Did Labour's landslide victory in 1997 mark a critical watershed in British party politics? Did the radical break with 18 years of Conservative rule reflect a fundamental change in the social and ideological basis of British voting behaviour? Critical Elections brings together leading scholars of parties, elections and voting behaviour to provide the first systematic overview of long-term change in British electoral politics.

The Impact of Left-Right Ideology

The impact of left-right ideology

For much of the twentieth century, the left-right ideological cleavage has played an important role in the electoral politics of most democratic countries. The precise meanings of ‘left’ and ‘right’ have obviously varied both over time and with geographical context. At their root, however, is the notion that the left favours collectivist solutions to the problem of economic distribution whereas the right favours a more individualistic approach. In Britain, at least until recently, the Labour Party was traditionally regarded, by its members and by voters, as the main bastion of the collectivist approach to public policy. It advocated an active role for the state in production, distribution and exchange. It favoured a system of progressive taxation that ...

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