Another National Party No More?

Today's conservatives can learn from their Tory forbears.

Issue: Winter 2005-2006

John Redwood, Singing the Blues: The Once and Future Conservatives (London: Politicos, 2004), 320 pp., $39.95.

Anthony Selden and Peter Snowdon, The Conservative Party: An Illustrated History (Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2004), 256 pp., £25.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Strange Death of Tory England (London: Allen Lane, 2005), 336 pp., £20.

BRITAIN'S CONSERVATIVE Party today appears caught between crisis and malaise, prompting informed observers to speculate whether the trend since 1997 marks a realignment in favor of Labour or even a terminal decline for the Tories. As the world's oldest political party, the Tories have also been one of the most successful. Conservative governments or Conservative-dominated coalitions held power more often than not since 1874, and despite occasional setbacks, the Tories became Britain's natural party of government during the 20th century. Conservatives held so strong an electoral position by the late 1980s that some analysts speculated it might exclude other parties and become a permanent governing party akin to Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, with power shifting between factions. A series of failures in the 1990s, combined with the rise of New Labour under Tony Blair, shifted the political landscape dramatically. Not only have the Conservatives been excluded from power, but their defeat fed the factionalism that pushed them further to the margins.

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