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The Conservative Party, 1886-2019

3. David Cameron and Modernisation

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the ‘modernisation’ of the Conservative Party under David Cameron in the period 2005-15, focusing in particular on: (i) the electoral failures of the Conservative Party in the period 1997-2010: three huge election defeats, a disunited, fractious party, and three ineffective leaders: William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard; (ii) David Cameron’s commitment to modernisation, in terms of both political policy and ‘brand’; (iii) Cameron’s backing of same-sex marriage, culminating in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013, against some of the more ‘traditional’ elements within the Conservative Party; (iv) Cameron’s victory in the 2010 General Election, and the willingness of the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government; and (v) the difficulty of enacting social reform in the context of the global financial crisis and its aftermath.


In this course, Dr Richard Hayton (University of Leeds) explores the history of the Conservative Party in ‘the long Conservative century’, 1886-2019. In the first module, we think about the electoral success of the Conservative Party since the late 19th century – 100 years in power, 33 in opposition, making them the most successful political party in world history. In the second module, we think about the two main political philosophies that have characterised conservatism in the 20th century – One-Nation Conservatism and Thatcherism – before turning in the third module to the rise of David Cameron and his attempts to ‘modernise’ the party after more than a decade in opposition. In the final two module, we think about how the Conservative Party have handled two of the great political questions of the past forty years – devolution and Europe.


Dr Richard Hayton is Associate Professor in Politics at the University of Leeds. His research interests are focused on British party politics, ideologies and leadership, and a number of related themes. He has published extensively on Conservative politics, and has edited special issues of the journals Parliamentary Affairs on the politics of Coalition, and British Politics on the fate of Conservative Modernisation. His most recent publication is Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997-2010 (2012).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hayton, R. (2020, December 28). The Conservative Party, 1886-2019 - David Cameron and Modernisation [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hayton, R. "The Conservative Party, 1886-2019 – David Cameron and Modernisation." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 28 Dec 2020,