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Optional: purchase Union Jacks herePSC 321: British Politics
Bartle & King (eds), Britain at the Polls, 2005.
Publisher's description and Table of Contents.
revised 4 Jan. 2006, compiled by Jeremy Lewis .

Britain at the Polls 2005 continues the tradition of previous editions by providing incisive commentary on the 2005 general elections in the United Kingdom. John Bartle joins Anthony King and a group of eminent political experts to provide a measured analysis of the key issues and events that affected the election results.

Contributors examine the behavior and performance of each of the main political parties, look at the impact of regional political parties in the UK, assess the role of the media, and analyze how events on the international stage, such as Iraq, affected the election results. The result is an authoritative and readable guide to the intricacies and outcomes of the 2005 election.

Table of Contents

1. Tony Blair's Second Term, Thomas Quinn

Foreign Policy: From 9/11 to the Iraq War
Domestic Politics and Policy
Pulling Up the Drawbridge: Crime, Immigration, Terrorism and Europe
Discord in the Government
2. The Conservatives: The Politics of Panic, Philip Norton
Changing Leaders
The Consequences of Panic
3. A Grumpy Electorate, Nicholas Allen
Unhappy with Labour?
Unhappy with Politics?
Explaining the Electorate’s Mood
Restless Behaviour: Bypassing the System
Restlessness at the Ballot Box: Stirrings in the Party System
Conclusions: The Consequences of a Grumpy Electorate
4. The Reluctant European: Europe as an Issue in British Politics, David McKay
Pre-amble: Labour, the Conservatives and Europe, 1983-1997
The Conservatives, New Labour and Europe, 1997-2001
Parties, Voters and the European Issue, 2001-2005
Europe, the 2005 General Election and After: Blair Embattled and Blair Redux
5. The Politics of Fractured Federalism, Iain McLean
How We Got Here
The Rebirth of Devolution
The Endogeneity of Votes and Electoral Systems
Policy Divergence Since Devolution
The Barnett Formula Limps On
The English Question According to Prescott and Brown
6. The Labour Government and the Media, John Bartle
How the Media Have Changed
Blair, Campbell and the Media
Pressure Points
7. Why Labour Won – Yet Again, Anthony King
Disenchantment with New Labour
Labour, the Electorate and the Economy
The Conservatives: A Hopeless Opposition
Campaigning, Voting and the Outcome
8. The American Left, Right and Center on Tony Blair and the Election of 2005, E.J. Dionne Jr.
The Blair Effect: U.S. Style
Blair and Clinton: The Buddy Movie
Blair and Bush: The Odd Couple
9. New Labour’s Hegemony: Erosion or Extension?, Ivor Crewe
Interpreting Elections
New Labour’s Electoral Dominance: Its Foundations
New Labour’s Electoral Dominance: Evidence of Erosion
New Labour’s Electoral Dominance: Evidence of Extension
The Labour Party: The Promise and Pitfalls of a Gordon Brown Government
Strategies for Conservative Recovery
The Liberal Democrats: Fighting on Two Fronts

"General elections are public events that deserve rigorous scrutiny--but seldom receive it. The Britain at the Polls series provides the model for how elections should be analysed. It is political science at its best: thorough but not dry; serious yet accessible; trenchant but not mendacious. The 2005 edition provides a compelling portrait of a contest in which each of the three main parties claimed to be heartened by the outcome, when in fact each was left uncertain about its future."
- Peter Kellner, YouGov

"The Bartle and King collection of essays provides a fresh insight into the 2005 general election, both what happened and, above all, the significance for the direction of British politics in the Blair and post-Blair eras, with the added twist of a view from the US."
- Peter Riddell, The Times (London)

"It is a difficult task to provide narration, insight and explanation of the 2005 British general election. Theoretically driven interpretation of political events, clear data analysis, and attention to the long-term perspective make Britain at the Polls 2005 a thoroughly rewarding read for both specialists and lay readers alike in the UK and abroad."
- Paolo Bellucci, Università di Siena, Italian National Election Study

"This collection of essays provides a thoughtful, lively, and stimulating account of the underlying reasons for the historic third successive Labour victory as well as a broader assessment of developments in British politics under the Blair government. With a first-class set of contributors, this well-written and accessible volume will be essential reading for all concerned with British elections, voting behavior, and party politics."
- Pippa Norris, Harvard University

