Why is it the Conservatives score much better in England than in the rest of the UK in the 21st century? I would suggest it is because the Conservatives consist of a coalition effectively of two parties – one centre-right pro-business near-liberal; the other essentially Nationalist (and now under severe challenge from UKIP).
When “Nationalist” really meant “Imperialist”, these two did not jar as obviously. Broadly, the Empire was in businesses’ interests, and thus the two clearly belonged to the same side.
Additionally, UK politics even after the War consisted essentially of Socialists (Labour) and Not-Socialists. What is now registered in the record books as “Conservative” was actually a conglomeration. Michael Heseltine was initially “National Liberal”; Neville Chamberlain, representing Birmingham, described himself as “Unionist”; there were other descriptions too. In some cities, Conservatives even stood aside for Liberals in return for a safe neighbouring seat.
Over time, however, the interests of business have begun to diverge as Imperialism has given way to “Euroscepticism” – perhaps better termed British (or even English) Nationalism. Conservatives in metropolitan areas such as Zac Goldsmith are a million miles from the likes of Edward Leigh in more rural constituencies. As ever these things are generalisms, but the Conservative benches thus consist of two very different types of MP – the Classical Liberal internationalist on one hand, and the English Nationalist on the other. The current conundrum is that UKIP is snapping at the latter, making English nationalism effectively the centre-right battleground, much to the bemusement of the Classical Liberal Internationalists who cannot comprehend this at all.
This explains also why the Conservatives do much worse in Scotland and Wales, where the “Nationalist” market is already spoken for by the SNP and Plaid, who have both also emerged as pro-EU. In Northern Ireland, of course, a wide range of Nationalist (in the broadest sense) options already exists – and precious little else! Thus, outside England, Conservatives are only in the “Classical Liberal Internationalist” market – the very market being ignored by the Leadership as it tries to resolve its obsession on its Nationalist-Eurosceptic (English only) side.
In other words, the type of person who regularly votes SNP or Plaid in Scotland and Wales actually votes for Conservative English Nationalists in England – particularly in rural areas. This means that the Conservatives are only half the party in Scotland and Wales that they are in England. It is also why they continue to run the risk of becoming completely England-only – another challenge to the very viability of the UK itself.