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Conservative CenturyThe Conservative Party since 1900$
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Anthony Seldon and Stuart Ball

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198202387

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202387.001.0001

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The Selection of the Party Leader

The Selection of the Party Leader

(p.69) 2 The Selection of the Party Leader
Conservative Century


Oxford University Press

This chapter serves as a trenchant attack upon the received wisdom that the procedure has been antidemocratic, and shows that the main concern of the party during the 13 leadership changes which occurred between 1902 and 1990 was to avoid the danger of a split. It explains that, for the Conservatives, winning power has always been the crucial test, and hence it was essential to choose a leader who could unify the party and ensure the maximum change of electoral victory. The chapter discusses that the three contested elections after the adoption of a voting system in 1965 all testify to the success of its designers. It explains that throughout the century it has been the rank-and-file Conservative MPs who have carried more weight than the inner circle in determining the ultimate choice of leader, and thus of the whole orientation of the party.

Keywords:   Conservatives, party leader, Conservative MPs, rank and file, party orientation, electoral victory, voting system

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