Party Management

For the Conservatives, party management has always been a challenge.  Former leader William Hague once remarked that the Conservative Party is an “absolute monarchy tempered by regicide”. As a coalition Prime Minister, David Cameron has the dual problem of keeping his coalition partners happy at the same time as managing the broad coalition of views that constitute the Conservative Party.

Since 2010, rebellions by Tory backbenchers have had a significant impact on Government policy, staying the Government’s hand in areas such as House of Lords reform, Europe and same-sex marriage.  Growing discontent amongst a hardcore of disaffected MPs has led to whisperings of potential leadership challenges and as David Cameron has found out during his nine years as leader, heavy is the head that wears the Conservative crown.

This section provides a guide to the factions and parliamentary groupings within the Conservative Party. Click on a tab to find out the background on each faction, the policy areas they are most likely to rebel on, their largest rebellions to date and their overall rebellion rating.



Biggest Rebellion : 11th July 2012 : Sittings of the House (Tuesdays) 9.30-5.00

Typically considered to be on the left of the Conservative Party, the 2020 Conservatives are a new group of around 40 MPs who work to advance “A modern, fair and inclusive politics, an open, aspirational and liberal economics, and a strong, just and pluralist society”. Founded by DECC minister Greg Barker MP, their name reflects their ambition to formulate policies that could be used at the 2020 general election. They represent the modernising wing of the Conservative Party and are widely considered to be one of the most pro Cameron factions. This is reflected by the fact that they are the least rebellious of the mainstream Conservative groups, with its members rebelling on only 0.76% of votes.

The group was established in response to the perception that right wing figures and groups were having a disproportionate influence inside the Conservative Party. The group works to further the modernisation project and to ensure that, unlike Blairism within the Labour Party, it continues after Cameron.

The majority of the group is from the 2010 intake, and it has the most even gender split at 54% men and 46% women. They have published a number of pamphlets and policy papers to advance its agenda including ‘2020 Vision- an Agenda for Transformation’ and the ‘Growth Factory Agenda’.



Biggest Rebellion : 5th February 2013 : Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

The Blue Collar Conservatism group was formed in October 2012 to help develop policies that focus on “blue collar” or typically low income workers. The group acts as a forum for Conservative MPs, activists and commentators offer views and advocate policies as to how to champion the views of these people. The majority of the group’s Parliamentary members were elected in 2010 and the group is compromised of 67% men and 33% women.

The group aims to attract members from across the spectrum of the Conservative Party in order to discuss how to prioritise tax relief for the lower paid and focus on people commonly referred to as “strivers”. Unsurprisingly therefore, there is a broad range of views from across the Conservative Party, drawing members from both the modernising 2020 Conservatives wing of the party as well as the tradionalist Cornerstone Group.

This ideological incoherence is demonstrated by the number of various issues on which its supporters have rebelled and the fact that the group has a reasonably high rebellion rating, with its members rebelling on 2.6% of votes.

The group was founded by Conservative activist Clark Vasey. Its advisory panel is chaired by John Stevenson MP, and also includes Philip Davies MP, Ester McVey MP, The Rt Hon Liam Fox MP, David Nuttall MP, Martin Vickers MP and Matthew Offord MP.

When the group was founded, it wrote to all Conservative MPs asking them to join the group and support its three fundamental aims:

1. The Conservative Party is at its strongest when it reaches out to voters of all backgrounds

2. The Conservatives need the support of blue collar voters to achieve an overall majority

3. The Conservatives must reward ordinary hard working voters who take responsibility for their own lives.



Biggest Rebellion : 5th February 2013 : Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Unlike other groups, the Fresh Start project is a single issue pressure group which focuses specifically on European policy. It raison d’être is campaigning to ensure that Britain has an improved, more influential better relationship with the European Union. Whilst the group does not advocate leaving the EU, it is focused on reforming Britain’s role within the EU. Although Fresh Start does not operate on a membership model, all Tory MPs are invited to attend its meetings. Most of its members were elected in 2010, the majority of whom (87%) were men and the group also attracts support from two Labour MPs: Frank Field and Gisela Stuart.

