Organisational reform in the British Labour Party since 1983
This thesis examines the organisational transformation of the British Labour Party since 1983. The main intellectual contributions are: (1) the development of a rational choice model of party organisation; (2) an explanation Labour's organisational reforms, a subject that has attracted little academic attention. An exchange model of party organisation is developed, focusing on leader- follower relations inside parties. It builds on previous exchange models and extends the approach to the issue of party change, on which some general propositions are offered. The model is used to examine changes in leader-follower relations in the Labour Party. It is shown that Labour's historic form of intraparty exchange consisted of that between the parliamentary elite and the leaders of the major trade unions affiliated to the party, institutionalised in the 'block vote'. Labour's problems with the unions in the 1970s and its subsequent electoral wilderness years persuaded party leaders to reduce union influence to broaden the party's electoral appeal. The strategy was to enfranchise individual members at the expense of activist cliques and unions. Three areas of decision-making are examined - policymaking, parliamentary candidate selection, and leadership contests - and two trends are evident: (1) the erosion of Labour's federal structure, based on union affiliation and its replacement by a unitary (individual membership) structure; (2) the centralisation of power with party elites. A new form of exchange, between party leaders and individual members, has increasingly replaced that between party and union leaders. This has given Labour's organisation a greater degree of electoral legitimacy by reducing its reliance on the unions (who might extract policy concessions from Labour governments). However, centralisation has gone so far that it is questionable whether party activists and unions have sufficient incentives to remain inside the party, supplying it with labour and finance. To this extent, the exchange model alerts us to the possibility that Labour may no longer possess 'equilibrium institutions'.