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The contest has two stages. First of all any Conservative MP's who
wish to stand, put their name forward. From this list (5 people in
2001), the members of the conservative party vote on whom they wish to
be leader, until the top two candidates are found.
After this, another ballot is taken in which all the Conservative MPs
vote on who they wish to become leader out of the two remaining
This is a totally new system of electing a leader. The rules were
changed in 1998 by William Hague to make the system fairer. Prior to
this date only the parliamentary party voted for the new leader.
In the 2001 election five people stood for the preliminary votes;
Michael Ancram, David Davis, Kenneth Clarke, Iain Duncan-Smith and
Michael Portillo. After the first vote no one dropped out as both
Michael Ancram and David Davis where tied on 21 votes. Due to the tie,
all participants went through to the next round of the votes. After
several more rounds of votes, Iain Duncan-Smith and David Davis were
the final contestants. Once the final votes were counted it showed
that Iain Duncan-Smith had managed to carry on the trend for bald
conservatives and win the election.
Prior to the new reforms put into place by William Hague, due to the
close run elections of 1997, the elections were run in a far more
elitist manner. They could only take place within three months of a
new parliament or within two weeks of the start of a new commons
session. The only people that were allowed to vote on the elections
where the MP's. To ensure that people didn't stand against the leader
when they did not stand the chance, the candidate must have 10%
backing from the Conservative MP's. Prior to 1991 candidates were
allowed to challenge the leader every year without reason and even
when they weren't in power.
Between the 1995 election and the 2001 election, the elections for
leaders have become a lot more democratic.
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the fact that the final decision is left to the party as a whole to
vote on the outcome. Also there were far fewer political manoeuvres
(redwood supporting Clarke on final vote, Thatcher supporting Hague)
to win the 2001 election than in the 1995 and 1997 election. However,
the process is not as democratic as it could be due to the fact that
MP's can not just stand, they need to be backed. Also, only the final
vote is taken by all members allowing the situation to arise where
they are voting for the lesser of two evils.
The new process of electing a leader of the conservative party,
introduced in 1998 by William Hague, is seen to be far more democratic
than the previous system due to members being allowed to vote.
However, the system is still flawed and not totally democratic, due
mainly to the inherent beliefs passed on within the Conservative
party, such as the ideology of hierarchy.
This principle is highlighted by the fact that it is not until the
final two, that the all the members of the Conservative party are
allowed to vote. Prior to this vote, it is the MP's who create the
"bottle neck" system.
The leader is protected in office due to the fact that a no-vote must
be obtained. This is now done by 15% of MPs having to support a single
MP. Therefore the party has become less democratic in this way.
In the final vote a final problem remained that made it very
undemocratic. This was the fact that the Conservative members were
only voting for the less of two evils. It would have been impossible
for the members of the conservative party who are not MP's to vote for
anyone other than those candidates in the last two. Therefore the
publics favourite, Michael Portillo, did not make it through to the
Despite the increased democracy due to the public vote, many new
members did not get the right to vote, as they did not fulfil the
conditions set down by Haig, mainly due to not being in the party for
6 months prior to the election.
Overall the party has become more democratic but it is still deeply
inherently undemocratic with many people losing out on the vote and
choices of whom to vote for.