True Blues: The Politics of Conservative Party Membership

True Blues: The Politics of Conservative Party Membership

True Blues: The Politics of Conservative Party Membership

True Blues: The Politics of Conservative Party Membership


This book is the first in-depth study of this crucial section of the Conservative Party. Drawing on new and revealing survey data, it paints a fascinating picture of the social make-up and political views of a grass roots membership who dislike Jacques Delors more than the European Community, and The Sun newspaper most of all. The book challenges the stereotypical view of the Conservative activist as an eccentric and politically irrelevant Thatcher-loving extremist. Instead, the authors argue that the grass roots membership are the unsung heroes of political life; helping to keep the party system working and democracy intact at a time when it is under considerable strain.


In the course of 23 years' solid work for the party, during which I held senior office at both constituency and area level, I cannot recall any period of total demoralisation comparable to the situation we now face. The Tory party is a geriatric organisation, now in an advanced state of decline.

Letter to The Times, 23 September 1993

The Conservative party is the governing party of modern British politics. Its electoral record surpasses all its party rivals. Whenever we determine the emergence of mass democracy in Britain, the Conservatives have been in office, either as a single party or a coalition partner, for most of the time since then. Despite this, as the quote from the party member above illustrates, the party is in serious difficulties, facing financial problems, a rebellious parliamentary party, and an apparently demoralized grass roots.

The purpose of this book is to examine this paradox of unprecedented political and electoral success sitting alongside apparent decay and decline. In the following pages we aim to examine the state of the Conservative party viewed through the eyes of the grassroots members. We will be examining a social profile of the members, looking at their political activities and political experiences, together with their attitudes and beliefs about politics, society, and the party system. We will also examine their impact on aspects of the political system, particularly in relation to the effects of campaigning on election outcomes.

Overall, the aim is to see if the above quote actually does give a true picture of the state of the grass-roots party, viewed through the lens of a national random sample survey of the members taken in early 1992. The story is a complex one, which entails looking at incentives for participation in grass-roots party politics and at the involvement of the members within the party organization and in the wider political system. But we hope that the reader will come away with an accurate picture of the state of the party.

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