"The British election of 2005, more so than its predecessors in 1997 and 2001, poses a number of fascinating puzzles. How did a Government led by an unpopular prime minister defending a wildly unpopular war get re-elected? Why did Tony Blair strike his extraordinarily consequential partnership with George Bush? Did the 2005 election returns signal the beginning of the end of the recent dominance of New Labour in British politics or merely a pause? Look no further than this splendid volume for solutions to these puzzles."
- Thomas E. Mann, Brookings Institution

"With fresh, discerning analyses, among others, of new media, federalism, intra-party conflict and changing attitudes about America and Europe, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts. Together these essays explain how a disliked Prime Minister beat an outmoded opposition by taking his punishment and promising to quit."
- Samuel L. Popkin, University of California, San Diego


John Bartle is a senior lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Essex and a member of the advisory board for the current British Election Studies. He is co-editor of three books: (with Ivor Crewe and Brian Gosschalk) Political Communications: Why Labour Won the 1997 General Election (1998), (with Dylan Griffiths) Political Communications Transformed: From Morrison to Mandelson (2001), and (with Simon Atkinson and Roger Mortimore) Political Communications: The British General Election Campaign of 2001 (2002).

Anthony King is co-author with David Butler of two Nuffield College election studies (for 1964 and 1966), author of Britain Says Yes: The 1975 Referendum on the Common Market and Running Scared: Why America’s Politicians Campaign Too Much and Govern Too Little, co-author with Ivor Crewe on The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party and editor of The New American Political System, New Labour Triumphs: Britain at the Polls 1997 and Britain at the Polls 2001. He was a member on the Committee on Standards in Public Life (initially the Nolan Committee, now the Neill Committee) from 1994-98 and member on the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords (the Wakeham Commission) from 1999-2000.

Ch. 1, Anthony King, "Tony Blair's First Term"
By Negin Ahmadi, 2003.

-Blair’s Labour Administration was the first “Normal” [Labour] administration in British political history.  His administration won in May 1997.

- Ramsey MacDonald, Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan’s Labour administration had to deal with massive economic crises. The fear of the consequences kept Labour out of power for eighteen years between 1979 and 1997.

-Blair’s government had a different view of “classes” from the old Labour.

- Labour was always somewhat exclusive party.  It built walls around itself and communicated with the outside world when needed.

-Old Labour, King says, was a party that kept its distance from the rich, from business, from every non-Labour political party.
- New Labour appealed to the whole nation.

-Blairs government was the first [Labour] government to be openly pro-business.  Blair was even eager to recruit business people into ranks of the government itself, because he believed that they tended to be better managers and more creative than most politicians.

-By wining the 1997 general election, Labour had secured the support of more than 1/3 of the professional, executive and managerial classes, equal to the Conservatives and far more than any previous election.

-The relationship with business was made possible not only by Gordon Brown’s (see page 2-5) economic management but also because Blair’s government was not a socialist government.
-The traditional British socialism had been founded on two pillars, (ideological and organizational).

The Ideological pillar (in clause 4 of the Labour party’s constitution), committed the party to “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. In other words, state ownership of large sectors of industry.

- In 1960’s and 1970’s the previous Labour governments, had nationalized the bulk of the steel industry, aircraft production and shipbuilding.  They had also extended state ownership into North Sea oil and computers.

- Blair’s party reversed the involvement of the government with the industries. (The Government was less involved now)

- The other pillar of British socialism was the organizational links between the Labour Party and Britain’s trade unions.  (The unions financed the Labour Party, controlled the majority of votes at the party’s annual policy-making conference)

- Blair and his supporters persuaded the annual conference to limit the unions financial contribution to the party and also reduce their voting strength at the conference.

- Blair believed that it was wrong for the unions or other single interest group to have control of a major political party.  They had to ballot their members before they could take any industrial action.  The Blair government acted in favor of individual employees rather than in the organization itself as a whole.

