Conservative Party Leaders – 5th December 2014

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

Who was the most successful Conservative party leader of all time? And who was the worst? If we were to just count general election victories Margaret Thatcher comes top with three victories. But does this tell the whole story?

The University of East Anglia, Queen Mary University of London and the Political Studies Association Political Leadership group hosted an event to address these questions. The project involved leading biographers and experts on each of the Conservative party leaders speaking at an event held at the Queen Mary’s London Campus in Mile End on 5th December 2014. Contributions from these talks will then form an edited book to be published by Biteback in 2015, edited by Toby James, Charles Clarke, Tim Bale and Patrick Diamond.

To kick-off the discussion Toby James gave an introductory talk setting out a framework for evaluating leaders based on academic work recently published in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.  This suggests that we can assess leaders by looking at how successful they were in winning office, or moving their party towards the goal of winning of office during their tenure.  It also suggests that it is helpful to think about five key tasks that leaders need to achieve to win elections: developing a winning electoral strategy, a sense of governing competence amongst the electorate, party management, winning the battle of ideas on key policy issues and constitutional management. The Rt. Hon Charles Clarke has undertaken a simple statistical analysis of general election performance of the Conservative leaders since Arthur Balfour and he presented the conclusions in the form of a ‘league table’.

The author of the biography of each Conservative leader to have fought a general election then presented their analysis.

Download the programme here:

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