Conservative Party (UK)

Politics of the United Kingdom
Political parties

The Conservative and Unionist Party is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom which adheres to a philosophy of conservatism and British unionism, it is the largest political party in the UK. It is currently the largest single party in the House of Commons ruling in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Its leader is the Right Hon. David Cameron MP, who is also the Prime Minister.

The Conservative Party was founded in 1834 out of the old Tory Party, founded in 1678, and even today it is still often colloquially referred to as the Tory Party and its members as Tories. It changed its name to "Conservative and Unionist Party" in 1912 after merging with the Liberal Unionist Party although the name is rarely used and it is generally referred to as simply 'The Conservative Party'.

In the European Parliament, the Conservatives are the largest British party with 25 MEPs and are a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group. They are an opposition party in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly and are currently allied to the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which is an opposition party in the Assembly.

Organisation and membership

In the organisation of the Conservative Party, constituency associations dominate the election of party leaders and the selection of local candidates while the Conservative campaign headquarters leads financing, organisation of elections and drafting of policy. The leader of the parliamentary party forms policy in consultation with his cabinet and administration. This decentralised structure is unusual.[1]

Membership declined through the 20th century, and, despite an initial boost shortly after Cameron's election as leader in December 2005, later resumed its fall in 2006 to a lower level than when he was elected. In 2006 the Conservative Party had about 290,000 members according to The Daily Telegraph.[2] The membership fee for the Conservative party is £25, or £5 if the member is under the age of 23.

In the year 2004, according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, the party had an income of about £20 million and expenditures of about £26 million.[3]

Internationally the Conservative Party is member of the International Democratic Union, and in Europe it is a member of the European Democrat Union.


Origins in the Whig Party

The Conservative Party traces its origins to a faction, rooted in the 18th century Whig Party, that coalesced around William Pitt the Younger (Prime Minister of Great Britain 1783-1801 and 1804–1806). Originally known as "Independent Whigs", "Friends of Mr Pitt", or "Pittites", after Pitt's death the term "Tory" came into use. This was an allusion to the Tories, a political grouping that had existed from 1678, but which had no organisational continuity with the Pittite party. From about 1812 on the name "Tory" was commonly used for the newer party.

Not all members of the party were content with the "Tory" name. George Canning first used the term 'Conservative' in the 1820s and it was suggested as a title for the party by John Wilson Croker in the 1830s. It was later officially adopted under the aegis of Sir Robert Peel around 1834. Peel is acknowledged as the founder of the Conservative Party, which he created with the announcement of the Tamworth Manifesto.