Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900 by Anthony Seldon, Stuart Ball

By Anthony Seldon, Stuart Ball

The dominant strength in twentieth-century British politics, the Conservative social gathering has however been heavily ignored and misunderstood. Conservative Century systematically surveys the historical past of the celebration from the "Khaki" election of 1900 to John Major's victory of 1992 and past. Ignoring conventional barriers among heritage and political technological know-how, and drawing on Conservative occasion records, all of the authoritative groups of participants pursues a tremendous topic inside 3 major parts: the Party's composition and constitution; its principles, guidelines and activities in govt; and its public picture and assets of aid.

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What is beyond doubt is that within a year the Conservatives were to be back in power. But with the defeat of the first Baldwin government in December 1923, a new phase of the Conservative Party's history began. Or should he adopt the more direct (if opportunist) Disraelian response of appealing to the members of the working class with a programme of action to retain their loyalty, meeting their needs better than any rival party? The direction taken was towards pragmatic and selective state intervention in the economy and social policy.

Once the much-sought-after office was recaptured, the party attempted to enact its new policies and to retain popularity, two objectives which proved at times to be in a state of tension with each other. The combination of severe defeats as in 1906 and 1945 and the belief that the public mood had changed impelled the Conservatives towards the new middle ground. This change was prompted in part by a decline in public support, subsequently confirmed in the 1992 general election, and still more in by-elections since.

The outflanking of his own party's right wing, which had hampered him so badly during 1929–31, gave Baldwin particular satisfaction. Although the numbers of Labour and Liberal MPs in the government were insignificant, at least 150 Conservatives owed their seats to the avoidance of three-party competition. Baldwin thus came to see National Government as a reliable way of seeing the triumph of his own brand of moderate Conservatism, as well as piloting a course between the extremism being sought in Britain and abroad by both far left and far right.

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