Transnational party federations (TNPs) have been critical prisms through which to analyse the EU’s tensions between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. This study focuses on the radical left TNP, the European Left Party (EL), founded in 2004. It centres on four general questions: first; the conditions under which TNPs might be successful; second, how the EL compares with other TNPs, particularly those of the broad centre-left, the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European Green Party (EGP); third, to what extent the EL has fostered a consensus over positions towards the EU previously conspicuously lacking among the radical left; and fourth, the degree to which the EL has enabled an increase in the electoral or policy influence of the radical left in Europe. The study highlights the strengths and weaknesses of TNPs as networks of Europeanisation; they have important roles in the EU political system but remain timid actors with only selectively developed transnationalism. It shows how the EL is a paradoxical actor; on the one hand it has brought radical left transnational co-operation to historical highs; on the other it is both less influential than the PES and less transnational and consolidated than the EGP. Such paradoxes result from persistent internal divisions between Europeanists and sovereigntists, as well as suboptimal internal structures. The influence of the EL is also paradoxical. It has emerged as a centre of attraction for the European radical left promoting the Left Europeanist position, but is a long way from being hegemonic or unchallenged on the left.

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This chapter introduces the context and rationale for the study, introduces the main research questions, and sets out an overview of the chapters and their central arguments. It shows how few studies have focused on the radical left’s international activity, fewer still on the European Left Party (EL). It critiques the idea that the radical left should be seen as intrinsically Eurosceptic.

in The European Left Party

In this chapter we discuss the range of factors – procedural, institutional and path-dependent divergences in European orientation – which weigh heavily upon policy-making efficacy within the EL. There is a critical interrogation of the development of the organisation and structures of the EL. We consider what might on the surface appear to be one of the EL’s most exciting and innovative features – the admission of individual members who can join the EL directly, without belonging to a national political party. This might seem to mark a turning-point in the evolution of ‘Europeanisation’. However, the category of individual membership has, until now, been largely stymied. We examine issues of leadership, hierarchy and policy-making within the EL, the role of the various party bodies and the question of internal party democracy. We reflect critically upon the self-effacing stand of the EL within the European Parliament. Finally, we consider the EL’s nature as a networking organisation.

in The European Left Party

This chapter analyses the various radical left international initiatives prior to the birth of the EL in 2004.

We discuss how deep divisions between ‘sovereigntists’ (who looked to the nation-state as a defence of the welfare state and of redistributive social justice) and ‘Left Europeanists’ (who believed that the crisis of socialism required a pan-European and ultimately a global strategic response by the radical left and that ‘national roads to socialism’ were no longer either adequate or even viable in the face of capitalist globalisation) hampered and delayed the emergence of the EL. From the ashes of ‘traditional’ communist forms of multi-party ‘co-operation’ – the various Internationals and attempts at Moscow- or Beijing-dominated meetings of communist parties – a kaleidoscope of differing initiatives eventually emerged. We discuss some of the most important. We show how dissatisfaction with these initiatives lay behind the determination of some of the most significant European radical left parties to take the initiative that resulted in the creation of the EL in 2004. We discuss the differing motivations of some of the parties that joined the EL at the outset and the initial steps that the EL took.

in The European Left Party
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in The European Left Party

This chapter focuses on programmatic and policy development within the EL. We examine the elaboration of policy at the various conferences and Congresses the EL has held since 2004 as well as in the common manifestos for the European Parliament elections. We discuss the impact of the Tsipras candidacy for the post of European Commission in 2014. Both this, and the subsequent election of a Syriza-led government in Greece, were landmark events for the EL. The retreat of that government in the face of pressure and blackmail by the Troika of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund were experienced by the EL as a bitter shared defeat. The experience of Syriza and the previous disappointments associated with the government participation of a full EL member party in Italy and an observer party in Cyprus suggest distinct limits to the EL’s ability to exert decisive policy influence upon its components – or to help them ‘govern’ in any more radical a fashion than the social democratic rivals of the radical left. Nevertheless, the EL has achieved a considerable degree of policy coherence and has sharpened its critique of the European Union since 2015.

in The European Left Party
The legacy of history

This chapter traces the history of radical left party (RLP) policies and orientation towards European integration, taking further issue with the usefulness of the concept of ‘Euroscepticism’ as a way of encapsulating the rich variety of views and strategies that emerge from our survey. We consider how a wide range of factors has influenced RLPs’ attitudes towards European integration. We aim to show how parties that saw the nation-state as an embodiment of revolutionary and socially egalitarian values (as in the French Jacobin tradition) are likely to differ markedly from parties whose experience of nationalism is bitter and whose historical patrimony makes any recourse to ‘defence of the nation-state’ problematic at best – such as the German, Italian and Spanish parties. We analyse the legacy of RLPs’ co-operation inside the European Parliament from their first appearance there in the 1960s until the post-1989 break-up of the Italian Communist Party, the launch of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament in 1994 and, eventually, the birth of the EL in 2004.

in The European Left Party
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Methodological reflections
in Dramas at Westminster

This chapter ties together how contrasting interpretations of scrutiny affect accountability relationships. The core argument of this chapter is that scrutiny is dependent on fragile, although also sometimes very dense and effective, webs of accountability in the House of Commons. The argument develops in three steps. First, it looks at individual relationships between MPs to show that informal practices and networks that are fundamental to making scrutiny happen. It then applies these insights in the second section, where the chapter turns to the development of norms and values of committees. This is critical to establish goodwill on committees as well as – and perhaps most importantly – the construction of consensus in reports. Almost all policy impact on government by committees depends on these reports, and a lot of this influence is derived from their unanimity. The final section looks at the implications of all this to understanding accountability in the House of Commons, arguing that it is ‘webs of scrutiny’ that matter most in conducting scrutiny, rather than the institutional powers that committees have (or, more accurately, do not have).

in Dramas at Westminster

Little detailed research has been published on committee chairs. So, in this empirically unique chapter, analysis begins by locating the role of chair in their institutional context, including important reforms that have taken place in the UK Parliament in 2010 that have renewed chairs’ sense of authority. The chapter discusses the leadership role that chairs have adopted and how this affects select committees. The chapter argues that chairs have adopted different styles, but that this falls along a spectrum: either committee-orientated catalysts or leadership-orientated chieftains. The choices that chairs make affect their ability to lead their committee, building consensus, and representing Parliament. The chapter opens wider debates about institutional roles and leadership within legislatures. Moreover, given the 2017 election result, chairs of these committees are likely to play an important brokerage role that means this chapter will be a timely contribution to understanding their influence for a wider audience.

in Dramas at Westminster