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New Left Review I/214, November-December 1995


Andrew Gamble

The Crisis of Conservatism

The Conservative Party has always been one of the great certainties of British politics. It has been so dominant throughout the twentieth century that some observers have begun to speak of this period as the ‘Conservative Century’. [1] A.Seldon and S.Ball,eds,Conservative Century:The Conservative Party Since 1900, Oxford 1994. Between 1945 and 1995, the Conservatives formed majority governments for thirty-two years and eight months—65.6 per cent of the time. Centre–Left governments have been uncommon, and have rarely lasted long. The Conservatives, by contrast, have often enjoyed long, uninterrupted spells in office. They won three consecutive general elections between 1951 and 1964, and four since 1979. Labour by contrast has never lasted in government for two full parliaments.

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