The political history of Liverpool and Merseyside
My doctoral research focused on the causes of Conservative decline in Liverpool, from the end of World War Two to the present day. This was an area of Liverpool’s political history, and of the history of the Conservative Party, which was understudied. The core argument in my thesis was two-fold:
1) The traditional argument that declining sectarianism or the premiership of Margaret Thatcher were not the root causes of Conservative decline in Liverpool. I also discount a range of other explanations for Conservative Party decline in Liverpool - local party organisational inefficiency, municipal electoral biases, demographic change, and population drain
2) Instead, I argue that we should reconceptualise the history of the Liverpool Conservatives, into three periods - periods of success (1945-197), decline (1973-1986), and irrelevance (1987 onwards) - with each period explained by 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.
I am currently turning my doctoral thesis into a book, which will then be followed by a political history of the small Liverpool Protestant Party and a broader political history of Liverpool, starting from 1207 when the city received its royal charter.
Read my open-access journal article The Strange Death of Tory Liverpool.
My interest in local identities is primarily focused on the Scouse identity, but expands into other locally-held identities. I am interested in how these identities are constructed by those who hold them (and those who do not), if there is a common agreement about the constitutive elements of regional or local identities, and how/when these identities influence the electoral or political behaviour of individuals.
I have received funding from the University of Liverpool for my project 'Understanding Scouseness: deconstructing the political, social and geographic elements of the Scouse identity'. The objectives of my research are:
1. To understand how Scousers in Merseyside – and those who reject the label - perceive Scouse identity.
2. To understand what behaviours are seen as a pre-requisite or anathema to being Scouse.
3. To examine the ways in which those who hold a Scouse identity hold different political, social and cultural values to those who do not see themselves as Scouse, compared to the country at large.
Party activism in 'unwinnable' seats
I am interested in explaining why party members engage in political campaigning in steats they are unable to win. I will be conducting a series of focus groups across England to explore this phenomenon from a multi-party perspective.