The group was founded by Conservative MPs Andrea Leadsom, Chris Heaton-Harris, and George Eustice, who were all elected in 2010, and its membership reflects the growing eurosceptic tendencies amongst the new intake. The group however, is seen to be a counter balance to the pro-withdrawal ‘Better off out’ pressure group which operates on a cross-party basis. All three founders rebelled in the vote on whether the Britain should have a referendum on its continued membership of the European Union. Despite this, reports have suggested that critics view the group as a distraction engineered by the leadership to contain eurosceptic dissent. The group is considered to be on good terms with the Conservative party leadership, who have been described as “very supportive” of their research so far.

In order to promote its activities, the group runs a blog:

* Figures based on contributors to their manifesto



Biggest Rebellion : 5th February 2013 : Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Founded in 2005 by Edward Leigh MP and John Hayes MP, The Cornerstone Group aims to preserve the “traditional values which have shaped the British Way of life throughout this country”. The motto of the group is “Faith, Flag and Family” and they are considered to be one of the most right wing and socially conservative groups within the Conservative Party. With the majority of their members elected in 2005, members of the group (89%) are overwhelmingly male.

When the group was founded following the 2005 election, the group released a report which attributed electoral defeat to a failure to communicate pledges to cut taxes, reform public services and promote family values. Notably, the chair of the group Edward Leigh described how to be successful the Conservative Party would need to “seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us”. It is perhaps this insistence that right wing policies should be advocated that has led to Cornerstone being the most rebellious of all the groups within the Conservative Party.

In the 2005 leadership election the group backed Liam Fox MP for leader, but later switched their support to Cameron when Fox was eliminated. The Cornerstone group has strong links with the 1922 committee and is widely considered to be one of the leading critics of the Cameron modernisation project. In particular the group has been fiercely critical of gay marriage, policy towards the EU and the A-list policy of selecting candidates.

Despite this, Cornerstone backed the formation of the coalition and their co-chair John Hayes is now a Parliamentary Adviser to David Cameron, having formerly been an Energy and Skills Minister.


No Turning Back


Biggest Rebellion : 5th February 2013 : Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Founded in 1985, No Turning Back is one of the longest running groups within the Conservative Party. Its raison d’être is to defend the free market policies advocated by Margaret Thatcher and the group derives its name from her famous 1980 conference speech. The group is one of the most rebellious within the Conservative Party, with members rebelling on 3.77% of votes. Only the right wing Cornerstone Group has rebelled more on these issues.

The group primarily exists as a private dining club, meeting monthly with ministers and policy experts invited to address the group. Famously, one of these meetings led Michael Portillo and Francis Maude to resign their membership, following a hostile reaction which was then leaked to members of the press. Known members are largely (90%) male and were on average elected in 2001.

The group continues to have a significant influence on Conservative policy, with the abandonment of the proposed policy coalition agreement policy to raise Capital Gains Tax in line with the 50% top rate of income tax being an example of this. This pledge was abandoned following opposition from the Conservative backbenches that was co-ordinated by ‘No Turning Back’.

The group has a large membership, with around 100 members. Given the right wing focus of the group, there is a large crossover of members who are part of the like-minded 92 group.

*Figures based on publically available list of members


301 Group


Biggest Rebellion : 5th February 2013 : Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

The 301 group is one of the most pro-Cameron factions within the Conservative Party. Originally founded by MPs Kris Hopkins and Jessica Lee and overwhelmingly formed by the 2010 intake, the 301 group aims to act as a counterweight to what they perceive as the 1922 Committee’s overbearing dominance over the narrative of the Conservative Party. In a recent letter to the Times, Kris Hopkins berated public critics of Cameron intent on the party being dominated by “conversations from the periphery”, highlighting that the majority of its MPs are behind Cameron.

The primary aim of the group is to deliver a Conservative majority at the next election, with the group deriving its name from the fact that 301 is the number of seats that the party would need to win to hold a majority after the next election.

