Martin Monahan

The Conservative Party and Social Justice Policy 1997–2010: An Historical Institutionalist Analysis

Supervisors: Dr Peter Kerr and Dr Stephen Bates

My research uses historical institutionalism (HI) to explain why social justice policy became an important focus for change in the 1997-2010 Conservative Party, how this policy changed, and why radical ideological change did not take place.

Utilising interviews with mid- and elite-level Party actors, and analysis of policy publications, I have mapped the restrictive and enabling effect of material and ideational institutional structures upon a political party.

Using newly defined and present mechanisms in HI, I attempt to offer an explanation that down-plays Cameron as a significant break from past ideological practice: rather there has been broad continuity throughout the opposition period, which, rather than being restrictive, has facilitated incremental policy change, largely emerging slowly from mid-level actors in the Party.

My research intends to contribute to debates in the study of British politics by offering a theoretical and institutionally focused explanation of change rather than prioritising descriptive and personality focused work. It also develops HI, improving its explanation of incremental change in a non-crisis institutional environment. 


I arrived at POLSIS in 2007 to begin an MA in Political Science (Research Methods. I then received an ESRC +3 studentship in 2008, which allowed me to proceed onto a PhD. My thesis was passed in February 2013. 


  • BA Political Studies (Leeds)
  • MA Political Science (Research Methods) (Birmingham)
  • PhD Political Science (Birmingham) (to graduate June 2013)

Research interests

  • British Politics
  • The Conservative Party
  • Social Justice Policy
  • Historical Institutionalism

Teaching responsibilities  

  • 2012–2013 POLS 201: Political Analysis
  • 2008–2011 POLS 101: Introduction to Politics

Professional memberships

  • Political Studies Association

Conference papers

Monahan, M. (2010) ‘How historical institutionalism can aid an understanding of change in the post-Major Conservative Party’. Paper presented at the PSA Conference, Edinburgh.

Monahan, M. (2009) ‘An historical institutionalist analysis of the post-Major Conservative party: a research overview’. Paper presented at the graduate colloquium, University of Birmingham.