The influence of the political party group on the representative activities of councillors
This thesis studies the influence of the political party group on the processes of local political representation. It sets out to discover how party groups are able to position themselves between councillor and the electorate, to demand the loyalty of councillors, and to ensure that they act publicly in a cohesive fashion in respect of local issues. The study distinguishes between different theatres of representation, the more or less open arenas within which councillors speak and act. This distinction is used to investigate the actual and likely behaviour of councillors in a range of situations from the closed and private to the open and public. The study also introduces the concept of crises of representation, which arise when a councillor experiences the competing pulls of party group loyalty and local feelings on contentious issues affecting his or her ward or division. To explore this tension, the study introduces the concept of event-driven democracy to describe those situations which motivate the community to protest council decisions and compete with the party group for councillors' loyalty. Evidence from a survey of 629 councillors in 20 authorities in the Midlands and surrounding area was gathered in order to compare and contrast reports of past and hypothetical actions in open and closed theatres of representation. Interviews were used to supplement and illuminate these data. Three case studies examine the actual responses of councillors faced with crises of representation. Comparison is made with national data. Differences between the political parties are explored and political affiliation examined as a factor in party group influence on local representation.