The development of party systems and the determinants of partisan voting in English local government elections 1973-1998
This thesis takes a quantitative approach to the study of the development of party systems in English local government following its reorganisation in the early 1970s. Aggregate data, including local election results and census information, are used to identify the determinants of partisan support and the subsequent effects upon variations in local party systems. The study develops the first major classification of local party systems between 1973 and 1998, focussing principally upon factors accounting for variations in the evolution of such systems. This study provides the first clear evidence that the operation of local electoral systems contributes towards the production and maintenance of two-party dominance. However, in contrast to the national parliamentary situation, the two parties are not restricted to Conservative and Labour. The thesis highlights how third parties, particularly the Liberals, became a significant part of the local party system in a relatively large number of cases. Variations in electoral arrangements between local authorities, including differences in district magnitude and the nature of the electoral cycle, permit examination of their effects upon local party systems within a common national political culture. The effects of these variations are shown to either benefit or discriminate against the Liberals. Using aggregate data and methods of linear regression, the thesis analyses patterns of partisan voting in local government. It shows that socioeconomic factors such as class, housing and employment, theoretically identified as important for parliamentary elections, are related also to local voting for the three main parties, although the relationships are weaker for the Liberals than for the traditional two main parties. Confirmation of these findings is provided by the application of methods designed to solve the problems of ecological inference.