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Wets and Dries Resurgent? Intra-Party Alignments Among Contemporary Conservative Party Members

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 21:51 authored by Paul WebbPaul Webb, Sarah Childs
This article maps new survey data to show that there are three main ideological tendencies among Conservative Party members today and that they differ significantly on a range of contemporary political issues. The Liberal conservatives are the youngest, most male, claim to be the most active of these tendencies, and are distinguished by being the least hostile to Europe and immigration, to environmentalism or to feminist values, but the Traditionalist Toriesthe largest, most working class and most female of the intra-party tendenciesare surprisingly progressive on a number of specific proposals and issues, including taxation and public spending, gender issues and the institutional reform of politics. Thatcherites support cuts in tax and spending, but are hostile to environmentalism, European integration, immigration and gender-related reforms. Overall, this suggests that, in so far as David Cameron has sought to push the party in a generally more `centrist and progressive direction since 2005, he has often gone with the grain of grassroots opinion; the Traditionalist Tories in particular would appear to endorse the thrust of much of his strategy. That said, there is clear scope for intra-party tension over the government's agenda of cuts in public expenditure. This points to a potential revival of the old conflicts between `wets and `dries of the 1980s.


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Parliamentary Affairs




Oxford University Press





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