A “bloody difficult woman” – What do the Tory grassroots want from Prime Minister Theresa May?

Paul Webb, University of Sussex; Monica Poletti, Queen Mary University of London, and Tim Bale, Queen Mary University of London

Theresa May has secured her place as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives without having to win the direct approval of her party’s membership. The original plan was for her to run against Andrea Leadsom in an election, but the latter pulled out before a vote could take place.

But that doesn’t mean the views of these Tory foot soldiers are irrelevant. Their support is important to the stability and direction of the government that May will lead. They help establish the general mood of the party on issues and set parameters within which the front bench can – or would be wise to – operate.

So while May will be delighted to have easily won the confidence of the majority of her parliamentary colleagues, she will also be aware of the need to keep in touch with the party’s grassroots supporters. She will be particularly aware of this as a former party chairman. But who are the grassroots, what do they believe in, and what qualities do they want from their leaders?

Thanks to the Party Members Project, we are able to shed some light on the matter. In June 2015, we surveyed a sample of 1,193 members of the Tory grassroots, asking a wide variety of questions about their demographic background and their political attitudes.

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Rules matter: why the current Labour crisis is not (only) about ideology

By Dr Javier Sajuria
Research Associate at the University of Strathclyde and the Constitution Unit

The Labour Party’s current crisis is often characterised as an ideological dispute between the Parliamentary Labour Party and a membership that is significantly more left-wing. But, as Javier Sajuria demonstrates, it is hard to stand this up. The ideological distance between Labour members and MPs is in fact smaller than that between Conservative members and MPs. To explain why many are now suggesting that Labour is on the verge of splitting it is necessary to look at party rules as well as ideology.

The situation within the Labour Party has been described by many as a dispute between the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the membership. The en masse resignations from the shadow cabinet, followed by a vote of no confidence from 81 per cent of MPs, shows that Jeremy Corbyn has lost the trust of his peers (or perhaps he never really managed to obtain it in the first place). Labour activists, particularly those grouped around the Corbyn-supporting Momentum, accuse the PLP of betraying the party and lining up with the right-wing. On the other hand, MPs respond by pointing out that voters, and not members, elected them and that they have a mandate to protect the party from oblivion.

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Cameron and Tebbit are both wrong: Tory activists are not as set on leaving the EU as many imagine

By Tim Bale, Monica Poletti, Paul Webb

 

David Cameron has run into trouble for warning Tory backbenchers not to make up their minds on whether to campaign for Leave or Remain “because of what your constituency association might say”. The reaction to his remarks was swift and damning, particularly from those who want out, all of whom assume, to quote venerable Thatcherite veteran Norman Tebbit, that “activist Tories are deeply Eurosceptic”.

It’s an easy assumption to make, but it’s wrong. For one thing the Tory grassroots, like Tory MPs, have by no means made up their minds which way to vote in the referendum. For another, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between those who actually turn up and do things for the party at election time and those who don’t.

As part of our project on UK party membership in the 21st Century (PMP), we surveyed nearly 1200 grassroots members of the Conservative Party just after last year’s general election. As well as asking them how they thought they would vote when it came to the European referendum, we also asked them what they’d done for the party during the election campaign.

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