Between a soft and a hard place?: The conservative party, valence politics and the need for a new ‘eurorealism’

Bale, Tim (2006) Between a soft and a hard place?: The conservative party, valence politics and the need for a new ‘eurorealism’. Parliamentary Affairs, 59 (3). pp. 385-400. ISSN 0031-2290

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Conservative Party policy on the EU has hardened in recent years, both in order to outflank Labour and as a reflection of an increasingly Eurosceptical membership, inside parliament and without. Yet at the same time the Tories have increasingly downplayed ‘Europe’. In the light of the apparent defeat of the EU’s Constitutional Treaty and the Labour government’s more assertive stance, this could – and perhaps should – be the precursor to the party’s return to a more pragmatic, ‘softer’ Euroscepticism which acknowledges the reality of multilevel governance but seeks to tilt it in a more liberal direction. Abandoning the attempt to turn back the clock would also dovetail with David Cameron’s broader modernisation strategy. Whether the party is ready for a ‘Eurorealism’ that sees Britain’s relationship with the EU as a ‘valence issue’ – one revolving around competence – rather than a ‘position issue’ – one which demands people take sides – is another matter. Nor will things be made any easier by Cameron’s arguably rash promise to take Tory MEPs out of the EPP-ED group in Brussels.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This piece arose from the author's ESRC-sponsored seminar series on the European centre-right- specifically from a workshop that will produce a book, co-edited with Dr Andre Krouwel of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, on party families' recent re-orientations towards `Europe'. It was submitted to Parliamentary Affairs in the wake of the new editors' announcement that it would henceforth become a fully-fledged peer-reviewed journal. Parliamentary Affairs is the right location because the piece combines empirical analysis with political engagement, something social science should not necessarily shy away from. Its argument that the Tories have bought themselves internal cohesion at the cost of external (and possibly even electoral) credibility has been picked up by several Conservative MPs interviewed by the author as part of the research for his forthcoming book for Polity Press on the party since 1990. The article was also instrumental in winning reviewers' recommendations for the Leverhulme Fellowship that is supporting the writing of that book, as well as in the author being asked to write the regular 'Britain and Europe' chapter for the annual Palgrave Review of British Politics.
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Politics
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN0101 Great Britain
Depositing User: Tim Bale
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:21
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2012 09:37
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