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Title: Leading the Labour Party, 1983-1992
Author: Burke, J. J. G.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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The central focus of this study is an examination of aspects of Kinnock’s leadership between 1983 and 1992. The core problem of the dissertation is to investigate the ways in which Kinnock used his position as leader to weld his party together, isolate and limit the power of opponents who he saw as electoral liabilities, make backstage alliances, encourage a rapprochement between the moderate left and the right of the party and, using the resources he had, determine the direction he thought the party should take. Seeking to follow Peter Clarke’s methodological lead, the dissertation considers contingent explanations for why Kinnock may have acted ‘in the particular’. By concentrating on a micro-level analysis, the dissertation seeks to recapture the complex play of causation in specific instances, in order to understand what happened in particular, rather than in general. Clarke’s methodology is supplemented by Erving Goffman’s conceptual insights and dramaturgical approach, which provide a language to interrogate and explain how actions and words were seen and understood, and how they were meant to be seen and understood. Such an approach, utilising Peter Shore’s identification of the key areas on which a Labour leader had t manifest his authority - the extra-parliamentary movement, parliament and country - empowers the historian to offer a finer grain analysis of Kinnock’s leadership than any other study has previously attempted. While histories of the period are valuable in identifying the problems Kinnock faced, they seldom get to grips with an analysis, of how he solved them or why he succeeded or failed. For example, why was his oration at Bournemouth so powerful and what were the consequences? Why did Kinnock fail to win some important conference votes - OMOV, for instance, in 1984 - and how did he triumph on union balloting in 1986, when the odds were stacked against him? How can one understand and make sense of these events? Why did Kinnock seem untrustworthy? Why was there such biting tension between Kinnock and the media and what responsibility did the Labour leader and his office have in perpetuating this climate of distrust? If the Labour leader performed poorly in parliament, what were the reasons for that? What were the limitations on Kinnock’s leadership? The aim of the study is to examine aspects of Kinnock’s leadership in this period, not to argue what happened, but how it happened, why it was important and, in light of that understanding, to discuss some of the crucial effects and how they came about.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available