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles . The Fleet Ballistic Missile is armed with nuclear warheads and is launched from nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines . Trident missiles are carried by fourteen...

 system.

Health policy

In 1945, the Conservatives first declared support for universal healthcare. Since then, they have continuously supported the NHS
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

. Since entering office in 2010, they have introduced the Health and Social Care Bill 2011
Health and Social Care Bill 2011
The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 is proposed health care reform legislation introduced in the House of Commons on 19 January 2011. If passed, the Bill would be the most extensive reorganisation of the structure of the National Health Service in England to date. It proposes to abolish NHS...

, which will conduct the biggest reformation that the NHS has ever undertaken.

Education policy

In education, the Conservatives have pledged to review the National Curriculum
National Curriculum
The National Curriculum was introduced into England, Wales and Northern Ireland as a nationwide curriculum for primary and secondary state schools following the Education Reform Act 1988. Notwithstanding its name, it does not apply to independent schools, which may set their own curricula, but it...

, and introduce the English Baccalaureate. The restoration of discipline was also highlighted, as they want it to be easier for pupils to be searched for contraband items, the granting of anonymity to teachers accused by pupils, and the banning of expelled pupils being returned to schools via appeal panels.

In Higher education, the Conservatives have increased tuition fees to £9,000 per year, however have ensured that this will not be paid by anyone until they are earning over £21,000, and that those who fail their studies, will not pay anything at all. The Scottish Conservatives also support the re-introduction of tuition fees in Scotland.

Jobs and welfare policy

One of the Conservatives' key policy areas of 2010, was to reduce the amount of people in the UK claiming state benefits, and increase the amount of people in the workforce. They have stated that all those in the UK claiming incapacity benefit
Incapacity benefit
Incapacity Benefit is a United Kingdom state benefit that is paid to those below the State Pension age who cannot work because of illness or disability and have made National Insurance contributions. It is administered by Jobcentre Plus...

, will face a review of their cases. Until 1999, Conservatives opposed the creation of the National Minimum Wage
National Minimum Wage Act 1998
The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 creates a minimum wage across the United Kingdom, currently £6.08 per hour for workers aged 21 years and older, £4.98 per hour for workers aged 18–20...

, citing that they believed it would cost jobs, and businesses would be reticent to start business in the UK from fear of high labour costs. However the party have since pledged support. They support, and have implemented, the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings, and seek to raise retirement age from 65 to 66.

Energy/climate change policy

In his effort to modernise the Conservative Party, David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 brought several 'green
Green conservatism
Green conservatism is a term used to refer to conservatives who have incorporated green concerns into their ideology. One of the first uses of the term green conservatism was by former United States Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in a debate on environmental issues with John Kerry...

' issues to the forefront of his 2010 campaign. These included proposals designed to impose a tax on workplace car parking spaces, a halt to airport growth, a tax on gas-guzzling 4x4s and restrictions on car advertising. .

Justice and crime policy

In 2010, the Conservatives campaigned with the conviction to cut the perceived bureaucracy of the modern police force and pledged greater legal protection to people convicted of defending themselves against intruders. They also supported the creation of a UK Bill of Rights, however this was vetoed by their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

. Some Conservatives, particularly within the socially conservative Cornerstone Group
Cornerstone Group
The Cornerstone Group is a socially conservative or traditional conservative political organisation within the British Conservative Party. The group emphasises traditional values, exemplified by the motto: Faith, Flag, and Family. It consists of Members of Parliament with a traditionalist stance,...

, support the re-introduction of the death penalty
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was used from the creation of the state in 1707 until the practice was abolished in the 20th century. The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964, prior to capital punishment being abolished for murder...

.

European Union policy

No subject has proved more divisive in the Conservative Party in recent history, than the role of the United Kingdom within the European Union. Though the principal architect of the UK's entry into the then European Communities
European Communities
The European Communities were three international organisations that were governed by the same set of institutions...

 (now the European Union) was Conservative Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

, and both Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 favoured some form of European union, the bulk of contemporary Conservative opinion is opposed to closer economic and particularly political union with the EU. This is a noticeable shift in British politics, as in the 1960s and 1970s the Conservatives were more pro-Europe than the Labour Party. Divisions on Europe came to the fore under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher (1979–1990) and were cited by several ministers resigning, including Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a senior member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices...

 Geoffrey Howe
Geoffrey Howe
Richard Edward Geoffrey Howe, Baron Howe of Aberavon, CH, QC, PC is a former British Conservative politician. He was Margaret Thatcher's longest-serving Cabinet minister, successively holding the posts of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary, and finally Leader of the House of Commons...

, whose resignation triggered the challenge that ended Thatcher's leadership
Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 1990
The 1990 Conservative Party leadership election in the United Kingdom took place in November 1990 following the decision of former Defence and Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine to stand against the incumbent Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.Thatcher failed to win...

. Under Thatcher's successor, John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 (1990–1997), the slow process of integration within the EU forced party tensions to the surface. A core of Eurosceptic
Euroscepticism
Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union , and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state...

 MPs under Major used the small Conservative majority in Parliament to oppose Government policy on the Maastricht Treaty
Maastricht Treaty
The Maastricht Treaty was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. On 9–10 December 1991, the same city hosted the European Council which drafted the treaty...

. By doing so they undermined Major's ability to govern.

