According to Wikipedia, the Conservative party only started contesting elections in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s, and they haven't ever been close to a breakthrough. Their political philosophy is indistinguishable from a generic unionist's. So why bother?

  • Re "they" and "bother": please specify who's bothering and who's being bothered. (The question's wording seems prejudicial.)
    – agc
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 16:52
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    No, it's not. The question couldn't be clearer; why do they persist despite having no prospect of success? What do they get out of it?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 18:03
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    This usage of the verb "contest" might be a British English usage vs. American English -- in the US, "contesting elections" would refer to already held elections where the results were disputed by a contender desiring a recount or concerned about cheating.
    – agc
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 20:45
  • Ok. I meant why do they put forward candidates in elections.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 21:49
  • Are all political candidates in the UK appointed by the parties? If not, then "they" is the individual candidates, and "they" might choose to run for office for their own personal reasons. You never know, the other candidates might all walk into some huge scandal the day before the election... long shots sometimes pay off.
    – user15103
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


Because its a point of principle, the full official title of the Conservative Party is the Conservative and Unionist Party as part of their political idiology they have to contest seats in all parts of the Union.

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    This may be part of the explanation, but in that case why wait until the late 80s to do it? The UUP split from them in 1972.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 11:06
  • This is speculation however if pushed I would say, During most of the 1970s the Conservative party was in a weak postion they lost the 1974 election to a hung a parliament and the formation of a minority government formed by Labour. Only in 1979 did Maggie Thatcher become elected as a new Conservative PM most of the early years of her premeirship were spent fighting the Unions such as the NUM and Printers unions. Only when such battles were fought and won by the late 1980s did the Conservatives feel able to spread their power fully. Another example of this was the ill fated poll tax.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 13:52

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