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Change UK and the challenges of parliamentary politics
Author: Louise Thompson

At a time when British politics has been increasingly fractured, with intra-party tensions cutting across both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, small political groupings and independent MPs in the Commons have taken on a more significant position than ever before. This book explores the rise and fall of Change UK within the wider context of the experiences of other small political groupings in the House of Commons. It examines the struggles facing MPs who leave behind the comforts of the large political parties and the strategies they use to draw attention to their cause.

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Louise Thompson

, on what is sometimes known as the ‘rebels’ bench’. This seat is on the front row of the small party section of the chamber and was used by the Bolsover MP whenever Labour was in opposition – for a total of more than 40 years, until his election defeat in December 2019. His seat in the Commons is now occupied by the SNP, giving that party a better position in which to stand when asking questions in the House, particularly at PMQs. For other MPs and for new parliamentary groups, claiming a seat can mean waking at the crack of dawn and entering the

in The end of the small party?
Louise Thompson

Once the excitement of Change UK's creation had settled down, things must have felt pretty tough for its MPs. The reality of being a small party without the backing of the big party whips hit them hard; it was ‘quite a shock to the system’. 1 This was especially true because they wanted to make a strong first impression on their fellow MPs as well as on the general public in order to keep the momentum of their launch going. This is where the group could have learnt some lessons from their new

in The end of the small party?
Louise Thompson

just how small the new parliamentary group was. The informality of the meeting place is typical of the smaller parties. One of the ‘original’ six SNP MPs (those who were in the Commons prior to the 2015 political earthquake in Scotland) described how the whole party went for a similar dinner right before the 2015 General Election along with a handful of parliamentary staff. So small was their parliamentary group at the time that they ‘could fill two taxis just about’. 1 With many of the party's MPs choosing to base

in The end of the small party?
Louise Thompson

minor, but its story provides an excellent case study of the electoral and parliamentary difficulties facing small political parties in contemporary British politics. To understand the story of Change UK and the challenge for small parties more widely we must go back to the morning of Monday 18 February 2019. It was the start of a normal week in contemporary British politics. Edging ever closer to a no-deal Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting a continuing struggle with the House of Commons on the one hand, and the European Union on the

in The end of the small party?
Louise Thompson

When we think about the rise and fall of UK political parties in the twentieth century we usually point to the rise of the Labour Party and the decline of the Liberals, with the mid-twentieth century seeing the peak of two-party performance with the Labour and Conservative parties regularly achieving 90 per cent of the overall vote in general elections. In reality, the twentieth century saw the creation of a number of smaller parties, many of which have had a presence in the House of Commons. Some, such as Plaid Cymru or the SNP, established

in The end of the small party?
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The politics of Conservative renewal
Gillian Peele and John Francis

a different agenda, starting in the 1970s. The SNP in particular gained traction in the 1980s in opposition to Thatcherism and began to erode support in Labour’s Scottish strongholds, a movement which culminated in 2015 with the near clean sweep of all Scottish seats. The Greens also made a little headway as environmental issues rose up the political agenda. On the right of British politics, there were a variety of smaller parties, none of which initially seemed to have much impact. However, in the early years of the twenty-first century UKIP began to gain support

in David Cameron and Conservative renewal
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Úna Newell

7 Elections: 1927–32 June 1927 After five years of self-government (1922–27), the people had more time to reflect on the administration’s perceived neglect of the west and register its verdict. The plethora of small parties and interest groups that contended the June 1927 general election indicated a growing dissatisfaction with the economic and social conservatism of the Cosgrave regime. In Galway, twenty-two candidates stood for election and the campaign was characterised not by the voters’ desire to elect a strong Cumann na nGaedheal government, but by the

in The west must wait
Geography and the British electoral system

Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.

Power, accountability and democracy

Does European integration contribute to, or even accelerate, the erosion of intra-party democracy? This book is about improving our understanding of political parties as democratic organisations in the context of multi-level governance. It analyses the impact of European Union (EU) membership on power dynamics, focusing on the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party (PS), and the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The purpose of this book is to investigate who within the three parties determines EU policies and selects EU specialists, such as the candidates for European parliamentary elections and EU spokespersons.

The book utilises a principal-agent framework to investigate the delegation of power inside the three parties across multiple levels and faces. It draws on over 65 original interviews with EU experts from the three national parties and the Party of European Socialists (PES) and an e-mail questionnaire. This book reveals that European policy has largely remained in the hands of the party leadership. Its findings suggest that the party grassroots are interested in EU affairs, but that interest rarely translates into influence, as information asymmetry between the grassroots and the party leadership makes it very difficult for local activists to scrutinise elected politicians and to come up with their own policy proposals. As regards the selection of EU specialists, such as candidates for the European parliamentary elections, this book highlights that the parties’ processes are highly political, often informal, and in some cases, undemocratic.