Conservatives in Europe: ‘the concern of a private army’?
A caricature exists of the Conservative Party that is insular and nationalistically chauvinistic. Although historically British Conservatism does not have a strong ‘internationalist’ strain, unlike the Labour Party, either ideologically or organisationally there has since 1945 been a willingness on the part of Conservative politicians and activists to engage with their European counterparts.1 This helps account for the party’s label as the European party, which it successfully carried for forty years. It is not a recent phenomenon solely restricted to Members of the European Parliament and to senior Conservatives as ministers attending meetings of the Council of Ministers, but dates back to the immediate post-war years when Conservatives first participated in the Council of Europe at the Hague and subsequently became involved in organisations such as the Western European Union and NATO. The question that must be asked is to what extent have these European contacts helped foster the European ideal?