Given the loyalist tendancies of the group’s founders, it is unsurprising therefore, that it is one of the least rebellious within the party, with its members rebelling on only 0.88% of votes.

The focus of the group tends to err away from issues such as immigration and Europe, instead highlighting matters related to the NHS, ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups.


40 Group


Biggest Rebellion : 11th July 2012 : Sittings of the House (Tuesdays) 9.30-5.00

Unlike other groups, the 40 group is not made up of MPs who are seeking to push Conservative Party policy in a particular direction. The membership of the 40 Group is comprised of the Conservative MPs with the 40 most marginal seats, perhaps unsurprisingly the majority of whom are drawn from the 2010 intake.

The aim of the group is to devise a strategy to hold onto the 40 most marginal parliamentary seats and share intelligence about how this can be best achieved. For instance members regularly share campaigning tips, discuss the mechanics of canvassing and discuss strategy. Whilst the group does not have a particular policy slant, it does meet with CCHQ officials to ensure that the correct focus and strategy is placed on campaigning in marginal seats.

It has been reported that the Prime Minister has taken a personal interest in the group and has attended several of their meetings.



Biggest Rebellion : 7th September 2011 : Health & Social Care Bill (Independent Abortion Advice)

The Free Enterprise Group works to set out the case for free market economics and to “make the case for free enterprise”. The group list four main aims: “to encourage a competitive and free economic environment, raise the global economic standing of the United Kingdom, challenge the monopolies and oligopolies and to free individuals to create, innovate and take risks”. With its members only rebelling on 1.1% of votes, the organisation is one of the least rebellious within the parliamentary party.

The group was founded by the now Children’s Minister Elizabeth Truss MP and has received prominent media coverage, particularly of its policy papers about issues such as welfare and aviation capacity.

The Free Enterprise Group also organises a number of policy conferences and events including the growth forum in conjunction with the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The group has 36 listed supporters, with most of these coming from the 2010 intake. The group is comprised of 76% men and 24% women. George Osborne is considered to be broadly supportive of the group and it has been reported that he has previously attended a meeting of the group.


White clouds blue sky


Biggest Rebellion : 5th February 2013 : Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Founded by Mel Stride MP, Deep Blue is a group designed for MPs on the “sensible right”, and acts as a forum meeting under Chatham House rules to allow members to discuss ideas in an open and frank environment. The topics discussed typically cover a wide range of activities including economic reform and the formation of the party’s message ahead of 2015.

Associated with the Right of the Conservative Party, and with links to the Cornerstone Group (their founder is listed as a friend of Cornerstone and a PPS to its Co-Chair John Hayes), the group is unsurprisingly fairly rebellious, with members rebelling in 2.2% of votes. The group is 100% male.


1922 Group


Biggest Rebellion : Tie – 24th October 2011 : EU Referendum and 10th July 2012 : House of Lords Reform Bill 2nd Reading

Arguably the most influential group within the Conservative Party, the 1922 was formed in 1923 by Conservative MPs elected in the 1922 general election. The group meets every week during the Parliamentary session and provides a forum for backbench MPs to discuss policy and air their views.The committee has an 18 person executive which plays an instrumental role in the selection of the party leader, as it is the chairman who runs the contest and collects letters of no confidence in the event of a leadership challenge.

The Prime Minister and his cabinet only attend the 1922 Committee if they are specifically invited by the committee. Speakers at the committee typically use the occasion to address backbenchers concerns or to make announcements/give assurances on issues that will be warmly received by backbenchers. The reception afforded to a minister at the 1922 Committee is typically viewed as being indicative of their relationship with the wider parliamentary party.This was certainly the case for John Major who in 1995 called a leadership election on the back of the treatment he received when speaking at a meeting of the 1922 committee.

This precedent is perhaps the reason why one of the first actions of the Cameron administration was to seek to limit the power of the 1922 committee and allow Government Ministers to play a role in the operation of the 1922 committee. Cameron’s fear of this group is borne out by the fact that they are one of the more rebellious groups within the party, with its members rebelling on 2.54% of votes.The fact that these attempts were thwarted demonstrates the power and independence of the group.