The Conservative Party has historically sought to manage the multinational United Kingdom state and defend the autonomy of the centre by providing limited administrative devolution (but rejecting, for much of its history, legislative devolution) and developing a discourse of integrative state patriotism. For Bulpitt, the Conservative Party’s governing code involved its leaders in office protecting their relative autonomy in high politics by granting local elites autonomy in areas of low politics, producing a ‘dual polity’ in which different institutional arrangements existed in the component nations of the UK.1 As noted in Chapter 1, the Conservative national strategy was built around British state patriotism and its discourse of constitutional stability, Unionism, imperialism and national cohesion. But by the 1960s, Conservative statecraft was facing a number of challenges: in territorial politics these included the growth of sub-state nationalism, the end of the imperial basis of conservative state patriotism and economic decline. This chapter examines how the Thatcher and Major Governments sought to reassert the autonomy of the centre, assessing their territorial management and changes in Conservative unionism.
KeywordsBritish Government Irish Government Conservative Party Major Government British State
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