Local Parties in Political and Organizational Perspective

By Martin Saiz; Hans Geser | Go to book overview
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4
Local Parties in England

Development and Change, 1973-1994

COLIN RALLINGS
Local Government Chronicle Elections Centre, University of Plymouth

MICHAEL THRASHER
Local Government Chronicle Elections Centre, University of Plymouth

Editors' note: The local party system in the United Kingdom demonstrates the possibilities of vertical party integration. As a consequence of territorial reform, contested elections became more widespread in the countryside, whereas in previous decades, they were more restricted to metropolitan areas and cities. Community reform resulted in a more homogeneous distribution and party activity across all areas of the nation. The major national parties colonized the local communities by winning seats formerly held by nonpartisan incumbents or adherents of strictly local parties. Like Canada, the system is more volatile than before, but for an entirely different reason. Great Britain's unified political system transfers political developments down to local areas. This is vividly illustrated by the growing unpopularity of the Conservative government, which resulted in an ongoing loss of seats in the level of boroughs, counties, and shires.

The role of political parties in English local government over the past two decades has changed in two distinct and, to some extent, divergent ways. On the one hand, there has been a clear "nationalization" of local politics, with the major political parties contesting more and more seats and with national-level factors heavily influencing the success or failure of parties in what remain, in principle, elections about the effective provision of local services. On the other hand, the weakening of ties between voter and party, for which evidence is so clearly found in successive election studies, has allowed an increasingly volatile electorate to exercise a new freedom by opting at the local level for parties that it would not necessarily

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