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.

Party Members and Ideological Change

Party members and ideological change
PaulWebbDavid M.Farrell

The central purpose of this chapter is to consider how far there are signs of critical realignment among major party memberships. The Introduction suggested that a critical election can be understood as one which produces ‘significant and durable realignments in the mass basis of party support with major consequences for the long-term balance of party competition’. As such, a critical election involves enduring realignments both at the level of the electorate (in terms of partisan loyalties, issue attitudes and patterns of social support) and within the parties themselves (in terms of ideology and policy). In particular, the focus of this chapter is on how far programmatic shifts identifiable in party manifestos (Chapter 1), which resonate ...

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