Tories under the microscope

01 Dec 2008 15:27:00.000

PA 303/08

Do the Conservatives have what it takes to return to power? Has David Cameron taken too many liberties with the party's traditional members? Does he have the policies to back up his rhetoric?

These crucial questions will be tackled by some of the country's leading politicians, academics and political journalists at the conference: Cameron's Conservatives: Approaching Government - the inaugural conference of the Centre for British Politics at The University of Nottingham on Friday 12 December.

The high profile participants include David Willetts MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, Peter Riddell of The Times and Professor Phillip Cowley from The University of Nottingham.

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Once considered the most successful centre-right party in Europe, the Tories have languished in relative obscurity for the past 10 years, losing three general elections. The party’s state is considered ironic by some, considering that the Twentieth Century was once hailed as the “Conservative Century.”

The party's recent opinion poll revival has led many to consider that David Cameron has reversed that trend — although at what cost to the party's principles remains unknown.

Professor Steven Fielding, Director of the Centre for British Politics said: “There has been a marked turn-around under Cameron. He has brought many of the more traditional elements in the party across to his apparently centrist ideas, which — you could argue — places him in an unenviable position should the Tories lose the next election. Conservative members’ patience will only seem to stretch so far.”

Even with the spectre of the global recession rising and observations of Cameron as 'Blair MKII' there are however still many who feel the Conservatives will inevitably win the next General Election.

“This is why the conference is so topical and important,” said Professor Fielding. “There is currently a highly charged atmosphere in British politics and this conference will seek to answer some of the most pressing questions. The current opinion polls for instance seem to suggest a strong lean towards David Cameron and his party, and for the most part and despite recent controversies, he appears to be on track.

“But you have to ask how much do we actually know about the Conservatives in 2008? The idea of a Conservative Party government may be a foregone conclusion for some, but I think there are numerous questions outstanding. This conference we believe will bring us a little closer to understanding the party's role, its influence and — more importantly for the British electorate — its future.”

During the course of the conference critical aspects of the Conservative strategy and ideology will be tested by some of the country's top experts and stakeholders alike.

They will weigh up the party's current electoral position and the strategies that have been used to help establish, and more importantly, sustain it.

David Cameron's influence on the party will be assessed, looking at how he has transformed the nature of the party organisation and membership, and how he brought the right elements in the party to his centrist position.

The conference will also assess how Cameron has mapped out his new political terrain, and crucially the party's policies will be up for investigation.

The conference will be held in B63 lecture theatre, Law and Social Sciences Building, University Park; the programme is as below.

10.15-11.00: Coffee and Welcome

11.00-12.00 Session 1 –  Winning Power?

Professor John Curtice (University of Strathclyde)
Back in contention?

Professor Ron Johnston (University of Bristol) and Professor Charles Pattie (University of Sheffield)
Grassroots revival? Is the Conservative constituency campaign machine working again?

Dr Nick Randall (University of Newcastle)
Beyond Revival? The Conservatives in the North

Dr Jane Green (University of Manchester)
A Challenge to Core Vote Theories: the Conservatives since 1997

12.00-1.00 Session 2 - A Renewed Party?

Dr Sarah Childs (University of Bristol)
Professor Paul Webb (University of Sussex)
Dr Sally Marthaler (University of Sussex)
Party Feminization and the Cohesion of the Conservative Party

Professor Phil Cowley (University of Nottingham)
The Parliamentary party

Dr Tim Bale (University of Sussex)
‘Cometh the hour, cometh the Dave': how Cameron revived the Conservative Party

Dr Ben Clements (University of Birmingham)
‘"Little Englanders”? Profiling Conservative Party supporters' views on immigration and Europe.'

1.00-2.00 Lunch and Plenary

David Willetts MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills)

2.00-3.00 Session 3 - A New Agenda?

Jill Kirby (Centre for Policy Studies)
From broken families to the broken society

Richard Hayton (University of Sheffield)
David Cameron and the politics of the family

Kieron O’Hara (University of Southampton)
Back to basics? The moral turn in Conservative Party rhetoric under David Cameron

3.00-4.00 Session 2 – Policies for Power?

Professor Neil Carter (University of York)
Vote Blue, Go Green? The Conservatives and the Environment

Dr Matt Flinders (University of Sheffield)
Conserving the Constitution

Prof Jerold Waltman (Baylor University, USA)
The minimum wage

Robert Chote (Director, Institute of Fiscal Studies)
The economy

4.00-4.15 Coffee

4.15-5.30 Roundtable on the Party’s Prospects for Government

Participants include the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, Peter Riddell (The Times), Jonathan Isaby (ConservativeHome), Tim Montgomerie (ConservativeHome) and James Crabtree (Prospect)

5.30 end

— Ends —

Notes to Editors: The Centre for British Politics (CBP - http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/politics/cbp/) was established in 2008 to build on existing expertise in the School of Politics and International Relations and the wider University to develop a better understanding of the subject and promote cross-disciplinary perspectives.

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy) and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Steven Fielding, on +44 (0)7595 369364, steven.fielding@nottingham.ac.u

Andrew Burden

Andrew Burden - Digital Communications Manager

Email: andrew.burden@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8313 Location: University Park

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