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The Conservative Party, 1886-2019

5. Key Issue: European Integration and Brexit

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the Conservative Party in relation to Europe, focusing in particular on: (i) the fact that the Conservative Party used to be a party in favour of European integration, and the reasons for this support; (ii) the increase in Euroscepticism in the 1980s, epitomised by the figure of Margaret Thatcher herself; (iii) the divisions in the party in the early 1990s under the leadership of John Major; (iv) the hardening of the Conservatives’ stance during their period in opposition between 1997-2010; (v) the attempts by David Cameron to settle the European question once and for all once the Conservatives had returned to power in 2010; (vi) the 2016 EU Referendum – the campaign, the result, and the political fallout; (vii) Theresa May’s rise to the leadership, her decision to hold a General Election in 2017, and the parliamentary logjam in early 2019; and (vii) the extent to which the future of the Conservative Party relies on ‘getting Brexit done’.


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 - Key Issue: European Integration and Brexit [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hayton, R. "The Conservative Party, 1886-2019 – Key Issue: European Integration and Brexit." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 28 Dec 2020,