Cameron's 'Mandate': Democracy, Legitimacy and Conservative Leadership

Denham, Andrew and O'Hara, Kieron (2007) Cameron's 'Mandate': Democracy, Legitimacy and Conservative Leadership Parliamentary Affairs


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In December 2005, the British Conservative Party elected a new leader for the fourth time since its landslide defeat in 1997. Most Conservatives appear to accept that the Party has to change if it is to stand any chance of returning to office, but equally the arguments about what needs to change, by how much and why have not yet been resolved. In this context, the legitimacy of David Cameron’s position, and of the changes he proposes to make to Party policy, will be of critical importance. Accordingly, the nature and extent of his victory in the 2005 leadership election is likely to be one of his chief arguments. In this article, we seek to evaluate that argument. We contend that, in common with his predecessors, especially since 1965, Cameron’s ‘mandate’ at the outset of his leadership is of limited extent and significance; that his legitimacy is ultimately conditional on his subsequent performance as leader; and that, again in common with his predecessors, it will be for Conservative MPs (or Cameron himself) to decide when that legitimacy is no longer sufficient to sustain him in office. The main reason for this is that, despite the apparent ‘democratisation’ of Conservative leadership selection over time, the reality is that the Party’s MPs remain the ultimate source of legitimacy for an incumbent leader, because they—and they alone—decide when that legitimacy should be withdrawn. In this context, it is interesting, and perhaps significant, that Cameron signally failed to secure the support—expressed in actual votes—of a majority of Conservative MPs before becoming leader

Item Type: Article
ISSNs: 0031-2290 (print)
Organisations: Web & Internet Science
ePrint ID: 263472
Date :
Date Event
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2007
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 19:52
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