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The evolution of the Conservative Party Organisation : renewal and the re-characterisation of local autonomy

Low, Mark A (2009) The evolution of the Conservative Party Organisation : renewal and the re-characterisation of local autonomy. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This dissertation is concerned with the distribution of power within the Conservative Party, but specifically how power manifests itself. Following the devastating 1997 defeat, the party embarked on a programme of organisational change, which brought together the individual components of the party, underpinned by a written constitution. A more formal approach to organisation ensued. It was deemed the route to party renewal, in line with the Labour Party's central command model. As such, it was a direct challenge to the traditional autonomy enjoyed by the constituency parties. The research thus examines how the party responded organisationally to defeat and the attendant impact on local autonomy. The methodology employed is qualitative in nature and takes the bottom-up perspective. Interviews were conducted with local constituency officers, area officers, agents and regional officials. These were supported by statistical and documentary data. Three centrally-orientated themes emerged: the right of political determination, the development of political capability and the approach to party management. These were synthesised into a new framework to explain the evolution of the Conservative Party organisation: the managerial-network model. This recognises the move to greater central administration and control, but equally to local rights of self-organisation, as local autonomy is now conceived. Moreover, it incorporates the increasing engagement of outside supporter networks and expertise at the local level; this is an extension of the national practice. The model is appraised against the `oligarchy' and `party evolution' literature. Oligarchy has been strengthened by managerialism, thereby re-enforcing McKenzie's (1963) argument, but in a wider organisational context. The party evolution literature was found to be too narrowly focused, as it did not satisfactorily address organisation. Hence, the managerial-network model builds upon the electoralprofessionalm odel of Panebianco( 1988), but is more comprehensive and flexible. It also suggests that the notion of `membership party' is no longer applicable as there is a noticeable political deficit locally. It has been replaced by a local network in which the local association is the foundation. This has resulted in the blurring of its boundaries. The new organisational settlement is a logical and sustainable response to the changing political environment that the Conservative Party leadership was confronted with, but one that offers room for further development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Politics (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.522388
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2016 10:37
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2016 10:37
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10358

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