In recent years the Conservative Party has become more clearly Eurosceptic, as the Labour Government has found itself unwilling to make a positive case for further integration, and Eurosceptic or pro-withdrawal parties such as the United Kingdom Independence Party
United Kingdom Independence Party
The United Kingdom Independence Party is a eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party in the United Kingdom. Whilst its primary goal is the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, the party has expanded beyond its single-issue image to develop a more comprehensive party platform.UKIP...

 have made showings in UK elections. But under current EU practices, the degree to which a Conservative Government could implement policy change regarding the EU would depend directly on the willingness of other EU member states to agree to such policies.

In 2009 the Conservative Party actively campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty, which it believes would give away too much sovereignty to Brussels. Shadow
Shadow Cabinet
The Shadow Cabinet is a senior group of opposition spokespeople in the Westminster system of government who together under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition form an alternative cabinet to the government's, whose members shadow or mark each individual member of the government...

 Foreign Secretary William Hague
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

 stated that, should the Treaty be in force by the time of an incoming Conservative government, he would "not let matters rest there". However, on 14 June 2009 shadow Business Secretary Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Harry "Ken" Clarke, QC, MP is a British Conservative politician, currently Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970; and appointed a minister in Edward Heath's government, in 1972, and is one of...

 said in an interview to the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 that the Conservative party would not reopen negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty if the Irish backed it in a new referendum, which they did on 2 October 2009.

Union policy

The Conservatives staunchly support the maintenance of the United Kingdom, and oppose the separation of any of the countries of the United Kingdom
Countries of the United Kingdom
Countries of the United Kingdom is a term used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These four countries together form the sovereign state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is also described as a country. The alternative terms, constituent...

: England
English independence
English independence is a political ideal advocated by some English people that England, the largest and most populous country within the United Kingdom, should secede from the UK and become an independent sovereign state, separate from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland...

, Scotland
Scottish independence
Scottish independence is a political ambition of political parties, advocacy groups and individuals for Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent sovereign state, separate from England, Wales and Northern Ireland....

, Wales
Welsh independence
Welsh independence is a political ideal advocated by some people in Wales that would see Wales secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent sovereign state. This ideology is promoted mainly by the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru.-History:...

 or Northern Ireland
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 from it. They have had a mixed history on support for Scottish
History of Scottish devolution
The decision of the Parliament of Scotland to ratify the Treaty of Union in 1707 was not unanimous and from that time, individuals and organizations have advocated the return of a Scottish Parliament. Some have argued for devolution - a Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom - whereas others...

, Welsh and Northern Irish devolution.

In 1968, Ted Heath issued his 'Perth declaration
Declaration of Perth
The Declaration of Perth was a statement made by British Conservative Party leader Edward Heath at the party conference in Perth, Scotland in 1968, which committed the party to supporting some form of Scottish devolution.- Background :...

', in support of a Scottish assembly, in the wake of growing nationalism. However the cause went unanswered during his turbulent premiership, and under Margaret Thatcher and John Major's leadership, the Conservatives vehemently opposed devolution, and campaigned against it in the 1997 devolution referendum. Following the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

's establishment in 1999, they have vowed to support it's continued existence, and along with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, they supported the Scotland Bill (2011), granting further devolution of power.

In Wales, the Conservatives campaigned against devolution in the 1997 referendum, however likewise as with Scotland, they have vowed to maintain the Welsh Assembely
National Assembly for Wales
The National Assembly for Wales is a devolved assembly with power to make legislation in Wales. The Assembly comprises 60 members, who are known as Assembly Members, or AMs...

's continued existence, and in 2011 supported the further devolution of power.

In Northern Ireland, the Conservatives suspended the parliament in 1973 in the wake of the growing Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

, and made unsuccessful attempts to re-establish it in the same year, and in 1982. They supported the Belfast Agreement
Belfast Agreement
The Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement , sometimes called the Stormont Agreement, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process...

 negotiated by the Blair government in 1998, and in 2009, negotiated an electoral pact with the declining Ulster Unionist Party
Ulster Unionist Party
The Ulster Unionist Party – sometimes referred to as the Official Unionist Party or, in a historic sense, simply the Unionist Party – is the more moderate of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland...

, whom it had previously been allied to before 1973. Interestingly, in 1940, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 offered a united Ireland to the Irish Taioseach Eamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

 in return for his support against Nazi Germany, however de Valera refused as he believed the unionists would not accept it.

The party opposed Labour's attempt to devolve power to the north of England in 2004, however have recently declared support for a commission into the West Lothian Question
West Lothian question
The West Lothian question refers to issues concerning the ability of Members of Parliament from constituencies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to vote on matters that only affect people living in England...

, as to whether or not only English MPs should be able to vote on issues solely affecting English matters.

Party structure

In the organisation of the Conservative Party, constituency
United Kingdom constituencies
In the United Kingdom , each of the electoral areas or divisions called constituencies elects one or more members to a parliament or assembly.Within the United Kingdom there are now five bodies with members elected by constituencies:...

 associations dominate the election of party leaders and the selection of local candidates while the Conservative Campaign Headquarters
Conservative Campaign Headquarters
Conservative Campaign Headquarters , formerly known as Conservative Central Office is the headquarters of the British Conservative Party, housing its central staff and committee members....

 (CCHQ) leads financing
Political funding in the United Kingdom
Political funding in the United Kingdom has been a source of controversy for many years. There are three main ways a political party is funded. The first is through membership subs; the second is through donations; the third is through state funding.-History:...

