With Theresa Could lastly on her approach out of Downing Road, a Tory management contest that has been effervescent below for months is now beginning.
It is a two-stage course of. The primary stage sees a sequence of votes amongst Conservative MPs designed to whittle the contenders for the crown down to simply two front-runners.
The second stage sees the social gathering’s grassroots members select between them in a postal poll.
In different phrases, it’s members of the general public – those that pay £25 a yr to hitch the Conservative Social gathering – who get the ultimate say on who the following prime minister is. There is not going to be a basic election as a result of the social gathering is already in energy.
So, who’re its members and what do they assume on key points, not least in fact Brexit?
We do not know precisely what number of Conservative Social gathering members there are as a result of – in contrast to the UK’s different events – the Conservatives do not recurrently launch the figures.
The final time they did so was again in March 2018, after they put the determine at 124,000.
That is bigger than a few of the extra pessimistic guesstimates, however approach down on the height of practically three million that the social gathering boasted within the early 1950s.
Membership plunged after that earlier than levelling off at round a million within the 1970s and 1980s, since when it has been dropping virtually inexorably.
One factor we could be certain of, nevertheless, is that the Tories have far fewer members than the Labour Social gathering.
Even when we assume that Labour’s membership has fallen from the late 2017 peak of greater than 550,000, it nonetheless has an enormous benefit over the Conservatives on the subject of campaigning on the bottom.
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Proper now, nevertheless, none of that issues as a lot as the truth that these 100,000 or so rank-and-file members of the Conservative Social gathering have an important function.
They will be selecting the following prime minister of a rustic of over 65 million folks – one thing which has by no means occurred earlier than.
Most members of most events within the UK are fairly middle-class.
However Conservative Social gathering members are essentially the most middle-class of all: some 86% of them fall into the ABC1 class utilized by market researchers to explain the highest social grade.
Round 1 / 4 of them are, or had been, self-employed and practically half of them work, or used to, within the non-public sector.
Almost 4 out of 10 put their annual revenue at over £30,000, and one in 20 put it at over £100,000. As such, Tory members are significantly better-off than most voters and, certainly, the members of different events.
Then again, the truth that 97% of Conservative Social gathering members are white would not do a lot to differentiate them from their counterparts in different events.
It does inevitably imply, nevertheless, that ethnic minorities, who make up effectively over 10% of British folks, are closely under-represented within the Tory rank and file.
So, too, are girls. Different events – notably Labour and the Greens, but additionally the SNP – now come near gender steadiness, however seven out of 10 Conservative members are male.
Tory members are additionally older than the members of most different events. True, their common age could “solely” be 57, however this disguises the truth that 4 out of 10 are over 65.
They’re concentrated within the southern half of the nation. Almost 60% of Tory members stay in Jap England, London, the South East and the South West.
A lot for demography and geography. What about ideology?
Nicely, not surprisingly, Tory Social gathering members are extra right-wing than the inhabitants as an entire.
On a scale the place zero represents very left-wing and 10 very right-wing, the typical voter locations themselves on the centre level. The typical Conservative Social gathering member locations themselves at 7.6.
Definitely, grassroots Tories are socially conservative.
Three quarters of them consider, as an illustration, that younger folks in the present day haven’t got sufficient respect for conventional values. Almost six out of 10 help the loss of life penalty.
They’re additionally conventionally right-wing on some features of financial coverage.
For instance, solely 15% of them consider that authorities ought to redistribute revenue from the better-off to those that are much less well-off.
However on different points they maintain views which may be extra surprising.
A 3rd of Tory rank-and-file members consider that strange working folks don’t get their justifiable share of the nation’s wealth and that there’s one legislation for the wealthy and one for the poor.
About half consider that large enterprise takes benefit of strange folks.
Curiously, they’ve additionally cooled on austerity. In the summertime of 2015, some 55% mentioned authorities spending cuts hadn’t gone far sufficient, however two years later that had fallen to 28%.
What Tory members have not cooled on, nevertheless, is Brexit.
Certainly, since we began monitoring them in 2015, they’ve hardened their place.
It’s clear that they aren’t supporters of the deal negotiated by their outgoing chief.
Actually, it’s now the case that absolutely two-thirds of them again a no-deal Brexit – an final result supported by solely 1 / 4 of voters as an entire.
Nor are they in in the slightest degree eager on the concept of letting the general public have one other say on the UK’s EU membership.
Some 84% of them oppose the concept of a brand new referendum on the difficulty.
In brief, the grassroots aren’t merely sceptical on Europe; they can not wait to go away, no matter that may take.
This, then, is the Conservative Social gathering citizens.
And people MPs hoping to succeed Mrs Could might want to pitch their guarantees accordingly.
About this piece
This evaluation piece was commissioned by the BBC from specialists working for an out of doors organisation.
Tim Bale is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary College of London.
Edited by Duncan Walker