The answers, as this accessible and gripping book shows, are as intriguing and provocative as the questions. Based on in-depth research and interviews with the key players, Tim Bale explains why the Tories got themselves into so much trouble in the first place and how they were finally able to get things back on track. In the new paperback version, he also explores their inability to win an outright victory at the 2010 election and looks at their decision to share power with the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand what makes the Tories tick. And it contains valuable lessons about what to do - and what not to do - for their Labour opponents.
* Exam copies only available to lecturers for whom the book may be suitable as a course text.
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"A simply brilliant book; his judgments are spot-on."
Edwina Currie, The Times
"Bale has clearly enjoyed a lot of insider access and his
description of the internal battles to reshape conservatism are
vital to an understanding of the present Tory leadership."
BBC News - Books of 2010
"Full of shrewd and astute judgments, it offers a mine of
factual information and will for years be an indispensable source
of understanding of the contemporary Conservative party. This book
is written in a fluent, highly accessible and often witty style and
demonstrates impressive narrative skills."
WJM Mackenzie Prize Statement
"[An] exhaustive and authoritative account."
London Review of Books
"This excellent and readable book is a fine account of how
defeated parties turn themselves around."
"An invaluable addition to the study of the current Conservative
Political Studies Review
"A hugely impressive achievement - and required reading for
anyone who wants to understand the party most likely to run Britain
in the new decade."
Sunday Business Post
"For a contemporary history of British politics, deliciously
free of the jargon which usually masks the failure of academics to
understand their subject, you will read nothing better than
"In his new, rather good book, the academic Tim Bale provides a
history of the Tories in the 15 years that preceded Mr Cameron's
ascent. Read it and it isn't hard to work out the party's
Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
"A brilliant analysis of why the party found it so hard to
accept that election defeats suggested that it was doing something
wrong, rather than that the electorate had made a terrible mistake
... It is the Labour Party that needs to read this book and ask
itself how it can get ahead."
"Tim Bale's study of the Conservative Party since 1990 is like a
guidebook to a haunted house. Party officials roamed Westminster
seeking exorcism from the ghosts of Thatcher ... His narrative is
masterly and his judgments sound."
Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
"Anyone with an interest in the Conservatives will be deeply
grateful to Tim Bale for writing such an intelligent and
informative account of the party's decline from 1990 to its
recovery from 2005 onwards."
Politics and Policy
"A mountain of insights about the tiny amount of space in which
political leaders make their moves."
Independent Arts and Books Supplement
"A fascinating account of the recent politics of the
Conservative Party based on extensive interviews with
the key actors."
"A detailed yet splendidly readable study."
"A wonderful insightful account of the Conservative party from
the denouement of Margaret Thatcher's leadership in 1989/90 through
to the ascent of David Cameron."
"A highly insightful, and often very funny, commentary on the
party's dysfunctionality in the post-Thatcher era. In this election
year, if you are going to read one book about the party that may
shortly once again govern our nearest neighbour, read this
"Excellent ... a very useful first account of how the oldest and
most successful political party in the western world lost its
electoral advantage and then, finally, took years to find its way
"A solid, meticulous account."
"There haven't been a lot of good books published about the
Conservative Party in recent years, but Tim Bale has written one
that fills the gap ... he tells the story well, combining breezy
prose with academic rigour and anecdotes from the key
Andrew Sparrow, Guardian.co.uk
"Enough detail to delight the most obsessive politico."
"It's hard to think of anyone with an interest in British
politics who will not enjoy, and profit from, Tim Bales outstanding
book. His chapters on the Hague and Duncan Smith years in
particular - the latter a man for whom the word 'hapless' could
almost have been invented - form a kind of 'how not to do it'
manual for any political party in opposition. I suspect Messrs
Miliband and Balls have already ordered theirs."
"Contains the best account so far of the 'decontamination'
strategy pursued by Cameron after his surprise win in the
leadership contest of 2005."
"Very detailed and convincing."
