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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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Local Conservatism and the Evolution of the Party Organization

Local Conservatism and the Evolution of the Party Organization

(p.261) 7 Local Conservatism and the Evolution of the Party Organization
Conservative Century


Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the importance of the local level for both the internal politics and the electoral efficiency of the Conservative Party. It argues that Conservative politics in practice can best be appreciated at the grass roots, and begins by evaluating the effects of the cardinal principle of local autonomy. The chapter notes that a recurring theme is the distinctiveness of the ‘Woolton era’ of 1946–63, in which the party deliberately sought through major centrally funded initiatives to recruit a mass membership of small subscribers. It discusses the causes and dangers of the dwindling and ageing numbers, partly hidden by a greater local efficiency in raising funds from a smaller membership. The chapter suggests that the contribution made by the Conservative superiority is difficult to detect statistically because it has been a constant factor in almost every election and because its effects are diffused over many seats.

Keywords:   internal politics, electoral efficiency, Conservative politics, Woolton era, mass membership, election

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