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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 Party Conferences

The Party Conferences

(p.221) 6 The Party Conferences
Conservative Century


Oxford University Press

The point at which voluntary membership comes into greatest and most visible contact with the leadership is the annual party conference. It has been a cliché that the Conservatives do not hold a debate but a rally, and more importance has recently been placed upon measuring the length of standing ovations that upon the content of the discussion. This chapter reassesses the annual conference and argues that this inherited wisdom is profoundly misleading. It restores the balance by demonstrating how important changes in policy have taken place in anticipation of the conference and in its wake. The chapter emphasizes that the importance of the conference as a two-way forum lies in the common understanding that the leadership needs to pay attention to the pressing concerns of its natural constituency of support if it is to maximize the party's electoral prospects.

Keywords:   leadership, voluntary membership, party conference, electoral prospects, Conservatives

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