Ch. 2, Anthony King, "Britain's Constitutional Revolution"

Ch. 3, Philip Norton, "Conservative Party: Anyone Out There?"
by Mindy Bevan, 2003

-The withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in Sept. 1992, triggered a collapse in support for the Conservative Party.
-The 20th Century had been characterized as the “Conservative Century,” the Conservative Party had succeeded because it managed to convey that it was an effective party of governance; based on four (4) components: competence in handling the affairs of the nation, unity, strong leadership, and public service.
-These variables were present for much of the 20th Century, but were lost in the 1990s.
-Not only had they lost all four (4) components by 1997, but these components were now features of its opponents.
-Following their loss in 1997, the party was beset with problems that had undermined it in government: it was torn apart by divisions, occasionally scandal, and by a failure to articulate a coherent message.
-Party leader John Major resigned following the defeat and 36 year-old William Hague was elected to take his place.
Hague’s New Strategy
-Hague began by apologizing for past mistakes.
-His second step was organizational and policy renewal.
 -Under the new structure the professional, voluntary, and parliamentary elements were integrated into one.  At the head was a governing board, in addition to the annual party conference, a national convention (meeting twice yearly) was created.
-An ethics and integrity committee was established to investigate cases of misconduct by party members.
-A national party membership was created.
-Hague also sought to portray the party as a party of tolerance.
-In July 1998, he launched “Listening to Britain,” meetings were held around the country and party members and others could feed in their views on public policy.
-Small electoral victories in 1999 showed that the party’s base of support was not being further eroded.
-Party used the slogan “In Europe, Not Run by Europe,” in 1999.  Opposed entry into the Euro.
-Even with these small successes the old problems plagued the party and the overall opinion polls didn’t improve.
-The party put forth new policies, but failed to get popular support.
 -Still showed a lack of direction.
-The single currency continued to divide the party.
-The party also experienced many resignations.
-Hague was put into leadership at an early stage in his life and in the life of the parliament.
-He won because he was the least objectionable candidate.
-He failed to make a mark with the public and antagonized part of his party.
-Long-term thinking usually gave way to short-term, reactive policy initiatives.
-Largest scandal was Lord Archer’s withdrawal from the London Mayoral election due to suspicions about his past, including a libel trial that he won in 1987.
-This incident raised questions about Hague’s judgement.
-By the 2001 general election, the Conservative Party was in no better shape than the 1997 election.
-“The stance of the party was more confused than it was coherent.”
-Immediately following the 2001 election, William Hague resigned the leadership of the party.


Ch. 4, Patrick Seyd, "Labour Government - Party Relationships"


Ch. 5, Colin Seymour-Ure, "New Labour & Media"

Ch. 6, David Denver, "Liberal Democrats in Constructive Opposition"
by Jarret Layson, 2003

     Liberal Democrats(LD) - founded 1988 with merger between Social Democratic Party
     and the old Liberal Party
     main problem: how to position themselves between two major parties
     solution:  "equidistance"- refuse to indicate preference
     Between '92 and '97 he LD's redefined position
     after '92 Paddy Ashdown (party leader) announced: "we will work w/ others to assemble
     idea where nonsocialist alternative to Conservative party
     Emergence of Blair (labour leader) spurred cooperation w/ Blair being receptive to
     cooperation and intune with LD's values
     Blair turned the New Labour party into the "nonsocialist alternative" Ashdown spoke of
     Sept. '95 LD conference: new approach adopted-defeat Conservative party while
     keeping distance from Labour
     Equidistance abandoned which opened long term possibility of realignment of left in
     Britain-this became know as "the project" which was central to Ashdown and Blair
     Blair/Ashdown stated that the previous division of their parties has allowed for
     Conservative domination, if division healed = future of progressive politics secured
     1996-"Cook-Maclennan" talks-joint talks between Labour/LD's with view of potential
     callaboration on constitutional reform (devolution)
     1997 election-paradoxical outcome for LD party: share of vote gained by LD fell by one
     point but number of seats doubled: happened due to 2 reasons:

     "Constructive opposition"-after '97 election-Ashdown defined the new LD approach
     as critical but firm support of every step of Blair.  Will criticize Gov't when they believe
     they are wrong, but support when they're right
     rewards came quickly due to the new position of LD's: gov't immediately began process
     that lead to devolution
     Blair announces Joint Cabinet Committee (JCC) which contains Blair, Senior members,
     Ashdown, and 4 leaders of the LD party-committee put LD at the heart of gov't      1999-Ashdown retires: Charles Kennedy wins leadership with close battle with Hughes
     who was against Ashdown's leadership goals with Labour (tight vote showed that the LD
     party had a lot of resistance towards the new ideals of the party under Ashdown)
     Blair welcomed Kennedy as leader, stating that the cooperation should continue between
     the two parties
     2000-relations between gov't and LD's slacked as the gov't showed that it was unwilling
     to do anything about electoral reform which the LD future greatly depended on
     before the march conference of LD's, Kennedy declared that he saw little reason for
     cont'd cooperation with the Blair and the Labour Party
     Parties continued to drift apart and the JCC met for the last time in 2000 and in 2001
     Kennedy declared "the project" was "in a coma"
     Kennedy stated that if Labour wouldn't shift its stance on proportional representation
     cooperation would cease
     Concluding thoughts: The future of cooperation between the LD's and Blair's new
     Labour party depends on Labour's next election manifesto and whether it contains goals
     that are in accordance with the Liberal Democrat's goals-the reaction within the LD party
     to Kennedy's leadership so far has been favorable due partly to his move away from
     Ashdown's support and cooperation with Blair


