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The Barren Years: 1997–2005

  • Anthony Seldon
  • Peter Snowdon

Abstract

The Conservative Party throughout its history has resented defeat in general elections. Since the late nineteenth century, the Party has seen itself as the ‘natural’ party of government, with periods of opposition the exception, and office the norm. With a broad appeal to all sections and parts of the country, its character has chimed with the heartbeat of the nation. Its longest period in the wilderness was between 1846 and 1866, but even during this, there were brief tenures of power in 1852 and 1858–59. Apart from this, periods out of office between 1783 and 1997 only twice exceeded nine years, in 1830–41 and 1905–15; the remaining opposition periods were often much shorter.

Keywords

Opinion Poll Leadership Election Single Currency Popular Vote Conservative Party 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Interview with John Major in A. Seldon, Major: A Political Life (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997), 287.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The 1997 ICM exit poll data and the British Election Panel survey show that about 2.2 million of those who voted Conservative in 1992 switched directly to Labour, with 1.4 million switching to the Liberal Democrats and about 750,000 to the Referendum Party and UKIP. Fewer than 1 million who voted Conservative in 1992 stayed at home. Also see T. Hames and N. Sparrow, Left Home: The Myth of Conservative Abstentions in the General Election of 1997 (London: Centre for Policy Studies, 1997).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See D. Butler and D. Kavanagh, The British General Election of 1997 (London: Macmillan, 1997), 244–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Conservatives lost a total of 178 seats, one short of Labour’s winning overall majority: P. Norris, ‘Anatomy of a Labour landslide’, Parliamentary Affairs, 50 (1997), 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    P. Kellner, ‘Why the Conservatives were trounced’, in P. Norris and N.T. Gavin (eds), Britain Votes 1997 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 120–2.Google Scholar
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    P. Cowley and M. Stuart, ‘The Conservative parliamentary Party’, in M. Garnett and P. Lynch (eds), The Conservatives in Crisis (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
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    See D. Willetts and R. Forsdyke, After the Landslide: Learning the Lessons of 1906 and 1945 (London: Centre for Policy Studies, 1999).Google Scholar
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    See John Ramsden, An Appetite for Power (London: HarperCollins, 1998).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    According to his biographer, Hague was supremely confident of his chances. Knowing that Heseltine and Portillo were out of the race, he calculated that he would win if he stood. See J-A. Nadler, William Hague: In His Own Right (London: Politico’s, 2000), 8.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    The irony is that if party members voted in the 1997 leadership election, as they did in 2001, Clarke might have won, due to his popularity in the country: G. Peele, ‘Towards “New Conservatives”? Organizational reform and the Conservative Party’, Political Quarterly, 69 (1998).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    The Party Board was also given the power to enforce compulsory audits and ‘efficiency criteria’ governing the everyday conduct of local associations, and the financial independence of local associations was also discreetly weakened: R. Kelly, ‘The Party didn’t work: Conservative reorganization and electoral failure’, Political Quarterly, 73 (2002), 40–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 36.
    S. Walters, Tory Wars: The Conservatives in Crisis (London: Politico’s, 2001).Google Scholar
  13. 38.
    P. Norris (ed.), Britain Votes 2001 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 66–71.Google Scholar
  14. 39.
    A. Seldon and P. Snowdon, The Conservative Party: An Illustrated History (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2004), 131.Google Scholar
  15. 47.
    Duncan Smith was the first leader of the Conservative Party not to have served as a cabinet minister before becoming leader: P. Snowdon and D. Collings, ‘Déjà vu? Conservative problems in historical perspective’, Political Quarterly, 75 (2004).Google Scholar
  16. 49.
    G. Clark and S. Kelly, ‘Echoes of Butler? The Conservative Research Department and the making of Conservative policy’, Political Quarterly, 75 (2004).Google Scholar
  17. 51.
    See J. Lees-Marshment, ‘Mis-marketing the Conservatives: the limitations of style over substance’, Political Quarterly, 75 (2004).Google Scholar
  18. 53.
    R. Kelly, ‘The extra parliamentary Conservative Party: McKenzie revisited’, Political Quarterly, 75 (2004).Google Scholar
  19. 60.
    D. Broughton, ‘Doomed to defeat? Electoral support and the Conservative Party’, Political Quarterly, 75 (2004).Google Scholar
  20. 62.
    J. Fisher, ‘Money matters: the financing of the Conservative Party’, Political Quarterly, 75 (2004).Google Scholar
  21. 63.
    P. Oborne, ‘The mean machine’, Spectator, 20 Nov. 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Seldon
  • Peter Snowdon

There are no affiliations available

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