Modernisation in small steps? Comparing the organisational reforms of the British Conservative Party and the German CDU

Ed Turner, Tim Bale

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paper


Research on political parties has long identified “environmental” pressures upon parties to undertake organisational and programmatic reforms – this applies in particular to “catch-all” parties or Volksparteien. Changed social and media structures, the decline of organisations traditionally associated with the parties, and the growth in alternative possibilities of political participation create significant organisational – as well as programmatic – challenges. This paper compares the German CDU and the British Conservatives in two respects: in particular it focuses on their organisational responses to the election defeats they suffered at the end of the 1990s, examining those reforms which took place and consider whether these match the expectations of organisational reforms anticipated by proponents of the “cartel party thesis”. While in both cases there are similarities, but (in particular in the German case) it is important not to understate the extent of internal party resistance to reform, and thus the difficulties with which aspiring party reformers are confronted. This conclusion suggests, more broadly, that in reality the process of party change is more than an almost automatic, isomorphic, and inevitable response to a changing environment. Rather it is punctuated, messy, and often contingent on events and agents.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventPolitical Studies Association Conference - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Apr 20125 Apr 2012


ConferencePolitical Studies Association Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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