A quick guide to the Conservatives

The Conservative Party is the main centre-right party in British politics and is committed to Conservative political values such as the family, society, individual responsibility, a small state, entrepreneurship and social justice.

A brief history:

The Conservative Party was one of the first of its kind in British politics and helped to define what we now understand as a modern democratic party.

It is without doubt that William Wilberforce has been one of the most influential figures in the Conservative Party’s history. His life-long battle to abolish the slave trade and his campaign to change society made a significant impact on Britain and the world during the late 1700s and early 1800s.

After political reforms in the late 1800s, more people were able to vote and the Conservatives - led by Benjamin Disraeli - attempted to make the Party more appealing to both rich and poor. This led to the birth of ‘one nation’ conservatism, which in simple terms believed more should be done on behalf of the rich to help the poor.

The Conservative Party enjoyed success in the years prior to the First World War and the inter-war period. Following the Second World War, however, the Party was heavily defeated by Labour who brought huge change to the country such as comprehensive welfare and the NHS.

Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975. She was in favour of free market economics and privatisation – which meant private businesses (not the state) provided a lot of public services and were under less state control. From 1979-1987, Thatcher experienced a huge amount of public support as the economy boomed.

Towards the end of the 1980s, however, Thatcher’s strong-handed approach meant she became increasingly unpopular both with the British public and her own Party. John Major replaced Thatcher in 1990 and attempted to reform the Party’s image.

After a significant election defeat in 1997 to Blair’s Labour Party, the Conservatives continued to attempt to break away from the reputation it had gained of being a party that didn’t care about the poor. ‘One nation’ conservatism was revived as the Party adopted the view that people had a duty to care for everyone in society.

Around this time the Centre for Social Justice came about as a project of Iain Duncan Smith (who led the Party from 2001-2003) and Tim Montgomerie (co-founder of the Conservative Christian Fellowship). The Centre for Social Justice seeks to address poverty in Britain and has made some important contributions.

In 2010, the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the General Election but without a majority in parliament the party formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. After 5 years of coalition, the electorate at the 2015 General Election awarded the Conservatives with a small majority. Cameron called himself a “modern compassionate conservative” who saw people’s general wellbeing as coming before financial competition, continuing the Conservatives' attempt to be a party for 'all people'.

After the UK voted to leave the EU, Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by Theresa May. The daughter of an Anglican vicar, May has been open about her views on Christianity and sees the Church as playing an important role in society.

Party's website: www.conservatives.com

The Conservative Christian Fellowship

The CCF is a supporter based organisation for Christians who support the Conservatives. It was founded in 1990 by Tim Montgomerie and David Burrowes (now MP for Enfield and Southgate) while they were studying at university.

While the CCF enjoys a close relationship to the Conservative Party, the running of the group and its membership is separate. It exists to support Christians in the Party and to be a Christian voice within the party.

The CCF holds numerous events that are open for anyone and holds a training course for future leaders called IMPACT.

Find out more at christian-conservatives.org.uk

For further reading see Christianity and conservatism: trust, civil society, enterprise and internationalism.

A quick guide to Labour   A quick guide to the Liberal Democrats   A guide to the Scottish National Party
A quick guide to UKIP  

A quick guide to the Green Party


A quick guide to Plaid Cymru

Why should Christians be involved in politics?

  Christian groups within the parties   Going deeper