Thesis title: The policy on Europe as a political instrument : the dynamics of Conservative Party statecraft under Boris Johnson’s leadership

Supervisor: Pauline Schnapper

Based at: Centre for English-Speaking World, Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Paris, France)


Since his election as party leader in July 2019, Boris Johnson has continuously reshaped the Conservative Party’s policies and internal dynamics. In the context of Brexit, the policy on Europe has provided a central political instrument to achieve this change in the party organisation. From the purge of pro-European MPs to the 2019 General Election victory and the subsequent hard Brexit deal, the Conservative Party under Johnson has established itself as the party for Leave voters and relied on this electorate to assert its legitimacy following the 2016 referendum. Unlike under previous Conservative leaders, the party under Johnson has undergone some fundamental ideological changes, which also impacted wider economic and social policies. This thesis will analyse these changes within the Conservative Party since 2019 under Johnson’s leadership. It will examine the policy on Europe and understand its central use as a political instrument to achieve this change. An updated version of James Bulpitt’s statecraft theory will be used to underline the impact on party management, past and future electoral strategy, political argument hegemony and governing competence. This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of party change and the instrumental role of policies, as well as to provide elements to interpret the current evolution of the Conservative Party and British government in the post-Brexit context.