Path: ICPP > ICPP1990 > UK Conservative Party

UNITED KINGDOM: Conservative Party, 012

The Conservative Party was one of the original parties in Janda's 1950-1962 ICPP study. The party continued throughout 1950-1990 in the Harmel-Janda study of party change.

The essay on party politics in the United Kingdom from 1950 to 1962 says:
Having dominated government from 1951 to 1964, the Conservatives entered protracted period in opposition broken by the Conservative government of Edward Heath from June 1970 to February 1974. Although actually winning a plurality of the vote in the February 1974 election, the Conservatives failed to win a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, and a Labour government emerged. Again, in May 1979, the Conservatives returned to office under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.
The essay on party politics in the United Kingdom from 1963 to 2000 says:
From 1963 to 2000, Conservatives led British government under four different prime ministers. From October of 1963 to October of 1964, Alec Douglas-Home headed the British government after Conservative Primer Minister Harold Mcmillan (1957 to 1963) resigned due to health reasons. The defeat of the Conservative Party in the elections of 1964 was attributed to splits within the Conservative party that Douglas-Home was not able to handle, ethics scandals involving War Minister John Profumo and mounting trade deficits, as well as social unrest.
But Conservatives swept swept the next election in 1970, and installed Edward Heath as prime minister. In February of 1974, a miner's strike caused Heath to call a general election in the hope of strengthening the government's mandate. But the Conservatives were split again and they lost.
Since the mid 1970s, under the leadership of John Powell and then Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Party moved further towards the right. In 1975, Margaret Thatcher, the first woman who became leader of a major political party in Britain, ousted Heath followers from key party posts and declared that state involvement in social and economic matters had to be decreased. She constructed a new social base of support for her party that came less from the traditional conservatives' backers, the upper classes and landed gentry, than from the middle classes and skilled workers who felt increasingly discontent and unrepresented by the traditional policies and orientations of the two major political parties.
In 1979 under Thatcher, the Conservative Party won the elections and she became prime minister. Thatcher was reelected prime minister in 1983 (when she strategically timed the elections after the victory in the Falkland Islands war with Argentina), again in 1987 (during a period of economic growth), and stayed in power until 1990. Despite her initial popularity, her long term in office, her mastery to deal with internal conflicts within her party, and her capacity to reward followers and punish opponents, Thatcher failed at reelection as Conservative leader in 1990 and was replaced by John Major. Her defeat within the party was attributed to her reluctance to support European integration (a position that did not correspond with the general public attitude towards the European Community), and the popular unrest generated by her "poll tax," which taxed registered voters to replace property taxes collected by local councils and which was widely viewed as regressive,taxing the lower income strata more heavily than the upper classes). When the Conservatives won the 1990 election, John Major became prime minister. He followed Thatcher policies but in a less confrontational manner. Slowly, he pulled back from the poll tax.

Consult the index to variables for annual scores of the party's issue orientation, organizational complexity, centralization of power, and coherence from 1950 through 1990.