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How the Conservative Party won the 2019 general election

New research co-authored by Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International relations sheds fresh light on how the Conservative Party won the 2019 general election.

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Political parties in the UK overwhelmingly view their members as assets rather than liabilities
Political parties in the UK overwhelmingly view their members as assets rather than liabilities

Published as part of a new book, Britain Votes: The 2019 General Election, the research provides an analysis of the Conservative Party’s election campaign and the tactics deployed to target specific constituencies.

Less is more approach

The research explored the Conservative’s campaign management in the run-up to the election including Boris Johnson’s apparent lack of visibility in the media. The analysis shows that this was a calculated move since according to party insiders, there was more to be lost than gained from Johnson being overly visible on the election trail.

The chapter also presents the ways in which the Conservative Party had learned lessons from the 2017 general election with clearer and consistent messaging. Whilst smaller in party member numbers, the Conservatives also succeeded where other political parties failed in securing substantial financial donations (£19.5 million compared to Labour’s £5.1 million). Previous research by Professor Tim Bale also shows that political parties in the UK overwhelmingly view their members as assets, particularly when it comes to election campaigns.

The Brexit effect

The analysis reveals that many people voted for the Conservatives on the promise that they would ‘Get Brexit Done’ and for an ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal. The Conservatives also benefited from the announcement during the second week of the campaign that the Brexit Party would not contest those seats that Theresa May had managed to win or hold onto in 2017. These factors, combined with a divided Labour opposition and an unprecedentedly unpopular leader, meant that victory was the Conservative Party’s for the taking.

Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary and co-author of the study said: "It's tempting to compare the 2019 general election to one of those soccer matches where everything breaks perfectly for one team while, for the other, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. But that would be to understate the extent to which the Tories worked hard to learn the lessons from the mistakes they made two years earlier. Not only did they frame the election brilliantly, they stuck to their strategy and targeted their resources – human, financial and data – to maximum effect.  This was a Premier League side playing a pub team. Labour never stood a chance."

The 2019 election showed that the Conservative Party had grasped the challenges that the changing electoral landscape of the UK presented. However, as the book also highlights, whether it can cope with the challenges of government remains to be seen.

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