Ch. 7, John Bartle, "Why Labour Won -- Again"
Adena Cosby 2003

1) New Labor had triumphed in 1997.  The party was swept to power by the largest swing to any party since 1945, won more seats that ever before, and obtained the largest majority the labor party had ever had.
2) Labor’s second victory was impressive as well, led by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and John Prescott, but their share of the vote only nudged up by 1.2 points and only made a net gain of one seat.
3) Why Labor Won:

a) Sociological approach – both the political behavior and political opinion assumes that the interests of one (employees, tax payers, homeowners) conflicts with the interest of another (employers, welfare beneficiaries, council tenants).  Voters support a particular party to express both their agreement with their values and the disagreement with others.
b) A campaign based approach – in theory the formal campaign is thought to be important, since it provides voters with sufficient information, argument and debate to arrive at a reasonable vote decision.
c) A political approach – “Governments are capable of losing elections but only if there is an Opposition party available that people are willing to vote for.”
4) Was New Labor capable of losing the election?
a) The Economy: Restoring a tarnished reputation
i) Labor was regarded as an incompetent party, they have been thought to involve a great deal of risk.
ii) Tony Blair and Gordon Brown sought to reassure voters by re-writing Clause 4, support the key elements of the 1980’s trade union reform, and take no risks with inflation.
5) The Public Services: Making things better
a) Britons were attached to the public services (the introduction of the NHS and establishing the welfare state, along with expanding higher education and the introduction of state pensions).  Tony Blair made promises to concentrate on improving these things.
b) It forced Gordon Brown to increase taxes on petrol, cigarettes, alcohol, and pension funds.  People felt that Labor introduced hidden taxes.
c) Many voters thought that their inability to complete the fulfillment of the public services was not Labors fault.  People blamed Tony Blair, Frank Dobson, Alan Milburn, and Thatcher.
6) The Labor Party’s Tactics
a) The 2001 campaign concentrated on the issues of tax and spending.  There strategy to save money to for long-term investment into the next parliament laid the foundation for economic growth in voter’s belief in Labor’s competence.
b) Labor replaced a conservative government that was known for sleaze and scandal.
c) Favorable evaluations of Tony Blair contributed to the success of the Labor party, he resulted in an advantage of around six seats.
d) Was there an opposition worth voting for?
 i. Conservatives were known for the party that understood money, but Black Wednesday hung over their head for awhile as their responsibility.
 ii. On handling the issue of the NHS, the Conservatives trailed labor by 28 points
 iii. On education the Conservatives trailed by 26 points.
 iv. The conservatives opposed the EU’s idea of one currency, but everyone though that was odd and didn’t really care since that was not one of the main public issues.
 v. The biggest problem the Conservatives had was that they had misread public opinion.
 vi. William Hague lacked personal appeal as well.
e) The Liberal Democrats (The none of the above party)
 i. Liberal Democrats had success in this election as well, they gained their highest percentage of votes and have the most representation of seats in the house since 1929.
 ii. Voters wanted to protect the Liberal Democrats MPs first elected in 1997.
 iii. Liberal Democrats emphasis on improving the public services, also helped.
 iv. When voters didn’t agree with the Conservative or the Labor party, they chose the Liberal Democrats as the none of the above choice.
f) A Low Turnout Landslide
 i. The reduction in this election was the result of two previous elections that were exceptionally close.
 ii. For four years the national polls beat out a relentless message, that Labor would win the general election by a lot, and the electorate absorbed it.
 iii. Voters tend to feel alienated from the political process.
 iv. Ideological differences between the parties have diminished and performing consensual goals has become more important, the parties have started to spin the information to their advantage which tends to turn off voters.
 v. The overall decline of the parties as mass organizations fell between 1997 and 2001.


Ch. 8, Ivor Crewe, "New Political Hegemony?"