How to lose votes and alienate people: An examination of the causes of Conservative decline in Liverpool since 1945

This is my doctoral thesis – I’m very proud of it, and I’m even prouder to have a contract with Liverpool University Press to expand this project and write a full book!

You can read the thesis on Academia.Edu here, or directly download here.

This thesis is an examination of the causes of Conservative electoral decline in Liverpool, from the end of World War Two to the present day. This is an area of Liverpool’s political history, and of the history of the Conservative Party, which is understudied. This thesis counters the traditional argument that declining sectarianism, or the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, are the root causes of Conservative decline in Liverpool.

This thesis also discounts theories of local party organisational inefficiency, municipal electoral biases, demographic change, and population drain, arguing that generally these changes were too gradual to account for the sudden, dramatic decline of the Liverpool Conservatives in the 1970s. Similarly, many of these factors do not chime temporally with actual changes in Conservative vote share.

Instead, this thesis proposes a tripartite framework, which separates the periods of success (1945- 197), decline (1973-1986), and irrelevance (1987 onwards). Each period can be explained by recourse to different phenomena. Conservative success in Liverpool can be primarily explained by the socialisation effect of Protestantism, boosted in years when the Conservatives were doing well nationally. Conservative decline is mainly a result of a perfect storm of unresponsive local parties, an energetic nascent Liberal Party, dissatisfaction with the Heath government nationally, and an all-out local election in 1973 (when all seats in council were up for election) triggered by local government reform. Finally, Conservative irrelevance is attributable to a change in Scouse local identity which took on an element of anti-Thatcherism/anti-Conservatism, and has persisted to this day.

This work was supported by the QMUL Principal’s Studentship, co-funded by Queen Mary University of London and the Economic and Social Research Council, award number 1523299.

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