, organisation of elections and drafting of policy. The leader of the parliamentary party
1922 Committee
In British politics, the 1922 Committee is a committee of Conservative Members of Parliament. Voting membership is limited to backbench MPs although frontbench Conservative MPs have an open invitation to attend meetings. While the party was in opposition, frontbench MPs other than the party leader...

 forms policy in consultation with his cabinet and administration. This decentralised structure is unusual. The Conservative Party Board is the party's ultimate decision making
Decision making
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.- Overview :Human performance in decision terms...

 body, responsible for all operational matters (including fundraising, membership and candidates) and is made up of representatives from each (voluntary, political and professional) section of the Party. The Party Board meets about once a month and works closely with CCHQ, elected representatives and the voluntary membership mainly through a number of management sub-committees (such as membership, candidates and conferences).

Membership declined through the 20th century, and, despite an initial boost shortly after David Cameron's election as leader
Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2005
The 2005 Conservative leadership election was called by party leader Michael Howard on 6 May 2005, when he announced that he would be stepping down as leader in the near future. However, he stated that he would not depart until a review of the rules for the leadership election had been conducted,...

 in December 2005, later resumed its decline in 2006 to a lower level than when he was elected. In 2010, the Conservative Party had about 177,000 members according to activist Tim Montgomerie
Tim Montgomerie
Tim Montgomerie is best known as the co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice and as Editor of the ConservativeHome website, and has been described as "one of the most important Conservative activists of the past 20 years"....

. The membership fee for the Conservative Party is £25, or £5 if the member is under the age of 23.

In 2004, according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission
Electoral Commission (United Kingdom)
The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. It regulates party and election finance and sets standards for well-run elections...

, the party had an income of about £20 million and expenditures of about £26 million.

International organisations

Internationally, the Conservatives are a member of the International Democrat Union
International Democrat Union
The International Democrat Union, abbreviated to IDU, is a centre-right international alliance of conservative and liberal-conservative political parties. Headquartered in Oslo, Norway, the IDU comprises 45 full or associate members...

 and its European Democrat Union
European Democrat Union
The European Democrat Union is one of the two European wings of the International Democrat Union, along with the European People's Party . Its members include Christian democratic, liberal conservative, and conservative political parties...

.

In the summer of 2006 the Conservatives became founding members of the Movement for European Reform
Movement for European Reform
The Movement for European Reform, abbreviated to MER, was a pan-European alliance of national centre-right political parties with conservative, pro-free market and Eurosceptic inclinations...

, following Cameron's pledge to end the fourteen-year-old partnership between the largely Eurosceptic
EuroSceptic
EuroSceptic is the second album of British singer Jack Lucien. It was released in October 2009.Due to being an album influenced by Europop, it features songs with parts in different languages...

 Conservatives and the more Euro-integrationist, European People's Party
European People's Party
The European People's Party is a pro-European centre-right European political party. The EPP was founded in 1976 by Christian democratic parties, but later it increased its membership to include conservative parties and parties of other centre-right perspectives.The EPP is the most influential of...

 (EPP). Within the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

, however, the Conservatives remain members of an informal bloc called the European Democrats
European Democrats
The European Democrats was a loose association of conservative political parties in Europe. It is a political group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe...

 (ED), which is committed to sit in a coalition arrangement with the EPP as the EPP-ED group until 2009. Paradoxically, the EPP group is a strongly pro-EU integrationist grouping in the EP, while the ED is a eurosceptic grouping.

In June 2009, the Conservative Party leader David Cameron sealed a new alliance with conservative Polish Law and Justice
Law and Justice
Law and Justice , abbreviated to PiS, is a right-wing, conservative political party in Poland. With 147 seats in the Sejm and 38 in the Senate, it is the second-largest party in the Polish parliament....

 party (PiS), which at the time sat in opposition. Cameron attended a gathering at Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

's Palladium cinema celebrating the foundation of the new alliance; also present were Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of PiS, and Mirek Topolánek
Mirek Topolánek
Mirek Topolánek is a former prime minister of the Czech Republic and former President of the European Council. A member of the Civic Democratic Party, he was chairman of the center-right party between November 2002 and March 2010, succeeding Václav Klaus, who was elected President in 2003.On 24...

, leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic.

As of June 2009, Cameron required a further four partners apart from the Polish and Czech supports to qualify for official fraction status in the parliament; the rules state that a caucus needs at least 25 MEP
Member of the European Parliament
A Member of the European Parliament is a person who has been elected to the European Parliament. The name of MEPs differ in different languages, with terms such as europarliamentarian or eurodeputy being common in Romance language-speaking areas.When the European Parliament was first established,...

s from at least seven of the 27 EU member states. In forming the caucus, Cameron is reportedly breaking with two decades of co-operation by the UK's Conservative Party with the mainstream centre-right Christian democrats in the European parliament, the European People's Party
European People's Party
The European People's Party is a pro-European centre-right European political party. The EPP was founded in 1976 by Christian democratic parties, but later it increased its membership to include conservative parties and parties of other centre-right perspectives.The EPP is the most influential of...

 (EPP) on the grounds that it is dominated by European federalists
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 and supporters of the Lisbon treaty, which is opposed by the Tories. EPP leader Wilfried Martens
Wilfried Martens
Wilfried Martens is a Belgian politician. He was born in Sleidinge . Martens was the 44th Prime Minister of Belgium from 3 April 1979 to 6 April 1981 and 17 December 1981 to 7 March 1992....

, former prime minister of Belgium, has stated "Cameron's campaign has been to take his party back to the centre in every policy area with one major exception: Europe. [...] I can't understand his tactics. Merkel
Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel is the current Chancellor of Germany . Merkel, elected to the Bundestag from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has been the chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, and chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary coalition from 2002 to 2005.From 2005 to 2009 she led a...

 and Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

 will never accept his Euroscepticism."

