Is the Conservative Party falling apart? - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 34

10 May 2024
©Flickr / Keir Starmer
©Flickr / Keir Starmer

Following the local election results, are we now in zombie Parliament territory? With no immediate general election in sight what can be achieved in Westminster before MPs finally make their rendezvous with the voters? We talk to Professor Tim Bale about defeat, defections and the internal dynamics of the Conservative Party.

Is what we are witnessing merely the natural result of 14-years in office and a party in the doldrums having run out of government steam? Or is the Conservative Party’s historic electoral coalition unravelling? Is this the normal cycle of politics or is something more fundamental at work?

Facing grim polling predictions, we analyse the potential impact of a disastrous election defeat on the Party’s ideological direction, examining the struggle between the various factions within the parliamentary party. And we reflect on how post-election rebuilding may shape the Party’s leadership and political strategy in the future.

The unexpected defection of right-wing Conservative MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, to the Labour Party was elegantly stage-managed for maximum impact by Keir Starmer and his team, at Prime Ministers’ Questions this week. But was it too clever? We discuss whether the opportunities really do outweigh the friction created by welcoming such a controversial new MP to Labour’s ranks.

We look at why some Conservative MPs want to scrap postal voting when recent research published in the Hansard Society’s journal, Parliamentary Affairs, suggests they would be shooting themselves and their party in the foot if they did so.

And as Wayne David MP’s Private Members’ Bill to tackle SLAPPS – strategic lawsuits against political participation - grinds its way through Parliament we catch up on the Committee debate this week which saw MPs grappling with the fine technical detail of how to balance the right to sue for defamation with the right to enjoy free speech and not to be oppressed by legal bullying tactics.

  • Local election results: what are the implications for Parliament?

  • Is turbulence in the Conservative Party the natural result of so many years in office, or is the Party's electoral coalition unravelling?

  • Natalie Elphicke MP's defection: will Labour come to regret it?

  • Who votes by post and why do Conservative MPs want to stop them?

  • SLAPPS Private Members’ Bill: how will MPs balance defamation rights with free speech?

  • Why are MPs debating the extension of licensing hours for the Euro 2024 football tournament?

  • The latest news on the precautionary exclusion of MPs from Parliament for serious offences.

Parliament Matters is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Parliament Matters is supported by a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

©Queen Mary University of London

Tim Bale is Professor of Politics in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Before teaching at QMUL, Tim taught politics at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and at the University of Sussex. Tim's research focuses on political parties and elections in the UK and around the world and has focused particularly on the Conservative Party. His books include the prize-winning book The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron, and more recently Tim co-wrote The Modern British Party System and The British General Election of 2019 both published in 2021. His latest book is The Conservative Party after Brexit: Turmoil and Transformation, which he published last year. Tim also authors his own blog, which similarly focuses on British politics and political parties.

Hansard Society

House of Commons Library

Financial Times

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You're listening to Parliament Matters Hansard Society production, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn more at 00:00:15:24 - 00:00:46:12 Welcome to Parliament Matters, the podcast about the institution at the heart of our democracy, Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox and I'm Mark D’Arcy.

Coming up, are we now in zombie Parliament territory? With no immediate election in sight, what can be achieved in Westminster before MPs finally make their rendezvous with the voters? Tim Bale, expert on the politics of the Conservative Party, stops by to talk defeat, defections and the forthcoming leadership smackdown after the election. 00:00:46:14 - 00:00:59:15 And why Conservative MPs who want to scrap postal voting will be shooting themselves and their party in the foot.

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