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Title: The party has a life of its own : Labour's ethos and party modernisation, 1983-1997
Author: Pike, Karl
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 6357
Awarding Body: Queen Mary University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis makes a theoretical contribution to interpreting the Labour Party and an empirical contribution to our understanding of Labour's 'modernisation', from 1983-1997. It significantly develops Henry Drucker's original insight - that Labour has an ethos as well as doctrine - and systematises it into a theoretical framework around four 'fault lines' within Labour's ethos. The fault lines are: the relative prioritisation given to articulating a coherent socialist theory; policies simultaneously regarded as both emblems and outdated shibboleths; tension between autonomy for Labour politicians and participatory approaches to decision-making; and more 'expressive' or more 'instrumental' political styles. The study argues that both an individual interpretation of the party's ethos, held by a political actor, and a dominant interpretation of the party's ethos, perceived by actors to have greater salience in the party as a whole, help to shape the strategic calculations actors make. Ethos is considered a distinct determinant of party change in this regard. The empirical contribution challenges linear narratives of modernisation from Kinnock to Blair. The study argues that different interpretations of the party's ethos affected the pace and scale of modernisation after 1983. At times this made the political strategy of modernisation cautious and gradualist, sensitised as it was to Labour's competing traditions. Kinnock's leadership was inwardly pragmatic, yet outwardly cautious in engaging with Labour's creed and challenging emblematic policies. This led to periods of inaction, appearing to defy electoral rationality. Blair was more attuned to Labour's ethos than is sometimes suggested in the existing literature, selective in his challenges to Labour's traditions, and employing, at times, an expressive style of Labour politics. Through interviews, archival research and document analysis, this study delves into political processes. It examines the beliefs actors held, their judgements of the party and their strategies, to show the effect of ethos on political action.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available