In 2009, then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband
David Miliband
David Wright Miliband is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for South Shields since 2001, and was the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010. He is the elder son of the late Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband...

 accused the Conservative Party of having links to far-Right parties. He reiterated this in October, saying he was "astounded" by comments of the ECR group's chairman, the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski
Michal Kaminski
Michał Tomasz Kamiński is a Polish politician and a Member of the European Parliament for Warsaw with Poland Comes First...

, who had said that he believed that the murder of hundreds of Jews in Jedwabne should be considered a lesser crime than those committed by the Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

s during the Holocaust. Criticisms such as this have generally been countered by Conservatives making similar claims about members of the Labour Party's group in the European Parliament.

In October 2009, the Conservative Party came under pressure from the US administration concerning its alliances in the European Parliament. According to reports, the Conservative party's links to far-right parties within Europe has caused a "host of condemnation" from Jewish groups in the US; Ira Forman
Ira Forman
Ira N. Forman was Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council from January of 1996 through June of 2010.-Education and early career:...

, chief executive of the National Jewish Democratic Council
National Jewish Democratic Council
The National Jewish Democratic Council works as lobbying organization for the country of Israel in the United States of America and the Democratic Party and its mission is to promote pro-Israeli policies within the Party, and to promote the Democratic Party within the jewish community.The NJDC is...

, stated that "There is obviously concern in the US when there is legitimacy conferred on individuals and political parties that have had some association with anti-Semitism."

In 2009
European Parliament election, 2009 (United Kingdom)
The European Parliament election was the United Kingdom's component of the 2009 European Parliament election, the voting for which was held on Thursday 4 June 2009, coinciding with the 2009 local elections in England. Most of the results of the election were announced on Sunday 7 June, after...

, the Conservatives won 26 seats in the European Parliament, which increased to 27 in 2011 due to defection by a UKIP MEP.

One Nation Conservatives

One Nation Conservatism
One Nation Conservatism
One nation, one nation conservatism, and Tory democracy are terms used in political debate in the United Kingdom to refer to a certain wing of the Conservative Party...

 was the party's dominant ideology in the 20th century until the rise of Thatcherism
Thatcherism
Thatcherism describes the conviction politics, economic and social policy, and political style of the British Conservative politician Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of her party from 1975 to 1990...

 in the 1970s, and included in its ranks Conservative Prime Ministers such as Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

, Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 and Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

. The name itself comes from a famous phrase of Disraeli. The basis of One-Nation Conservatism is a belief in social cohesion, and its adherents support social institutions that maintain harmony between different interest groups, classes, and—more recently—different races or religions. These institutions have typically included the welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

, the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

, and local government. Some are also supporters of the European Union, perhaps stemming from an extension of the cohesion principle to the international level, though others are strongly against the EU (such as Sir Peter Tapsell). Prominent One Nation Conservatives in the contemporary party include Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Harry "Ken" Clarke, QC, MP is a British Conservative politician, currently Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970; and appointed a minister in Edward Heath's government, in 1972, and is one of...

, Malcolm Rifkind
Malcolm Rifkind
Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind KCMG QC MP is a British Conservative Party politician and Member of Parliament for Kensington. He served in various roles as a cabinet minister under Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including Secretary of State for Scotland , Defence Secretary and...

 and Damian Green
Damian Green
Damian Howard Green is a British politician who has been the Conservative Member of Parliament for Ashford since 1997. He came to national prominence after being elected in his constituency. Before standing for parliament, Damian Green was Channel 4's business editor...

; they are often associated with the Tory Reform Group
Tory Reform Group
The Tory Reform Group is a group aligned to, but independent of, the British Conservative Party, that works to promote the values of the One Nation Tory vision...

 and the Bow Group
Bow Group
The Bow Group is one of the oldest think tanks in the United Kingdom. Taking its name from the Bow area of London where it first met, it was founded in 1951...

. One Nation Conservatives often invoke Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 and his emphasis on civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

 ("little platoons") as the foundations of society, as well as his opposition to radical politics of all types.

Free-Market Conservatives

The second main grouping in the Conservative party is the "free market" or Thatcherite
Thatcherism
Thatcherism describes the conviction politics, economic and social policy, and political style of the British Conservative politician Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of her party from 1975 to 1990...

 wing of economic liberals who achieved dominance after the election of Margaret Thatcher as party leader in 1975. Their goal was to reduce the role of the government in the economy and to this end they supported cuts in direct taxation, the privatisation of nationalised
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 industries and a reduction in the size and scope of the welfare state. The group has disparate views of social policy: Thatcher herself was socially conservative and a practising Methodist but market liberals in the Conservative Party harbour a range of social opinions from the libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 views of Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo
Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo is a British journalist, broadcaster, and former Conservative Party politician and Cabinet Minister...

, Daniel Hannan
Daniel Hannan
Daniel John Hannan is a British journalist, author and politician who is currently a Member of the European Parliament, representing South East England for the Conservative Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists political group...

, and David Davis
David Davis (British politician)
David Michael Davis is a British Conservative Party politician who is the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Haltemprice and Howden...

 to the traditional conservatism of William Hague
William Hague
William Jefferson Hague is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001...

. The Thatcherite wing is also associated with the concept of a "classless society."

Many are also Eurosceptic
EuroSceptic
EuroSceptic is the second album of British singer Jack Lucien. It was released in October 2009.Due to being an album influenced by Europop, it features songs with parts in different languages...

