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"We like local patriotism": The Conservative Party and the discourse of decentralisation, 1947-51

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 22:40 authored by Matthew Cragoe
This article offers a new reading of Conservative approaches to territorial government in the UK in the early years of the Cold War. As is well known, the Conservatives enhanced the place of both Scotland and Wales in Government on their return to office in 1951. The former gained a new Minister of State (Alec Douglas-Home) to support the existing Secretary of State; the latter a Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe), and Cabinet representation for the first time. Hitherto, these concessions have been explained primarily with reference to the internal politics of the two countries concerned, and particularly the pressures of local nationalism. In this article, the policies are examined from a central perspective, and the rhetorical context of the Scottish and Welsh policies compared with that surrounding the Conservatives’ proposals to reform local government in England. Together, it is argued, they reveal the importance of decentralisation to Conservative attempts to combat Labour between 1947 and 1951. The Conservatives championed a State in which the reach of the State carefully delimited and local patriotism celebrated as a cornerstone of a distinctively ‘British way of life’. Labour, by contrast, was presented as wishing to subsume these historical differences within a uniform Socialist State controlled from London – or Moscow. In the atmosphere of growing alarm that characterised the early years of the Cold War, the Conservatives used a discourse of decentralisation to represent the cultural and economic absolutism of a Socialism’ as both unhistorical and un-British.


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  • Published


English Historical Review




Oxford University Press





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  • History Publications

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