A SWINGING PARTY? THE NEED FOR A HISTORY OF THE CONSERVATIVES IN WALES

Sam Blaxland

Abstract


This article discusses researching the Conservative Party in Wales after the Second World War. Although remaining seriously unpopular in many of the former industrial heartlands, the Conservatives have, for the majority of this period, been the second most popular political force in Wales, and the most popular in some areas. The article suggests that the Conservative Party, what it symbolised, and who its supporters were, represents a fundamental break with previous dominating themes. It argues that this history has been side-lined and marginalised because of an entrenched labour history tradition in Welsh historical studies. The party undoubtedly had to battle with its toxic image in Wales as a party of Englishmen, landowners and elitists. In the face of this, Conservatives in Wales developed policy, a rhetoric, and a presentational style aimed at recognising and supporting Welsh nationhood. The article will discuss how this allows various themes of Welsh history to be explored, such as changing working relations, the rise of a middle class, and the role of women in the Conservative movement. The practicalities of researching such a topic are fraught with many difficulties, and this article aims to outline these, as well as suggesting why this important and understudied history needs to be told.


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