, perceiving most EU regulations as interference in the free market and/or a threat to British sovereignty. EU centralisation also conflicts with the localist ideals that have grown in prominance within the party in recent years. Rare Thatcherite Europhiles include Leon Brittan
Leon Brittan, Baron Brittan of Spennithorne
Sir Leon Brittan, Baron Brittan of Spennithorne, QC, PC, DL is a British barrister, politician and former Conservative Member of Parliament, as well as former member of the European Commission and former Home Secretary of the United Kingdom...

. Many take inspiration from Thatcher's Bruges speech in 1988, in which she declared that "we have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level". Thatcherites and classical liberals
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 in the party also tend to be Atlanticist
Atlanticism
Atlanticism is a philosophy of cooperation among Western European and North American nations regarding political, economic, and defense issues, with the purpose to maintain the security of the participating countries, and to protect the values that unite them: "democracy, individual liberty and...

, identifying strongly with the liberal founding principles of the United States. This was demonstrated with the close friendship between Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

. Thatcher herself claimed philosophical inspiration from the works of Burke and Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich August Hayek CH , born in Austria-Hungary as Friedrich August von Hayek, was an economist and philosopher best known for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought...

 for her defence of liberal economics. Groups associated with this tradition include the No Turning Back Group and Conservative Way Forward
Conservative Way Forward
Conservative Way Forward is a British campaigning group that operates within the Conservative Party. It is a Thatcherite group in outlook and agenda, and Baroness Thatcher herself is the President....

, whilst Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

 and Sir Keith Joseph are usually cited as early influences in the movement.

Traditionalist Conservatives

This right-wing grouping is currently associated with the Cornerstone Group
Cornerstone Group
The Cornerstone Group is a socially conservative or traditional conservative political organisation within the British Conservative Party. The group emphasises traditional values, exemplified by the motto: Faith, Flag, and Family. It consists of Members of Parliament with a traditionalist stance,...

 (or Faith, Family, Flag), and is the third main tradition within the Conservative Party. The name stems from its support for three English social institutions: the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, the unitary British state
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

 and the family. To this end, they emphasise the country's Anglican
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 heritage, oppose any transfer of power away from the United Kingdom—either downwards to the nations and regions or upwards to the European Union—and seek to place greater emphasis on traditional family structures to repair what they see as a broken society in the UK. They are strong advocates of marriage and believe the Conservative Party should back the institution with tax breaks and have opposed Labour's alleged assault on both traditional family structures and 'fatherhood'. Most oppose high levels of immigration and support the lowering of the current 24 week abortion limit. Some members in the past have expressed support for capital punishment. Prominent MPs from this wing of the party include Andrew Rosindell
Andrew Rosindell
Andrew Richard Rosindell is an English Conservative politician. He is the Member of Parliament for the Romford constituency in Greater London...

, Nadine Dorries
Nadine Dorries
Nadine Vanessa Dorries is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire since 2005. She has been involved in parliamentary attempts to change the laws on abortion....

 and Edward Leigh
Edward Leigh
Edward Julian Egerton Leigh is a British Conservative politician. He has sat in the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough in Lincolnshire since 1997, and for its predecessor constituency of Gainsborough and Horncastle between 1983 and 1997...

—the latter a prominent Roman Catholic, notable in a faction marked out by its support for the established Church of England. The conservative English philosopher Roger Scruton
Roger Scruton
Roger Vernon Scruton is a conservative English philosopher and writer. He is the author of over 30 books, including Art and Imagination , Sexual Desire , The Aesthetics of Music , and A Political Philosophy: Arguments For Conservatism...

 is a representative of the intellectual wing of the Cornerstone group: his writings rarely touch on economics and instead focus on conservative perspectives concerning political, social, cultural and moral issues.

Sometimes two groupings have united to oppose the third. Both Thatcherite and Traditionalist Conservatives rebelled over Europe (and in particular Maastricht) during John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

's premiership; and Traditionalist and One Nation MPs united to inflict Margaret Thatcher's only major defeat in Parliament, over Sunday trading.

Not all Conservative MPs can be easily placed within one of the above groupings. For example, John Major was the ostensibly "Thatcherite" candidate during the 1990 leadership election
Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 1990
The 1990 Conservative Party leadership election in the United Kingdom took place in November 1990 following the decision of former Defence and Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine to stand against the incumbent Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.Thatcher failed to win...

, but he consistently promoted One-Nation Conservatives to the higher reaches of his cabinet during his time as Prime Minister. These included Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Harry "Ken" Clarke, QC, MP is a British Conservative politician, currently Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970; and appointed a minister in Edward Heath's government, in 1972, and is one of...

 as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Michael Heseltine
Michael Heseltine
Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, CH, PC is a British businessman, Conservative politician and patron of the Tory Reform Group. He was a Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001 and was a prominent figure in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major...

 as Deputy Prime Minister.

Electoral performance

This chart shows the electoral performance of the Conservative Party in general elections since 1835.
Election Votes Vote % Seats Outcome of election
1835
United Kingdom general election, 1835
The 1835 United Kingdom general election was called when Parliament was dissolved on 29 December 1834. Polling took place between 6 January and 6 February 1835, and the results saw Robert Peel's Conservatives make large gains from their low of the 1832 election, but the Whigs maintained a large...

261,269 40.8% 273 Whig Victory
1837
United Kingdom general election, 1837
The 1837 United Kingdom general election saw Robert Peel's Conservatives close further on the position of the Whigs, who won their fourth election of the decade....

379,694 48.3% 314 Whig Victory
1841
United Kingdom general election, 1841
-Seats summary:-Whig MPs who lost their seats:*Viscount Morpeth - Chief Secretary for Ireland*Sir George Strickland, Bt*Sir Henry Barron, 1st Baronet-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987...

