Twenty years ago, the Conservative Party was at its lowest ebb. But on the night of New Labour’s greatest triumph, one man promised to revive their fortunes…
As the sunset on eighteen years of Conservative rule in May 1997, Tony Blair had already set his sights on his next task. His primary focus was to do something that had evaded all previous Labour Prime Ministers: to secure a second consecutive full term in office. Four years later, with the backing of the majority of the press, he secured another three-figure majority. Labour could confidently claim to be the natural party of government.
What then was the point in a Conservative Party that could no longer win elections? In 2001 voters believed that Labour had more assertive leaders, the best policies and a better handle on the economy. For Professor John Curtice, the evidence was clear: “William Hague’s popularity remains low. But not as low as the policies he is promoting.”
With politics moving towards the progressive centre, even the Daily Mail had a crisis of confidence. “Is Conservatism Dead?” they asked as Fleet Street turned its back on the party. In 2001 The Times, The Sunday Times, the Daily Express and Sunday Express all switched to Labour. Blair commanded the most overwhelming press endorsement in the party’s history.
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