The Conservative Party is one of the most successful political parties in the western world. Its success has been built on its large grass roots membership. And yet that membership appears to be increasingly disaffected and in decline. This book is the first in depth study of this crucial section of the Conservative Party. Drawing on new and revealing survey data, it paints a fascinating picture of the social make-up and political views of a grass roots membership who dislike Jacques Delors more than the European Community, and The Sun newspaper most of all. the book challenges the stereotypical view of the Conservative activist as an eccentric and politically irrelevant Thatcher-loving extremist. Instead, the authors argue that the grass roots membership are the unsung heroes of political life; helping to keep the party system working and democracy intact at a time when it is under considerable strain. The authors claim that to some extent the party is the author of its own problems, and point out the likely dire consequences for its future success if the current decline continues.
They conclude by outlining the ways in which the leadership might revitalize its most important political asset.
Patrick Seyd has lived and taught in Sheffield since 1970. He is the co-author, with Paul Whiteley, of Labour's Grass Roots (OUP, 1992) which sold over 2,000 copies.
Paul Whiteley has previously taught at the University of Arizona and the University of Bristol.
Jeremy Richardson is the editor of Pressure Groups (1993) which is a volume in Oxford Readings in Politics and Government,and co-author, with Sonia Mazey, of Lobbying in the European Community (OUP, 1993).