379,694 56.9% 367 Conservative Victory
1847
United Kingdom general election, 1847
-Seats summary:-References:* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

205,481 42.7% 325 Whig Victory
1852
United Kingdom general election, 1852
The July 1852 United Kingdom general election was a watershed election in the formation of the modern political parties of Britain. Following 1852, the Tory/Conservative party became, more completely, the party of the rural aristocracy, while the Whig/Liberal party became the party of the rising...

311,481 41.9% 330 Conservative Victory
1857
United Kingdom general election, 1857
-Seats summary:-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

239,712 34.0% 264 Whig Victory
1859
United Kingdom general election, 1859
In the 1859 United Kingdom general election, the Whigs, led by Lord Palmerston, held their majority in the House of Commons over the Earl of Derby's Conservatives...

193,232 34.3% 298 Whig Victory
1865
United Kingdom general election, 1865
The 1865 United Kingdom general election saw the Liberals, led by Lord Palmerston, increase their large majority over the Earl of Derby's Conservatives to more than 80. The Whig Party changed its name to the Liberal Party between the previous election and this one.Palmerston died later in the same...

346,035 40.5% 289 Liberal Victory
1868
United Kingdom general election, 1868
The 1868 United Kingdom general election was the first after passage of the Reform Act 1867, which enfranchised many male householders, thus greatly increasing the number of men who could vote in elections in the United Kingdom...

903,318 38.4% 271 Liberal Victory
1874
United Kingdom general election, 1874
-Seats summary:-References:* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

1,091,708 44.3% 350 Conservative Victory
1880
United Kingdom general election, 1880
-Seats summary:-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

1,462,351 42.5% 237 Liberal Victory
1885
United Kingdom general election, 1885
-Seats summary:-See also:*List of MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1885*Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885–1918*Representation of the People Act 1884*Redistribution of Seats Act 1885-References:...

2,020,927 43.5% 247 Liberal Victory
1886
United Kingdom general election, 1886
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the UK general election, 1886*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

1,520,886 51.1% 393 (316+77) Conservative and Liberal Unionist Victory
1892
United Kingdom general election, 1892
The 1892 United Kingdom general election was held from 4 July to 26 July 1892. It saw the Conservatives, led by Lord Salisbury, win the greatest number of seats, but not enough for an overall majority as William Ewart Gladstone's Liberals won many more seats than in the 1886 general election...

2,159,150 47.0% 313 (268+45) Liberal Victory
1895
United Kingdom general election, 1895
The United Kingdom general election of 1895 was held from 13 July - 7 August 1895. It was won by the Conservatives led by Lord Salisbury who formed an alliance with the Liberal Unionist Party and had a large majority over the Liberals, led by Lord Rosebery...

1,894,772 49.0% 411 Conservative and Liberal Unionist Victory
1900
United Kingdom general election, 1900
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1900*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

1,767,958 50.3% 402 Conservative and Liberal Unionist Victory
1906
United Kingdom general election, 1906
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1906*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

2,422,071 43.4% 156 Liberal Victory
Jan 1910 3,104,407 46.8% 272 Liberal Hung Parliament
Dec 1910 2,420,169 46.6% 271 Liberal Hung Parliament
1918
United Kingdom general election, 1918
The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Polling was held on 14 December 1918, although the count did...

3,472,738 33.3% 332 'Coalition' Conservative Hung Parliament / 'Coalition' Liberal Victory
1922
United Kingdom general election, 1922
The United Kingdom general election of 1922 was held on 15 November 1922. It was the first election held after most of the Irish counties left the United Kingdom to form the Irish Free State, and was won by Andrew Bonar Law's Conservatives, who gained an overall majority over Labour, led by John...

5,294,465 38.5% 344 Conservative Victory
1923
United Kingdom general election, 1923
-Seats summary:-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987*-External links:***...

5,286,159 38.0% 258 Conservative Hung Parliament
1924
United Kingdom general election, 1924
- Seats summary :- References :* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* - External links :* * *...

7,418,983 46.8% 412 Conservative Victory
1929
United Kingdom general election, 1929
-Seats summary:-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987*-External links:***...

8,252,527 38.1% 260 Labour Hung Parliament
1931
United Kingdom general election, 1931
The United Kingdom general election on Tuesday 27 October 1931 was the last in the United Kingdom not held on a Thursday. It was also the last election, and the only one under universal suffrage, where one party received an absolute majority of the votes cast.The 1931 general election was the...

11,377,022 55.0% 473 Conservative Victory
1935
United Kingdom general election, 1935
The United Kingdom general election held on 14 November 1935 resulted in a large, though reduced, majority for the National Government now led by Conservative Stanley Baldwin. The greatest number of MPs, as before, were Conservative, while the National Liberal vote held steady...

10,025,083 47.8% 386 National Government (Conservative) Victory
1945
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

8,716,211 36.2% 197 Labour Victory
1950
United Kingdom general election, 1950
The 1950 United Kingdom general election was the first general election ever after a full term of a Labour government. Despite polling over one and a half million votes more than the Conservatives, the election, held on 23 February 1950 resulted in Labour receiving a slim majority of just five...

11,507,061 40.0% 282 Labour Victory
1951
United Kingdom general election, 1951
The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held eighteen months after the 1950 general election, which the Labour Party had won with a slim majority of just five seats...

