'Change' or 'Continuity?':
: The Sub-State Politics of the Welsh [British?] Conservative Party 1997-2007

  • Tomos Dafydd Davies

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


A notable characteristic of the academic literature has hitherto been a largely unquestioning acceptance that political parties should be studied with reference to their role within the nation-state. The response of state-wide political parties to the establishment of sub-state government remains a relatively neglected research area. This thesis seeks to remedy this situation by analyzing the Conservative Party’s adaptation to devolution in Wales. As an often historically centralized and unitary party, steadfast in its support for the United Kingdom and vehemently opposed to political devolution, the advent of the National Assembly for Wales posed many challenges to the Conservative Party. The ideological and organisational re-definition of the Conservative Party was thus seen by many commentators as a vital step for the so called ‘English’ Party, long considered to be of little or no relevance to the Welsh electoral context. This thesis considers to what extent the Welsh Conservative Party has successfully responded to the challenges of sub-state government in Wales. In seeking to establish the extent of organizational and ideological change within the Welsh Conservative Party, the thesis utilizes a mixed methodology of extensive archival research and close reading of party literature, coupled with interviews with leading personalities and officials within the party which form the empirical backbone of this enquiry. Drawing on the broader party change theory and literature, the thesis identifies a number of factors and pressures which have prevented or frustrated the party’s attempts to re-invent and renew the party as a Welsh political force. Factors such as the party’s highly centralized and institutionalized organization, the role of its membership and party leadership, coupled with the party’s ideological rigidness have frustrated attempts to re-invent or renew the Welsh Conservative Party and to respond positively to its sub-state politics along unambiguous and unashamedly Welsh lines
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorAnwen Elias (Supervisor)


  • The Conservative Party
  • devolution
  • Wales
  • party organization
  • ideological change

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