Times of Malta
"Bale provides a well-researched and very readable account of
Times Higher Education
"Bale's book is useful reminder of the chronology of the main
political events, often stormy, which have taken place over the
past 20 years."
"An incisive book."
"Tim Bale's book firmly avoids 'big picture' explanantions
focused on single issues like 'sleaze' or Europe, and instead
offers a detailed analytical narrative of the party leadership from
the fall of Thatcher to the rise of Cameron. Bale in essence
updates the old approach of High Politics, epitomised by the late
Maurice Cowling, in which political history is the actions of a
narrow band of senior politicians, and fuses this with a modern
social scientist's understanding of the interrelationship between
ideas, interests and insitutions."
"Tim Bale's study of the death and re-birth of the post-Thatcher
Conservative Party is a delight to read. It is perky, cheeky,
irreverent, packed with revealing quotes and in places deliciously
funny. But Bale is not just an entertaining guide to the
tribulations of the accident-prone Conservative leaders of the
recent past. Only half-concealed by his jaunty prose and witty
asides is a thorough scholar and insightful analyst. His anatomy of
the modern Conservative Party will hold the field for a long time
"Much the best book that has been written on the contemporary
"Tim Bale has produced the best guide to the changing nature of
the Conservative Party yet published. He appears to have read
everything and spoken to everyone that matters to produce an
eminently readable and interesting book. It should be required
reading for all students of politics, as well as anyone wanting to
know more about the contemporary Conservative Party."
"How did David Cameron find the key to success which the Tory
Party has lost since 1997? Tim Bale's book, while thoroughly
readable, covers this subject more convincingly and in greater
depth than most political journalists. He has done an excellent
"Tim Bale has succeeded in combining an accurate overview of the
Conservative Party's history from Thatcher to Cameron with a wealth
of intimate detail. The combination makes the book a riveting read,
and a must for all devotees of modern politics."
"This is the first comprehensive treatment of the Conservative
Party since Margaret Thatcher. The period has seen extraordinary
changes in the Party's fortunes and now we have a well-researched
and balanced account of what happened."
David Willetts MP
"It is a meticulously thorough and also very well written book,
nicely leavened by its sardonic tone: I laughed out loud more than
once. It will surely be accepted as a definitive account of this
period of the Conservative Party's history-a remorseless
examination of why it took the party so very long to change enough
to win again."
Andrew Cooper, founder of Populus and former Director of Strategy at Conservative Central Office
"Tim Bale's well-researched volume is essential reading for
anyone who wants to understand the Conservative Party's recent
history. The book is extremely accessible to the lay reader and
chronicles not only some of the party's darkest days, but also its
rediscovery of the will to win under David Cameron."
Jonathan Isaby, Co-Editor, ConservativeHome.com
"Now poised for national success again Conservatives should
treat Tim Bale's timely account of their recent history as
essential reading. Detailing the party's highs and lows this book
reminds us of the scale of the challenge that faced David Cameron's
new leadership, and illuminates his strategy for recovery."
"This is an excellent book immaculately researched. Tim Bale
traces the downfall of the Conservative Party leading to the
catastrophic defeat of 1997. He sheds new light on the party's
continuing slide which was only conclusively ended when David
Cameron became leader and moved back onto the centre ground of
politics. He reveals the 'villains' of the story-not least the
ideologically driven commentators-but his central question goes
wider. He asks how it was that a party which had consistently
sought power through the years lost the will to win? It is a book
which Conservative politicians would be well advised to read now
that, at long last, they have the opportunity of returning to
2 Losing the plot: Thatcher to Major, 1989-1997.
3 Tactics over strategy: William Hague, 1997-2001.
4 'Simply not up to it': Iain Duncan Smith, 2001-2003.
5 Like moths to a flame: Michael Howard, 2003-2005.
6 'Cometh the hour, cometh the Dave': the long leadership contest, May- December 2005.
7 'The politics of and': David Cameron, 2005- .
8 Getting the message: a conclusion.