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

The book returns to the key themes and questions raised in the opening chapters, and posits the wider conclusions that we can draw from the empirical research. First, and drawing on empirical sections, the chapter reflects on scrutiny in the UK Parliament, and re-emphasises the general themes of the book about the importance of beliefs, practices and dilemmas to explain select committee scrutiny in the House of Commons. Second, the chapter brings out wider cross-cutting themes of the book, including the effect of the Wright reforms to improve the effectiveness of Parliament and what this book tells us about the lives of politicians more generally. Finally, the book closes with the wider relevance of this book’s findings on representative democracy in the UK and the continuing challenges that the UK Parliament faces.

in Dramas at Westminster
Select committees and the quest for accountability

Based on unprecedented access to the UK Parliament, this book challenges how we understand and think about accountability between government and Parliament. Using data from a three-month research placement, over 45 interviews and more, this book focuses on the everyday practices of MPs and officials to reveal how parliamentarians perform their scrutiny roles. Some MPs adopt the role of a specialist, while others the role of a lone wolf; some are there to try to defend their party while others want to learn about policy. Among these different styles, chairs of committees have to try to reconcile these interpretations and either act as committee-orientated catalysts or attempt to impose order as leadership-orientated chieftains. All of this pushes and pulls scrutiny in lots of competing directions, and tells us that accountability depends on individual beliefs, everyday practices, and the negotiation of dilemmas. In this way, MPs and officials create a drama or spectacle of accountability and use their performance on the parliamentary stage to hold government to account. This book offers the most up-to-date and detailed research on committee practices in the House of Commons, following a range of reforms since 2010. The findings add new dimensions to how we study and understand accountability through the book’s path-breaking empirical focus, theoretical lens, and methodological tools. It is an ideal book for anyone interested in how Parliament works.

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This chapter explores one of the most understudied actors across legislatures: their staff. Little research has been published on the roles and interpretations of staff on scrutiny in the House of Commons, despite their permanent and vital role to carrying out accountability functions. This chapter briefly places staff in their organisational context, which has undergone significant reforms since 2014–15. It then explores the ways in which staff interpret their role, which is characterised by three facets: first, being hidden, i.e., the belief that clerks should not have a public-facing role; second, unparalleled service, i.e., the belief that clerks are in the service of democracy and must support the institution of Parliament in every way possible; and third, passionate impartiality, the belief that all MPs must be served equally. These facets of their role throw up a number of tensions, which are explored in the final section of the chapter.

in Dramas at Westminster