13,724,418 48.0% 321 (302+19) Conservative Victory
1955
United Kingdom general election, 1955
The 1955 United Kingdom general election was held on 26 May 1955, four years after the previous general election. It resulted in a substantially increased majority of 60 for the Conservative government under new leader and prime minister Sir Anthony Eden against Labour Party, now in their 20th year...

13,310,891 49.7% 345 Conservative Victory
1959
United Kingdom general election, 1959
This United Kingdom general election was held on 8 October 1959. It marked a third successive victory for the ruling Conservative Party, led by Harold Macmillan...

13,750,875 49.4% 365 Conservative Victory
1964
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

12,002,642 43.4% 304 Labour Victory
1966
United Kingdom general election, 1966
The 1966 United Kingdom general election on 31 March 1966 was called by sitting Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson's decision to call an election turned on the fact that his government, elected a mere 17 months previously in 1964 had an unworkably small majority of only 4 MPs...

11,418,455 41.9% 253 Labour Victory
1970
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

13,145,123 46.4% 330 Conservative Victory
Feb 1974
United Kingdom general election, February 1974
The United Kingdom's general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the first election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party,...

11,872,180 37.9% 297 Labour Hung Parliament / Lib-Lab Pact
Oct 1974
United Kingdom general election, October 1974
The United Kingdom general election of October 1974 took place on 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. It was the second general election of that year and resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson, winning by a tiny majority of 3 seats.The election of...

10,462,565 35.8% 277 Labour Victory
1979
United Kingdom general election, 1979
The United Kingdom general election of 1979 was held on 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats...

13,697,923 43.9% 339 Conservative Victory
1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

13,012,316 42.4% 397 Conservative Victory
1987
United Kingdom general election, 1987
The United Kingdom general election of 1987 was held on 11 June 1987, to elect 650 members to the British House of Commons. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd...

13,760,935 42.2% 376 Conservative Victory
1992
United Kingdom general election, 1992
The United Kingdom general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992, and was the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in 20th Century politics, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil...

14,093,007 41.9% 336 Conservative Victory
1997
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

9,600,943 30.7% 165 Labour Victory
2001
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

8,357,615 31.7% 166 Labour Victory
2005
United Kingdom general election, 2005
The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but with a majority of 66, reduced from 160....

8,785,941 32.4% 198 Labour Victory
2010 10,704,647 36.1% 306 Conservative Hung Parliament / Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition

Ideological groups

  • Tory Reform Group
    Tory Reform Group
    The Tory Reform Group is a group aligned to, but independent of, the British Conservative Party, that works to promote the values of the One Nation Tory vision...

  • Conservative Mainstream
    Conservative Mainstream
    Conservative Mainstream is a pressure group on the left of the British Conservative Party.It was founded in 1996. It is now aligned closely to the Tory Reform Group and the Conservative Europe Group. Its chairman is Damian Green MP.-External links:*...


  • Progressive Conservatives
  • Cornerstone Group
    Cornerstone Group
    The Cornerstone Group is a socially conservative or traditional conservative political organisation within the British Conservative Party. The group emphasises traditional values, exemplified by the motto: Faith, Flag, and Family. It consists of Members of Parliament with a traditionalist stance,...


  • Conservative Way Forward
    Conservative Way Forward
    Conservative Way Forward is a British campaigning group that operates within the Conservative Party. It is a Thatcherite group in outlook and agenda, and Baroness Thatcher herself is the President....

  • Selsdon Group
    Selsdon Group
    The Selsdon Group is a British free-market economics pressure group, closely associated with the Conservative Party. Selsdon Group members believe that economic freedom is the indispensable condition for political and social freedom. The group's President is the Rt. Hon...



Interest groups

  • Conservative Friends of Israel
    Conservative Friends of Israel
    Conservative Friends of Israel, abbreviated to CFI, is a British parliamentary group affiliated to the Conservative Party and dedicated to strengthening business, cultural and political ties between the United Kingdom and Israel. CFI is an unincorporated associationIt was founded by the late...

  • Conservative Friends of Turkey
    Conservative Friends of Turkey
    Conservative Friends of Turkey is a group associated with the British Conservative Party. Its fundamental objective is given as promoting links between Turkey and the Conservative Party at all levels, by working with local and national party organisations, business groups and academia...


  • LGBTory
    LGBTory
    LGBTory is a LGBT and Conservative Group linked to, but not run, directed or funded by the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. The first LGBT Conservative group was called CGHE LGBTory is a LGBT and Conservative Group linked to, but not run, directed or funded by the Conservative Party of the...

  • Bruges Group
    Bruges Group
    The Bruges Group is a think tank based in the United Kingdom.The group is often associated with the Conservative Party, though it is independent of it and remains an all-party organisation...


  • Conservative Christian Fellowship
    Conservative Christian Fellowship
    The Conservative Christian Fellowship is an organisation allied with the British Conservative Party, established in 1990 by Tim Montgomerie and Conservative MP David Burrowes whilst they were students at Exeter University....

  • Conservative Muslim Forum
    Conservative Muslim Forum
    The Conservative Muslim Forum is a group within the British Conservative Party. It aims to increase Conservative Party's knowledge and comprehension of issues and circumstances that have particular relevance to Muslim communities and develop suitable responses. It also seeks to increase support for...



Think tanks

  • European Foundation
    European Foundation (think tank)
    The European Foundation is a respected and leading Eurosceptic think tank based in the United Kingdom. It is chaired by Bill Cash, a British Conservative MP. The organisation produces the European Journal....


  • Bow Group
    Bow Group
    The Bow Group is one of the oldest think tanks in the United Kingdom. Taking its name from the Bow area of London where it first met, it was founded in 1951...


  • Centre for Policy Studies
    Centre for Policy Studies
    The Centre for Policy Studies is a British right wing policy think tank whose goal is to promote coherent and practical public policy, to roll back the state, reform public services, support communities, and challenge threats to Britain’s independence...



Alliances

  • International Democrat Union
    International Democrat Union
    The International Democrat Union, abbreviated to IDU, is a centre-right international alliance of conservative and liberal-conservative political parties. Headquartered in Oslo, Norway, the IDU comprises 45 full or associate members...

  • European Democrat Union
    European Democrat Union
    The European Democrat Union is one of the two European wings of the International Democrat Union, along with the European People's Party . Its members include Christian democratic, liberal conservative, and conservative political parties...


  • European Conservatives and Reformists
    European Conservatives and Reformists
    The European Conservatives and Reformists, abbreviated to ECR, is a conservative anti-federalist political group in the European Parliament. The group currently comprises 57 MEPs, making it the fourth-largest group in the European Parliament....

  • European Democrat Group
    European Democrat Group
    The European Democrat Group is a conservative group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It was originally founded as the Group of Independent Representatives in 1970 by British and Scandinavian members of PACE, having about 35-40 members from the UK, Ireland, Norway, Denmark,...


  • Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
    Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
    The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, abbreviated to AECR, is a centre-right anti-federalist European political party defending broader conservative and classical liberal principles. It consists of twelve parties in nine EU member states and Iceland...

  • Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force
    Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force
    The Ulster Conservatives and Unionists, officially registered as the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force , is a bipartisan electoral alliance in Northern Ireland between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Northern Ireland branch of the Conservative Party, the latter party also being...



Party structures

  • Scottish Conservative Party
  • Welsh Conservative Party
    Welsh Conservative Party
    The Welsh Conservatives & Unionists , informally the Welsh Conservatives or Welsh Tories, are the part of the Conservative Party which operates in Wales...

  • Conservatives in Northern Ireland
    Conservatives in Northern Ireland
    The Conservatives Northern Ireland is the section of the Conservative and Unionist Party of the United Kingdom that operates in Northern Ireland...


  • 1922 Committee
    1922 Committee
    In British politics, the 1922 Committee is a committee of Conservative Members of Parliament. Voting membership is limited to backbench MPs although frontbench Conservative MPs have an open invitation to attend meetings. While the party was in opposition, frontbench MPs other than the party leader...

  • Conservative Party Archive
    Conservative Party Archive
    The Conservative Party Archive, based at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, is the official place of deposit for the historic records of the British Conservative Party...

  • Conservative Research Department
    Conservative Research Department
    The Conservative Research Department is part of the central organisation of the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. It operates alongside other departments of Conservative Campaign Headquarters at 30 Millbank, London SW1....


  • Conservative Women's Organisation
  • Conservative Future
    Conservative Future
    Conservative Future, abbreviated to CF, is the youth movement of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom for members aged up to 30 years old.Founded in 1998, Conservative Future is the largest political organisation on British campuses...

  • Conservative Future Scotland
    Conservative Future Scotland
    Conservative Future Scotland is the youth wing of the Scottish Conservative Party.The organisation formed in early 2005 by the merger of the Scottish Young Conservatives and the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Students group, a process which had happened with its sister organisation in the...



See also

  • Deputy Leaders of the Conservative Party:
    • Anthony Eden
      Anthony Eden
      Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

       1940–1955
    • Harold McMillian 1955–1957
    • Rab Butler
      Rab Butler
      Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, KG CH DL PC , who invariably signed his name R. A. Butler and was familiarly known as Rab, was a British Conservative politician...

       1957–1964
    • Willie Whitelaw 1975–1988
    • Michael Heseltine
      Michael Heseltine
      Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, CH, PC is a British businessman, Conservative politician and patron of the Tory Reform Group. He was a Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001 and was a prominent figure in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major...

      1995–1997
    • Peter Lilley
      Peter Lilley
      Peter Bruce Lilley MP is a British Conservative Party politician who has been a Member of Parliament MP since 1983. He currently represents the constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden and, prior to boundary changes, represented St Albans...

       1998–1999
    • Michael Ancram
      Michael Ancram
      Michael Andrew Foster Jude Kerr, 13th Marquess of Lothian, PC, QC , known as Michael Ancram, is a United Kingdom Conservative Party politician. He is a member of the House of Lords, former Member of Parliament, and a former member of the Shadow Cabinet...

       2001–2005
  • Cameron Ministry
    Cameron Ministry
    David Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government after the resignation as Prime Minister of Gordon Brown on 11 May 2010. Leading a coalition government formed by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, the coalition...

  • Chairman of the Conservative Party
    Chairman of the Conservative Party
    In the United Kingdom, the Chairman of the Conservative Party is responsible for running the party machine, overseeing Conservative Central Office. When the Conservatives are in power, the Chairman is usually a member of the Cabinet being given a sinecure position such as Minister without Portfolio...

  • Conservative Campaign Headquarters
    Conservative Campaign Headquarters
    Conservative Campaign Headquarters , formerly known as Conservative Central Office is the headquarters of the British Conservative Party, housing its central staff and committee members....

  • Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2005
    Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2005
    The 2005 Conservative leadership election was called by party leader Michael Howard on 6 May 2005, when he announced that he would be stepping down as leader in the near future. However, he stated that he would not depart until a review of the rules for the leadership election had been conducted,...

  • List of Conservative Party politicians
  • List of UK Conservative Party general election manifestos

Official party sites


Other

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