Russell Haggar

Site Owner

Please note that the above pages now include a Search Facility for Earlham Sociology and Government and Politics.

All of the documents [including this one]  in the Political Ideologies section of this website were written prior to the introduction in 2017 of the new Government and Politics Specifications Changes in the new Specifications and in particular the emphasis placed upon particular key thinkers within each ideology mean that the documents on this page do not currently adequately reflect the requirements of the new Specifications. Consequently my advice to students following the New Specification would be to rely upon advice from your teachers and recently published A Level texts on Political ideas rather than the documents posted here. I hope eventually to rewrite these documents to reflect the new Specifications but this is going to take a long time. 





Social Democracy, New Labour and Beyond?



The Case for the Modernisation of the Labour Party

Old Labour and New Labour

New Labour and the Third Way

Click here for Kitty S Jones on Labour 1997-2010

Guardian 1998: Good article on the Third Way

BBC Coverage of the Blair Years

BBC Coverage  of Gordon Brown as he replaces Tony Blair as PM. BBC summary article on the Rise and Fall of New Labour

Click here and here for two recent Observer articles by Andrew Rawnsley on the Labour Party after the May 6th 2010 General Election defeat

Guardian Article: The Labour Years: Could Have Done Better :  Polly Toynbee and David Walker

Guardian Article: James Purnell reviews “The Verdict” by Polly Toynbee and David Walker

Guardian article on the future realignment of the Left….i.e. closer Lab/Lib Dem/Green links

Guardian Interview with Ed Miliband providing a little information on possible future directions for the Labour Party

BBC coverage of Ed Miliband in 2010

BBC coverage of “Blue Labour” with a further link to Analysis on Blue Labour.

Guardian article on Ed Miliband and Labour’s version of “The Big Society”

Click here for “The Rise and Fall of New Labour”  : article for New Statesman by Lord Anthony Giddens. Very significant article

[I personally enjoy the coverage of Labour Party politics [and other UK political issues] provided by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer and Polly Toynbee in the Guardian and you might like to follow these journalists in order to “keep up to date” although they do also have their critics.]

Click as appropriate for the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and BBC initial coverage of the Blair Memoirs [aka “A Journey”]

Click here for Polly Toynbee on the future of the Labour Party [Sept.2010]


 Philip Coman {Observer] article on Labour Party and Capitalism

Guardian 2011 Tony Blair and the Death of New Labour under Gordon Brown

Click here for a detailed academic paper by Dr. Nick Randall on New Labour and


Click here for BBC coverage and here for Guardian coverage of Labour Party Conference 2012

Click here for Benjamin Disraeli and here for Ed Miliband and One Nation Politics

Click here and here for Guardian coverage of possible Labour responses to social welfare implications of Autumn Statement 2012

Click here for Guardian article by John Gray on Ralph Miliband and Sons, An interesting article on the past, present and future of the Labour Party

Click here for “Good Riddance to New Labour” by Tony Wood in the New Left Review

Click here for a series of Guardian articles: Looking Back on New Labour

Click here and here for two recent Observer articles on the Labour Party. April 2013


Introduction: An Overview of Party Politics 1945-2013


The politics of the British Labour Party are influenced heavily by the ideology of Social Democracy which itself is flexible enough to encompass the differing strands of moderate and more radical "left-wing" opinion existing within the Labour Party. Leading positions in the Labour Party have generally been monopolised by relatively moderate Social Democrats who have unsurprisingly generally favoured relatively moderate social democratic policies although the late 1970s and early 1980s  offered an exception to this general rule. It has been argued also that British Politics from 1945 to the early 1970s was characterised by a bi-partisan consensus between the leaderships of the Labour and Conservative parties deriving from the substantial ideological overlaps between the politics of the moderate Social Democracy and One Nation Conservatism espoused by Labour and Conservative leaders respectively although ideological and policy differences between more radical Social Democrats and more right -wing Conservatives were much greater.

As the Conservative Party moved to the Right under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and the influence of the Left  within the Labour Party increased briefly in the late 1970s and early 1980s  the ideological distance between the two parties increased significantly but following its defeat in the 1983 General Election the Labour Party gravitated back to the Centre, gradually at first under the leadership of Neil Kinnock and John Smith and more rapidly under the leadership of Tony Blair.. Labour's social democracy has actually undergone considerable changes in the period since 1945 and it is important to recognise the different approaches to social democracy espoused by different Labour leaders. Especially important here are the ideas which underpinned the political programmes of the 1945-51 Labour governments, the revisionist theories of Tony Crosland, the "modernising socialism" of Harold Wilson, the shift to the Left in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the gradual development of the New Labour project especially under the leadership of Tony Blair and the uncertainties surrounding the precise nature of Labour's social democracy in the post-Blair era.

Furthermore New Labour under Tony Blair accepted much of the Thatcherite neo-liberal agenda while claiming to support  a modernised version of social democracy which would be more in tune with the demands of an increasingly globalised world economy [all of which has been described , accurately or otherwise, by left wing critics as amounting to little more than "warmed over neo-liberalism" or "Thatcherism with a smiling face"]  and so it is easy to  see why political commentators have argued that a new bi-partisan political consensus has been established which is heavily influenced by the politics of neo-liberalism and that this consensus has continued, despite regular rhetorical clashes  in the era of Cameron, Brown and Miliband. However this may be to understate the real ideological differences which currently exist between the Conservative and Labour Parties and it is possible in any case that as a result of the credit crunch and the subsequent economic recession  the policies of neo-liberalism have become rather less popular.

Social Democracy , Democratic Socialism and the Labour Party

Labour's social democracy has actually undergone considerable changes in the period since 1945 and it is important to recognise  the different approaches to social democracy espoused by different Labour leaders. Especially important here are the ideas which underpinned the political programmes of the 1945-51 Labour governments, the revisionist theories of Tony Crosland, the "modernising socialism" of Harold Wilson,  the shift to the Left in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the gradual development of the New Labour project especially under the leadership of Tony Blair and the uncertainties surrounding the precise nature of Labour's social democracy in the post-Blair era.

Those on the left of the Labour Party have sometimes preferred to call themselves Democratic Socialists rather than Social Democrats in order to signal their support for more radical Socialist measures and many theorists argue that this is an important distinction although others consider the boundaries Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism are rather blurred. [We may note also  note that when the  the Social Democratic Party was formed in 1981 many more Labour Party supporters felt the need to define themselves as “Democratic Socialists” in order to distinguish themselves from those "renegades" who joined the SDP although this little difficulty ended when the SDP was wound up in  XXX check date

All Social Democrats have traditionally been critical of the extreme inequalities of wealth, income, power and opportunity associated with unregulated free market capitalism  but they believe also that economic efficiency, economic growth and rising living standards for all can best be achieved in a mixed economy containing a large capitalist private sector which is regulated by government in various ways combined with an  effective  Welfare State through which the inequalities associated with unregulated capitalism can be much reduced.

Social Democrats claim ,therefore, that the Marxist-inspired overthrow of the capitalist system is unnecessary and undesirable because the Social Democratic variant of "Socialism" can best be achieved gradually via the development of a mixed economy in which the extreme inequalities of free market capitalism are much diminished as a result of Social Democratic reforms. However the Social Democrats' support for a mixed economy with a large private sector lead them to believe that some income inequalities remain necessary to incentivise workers  and this implies that capitalist class structures [albeit with somewhat reduced economic inequalities ] are seen as perfectly acceptable by many Social Democrats although more radical Social Democrats would criticise  Labour administrations of 1997-2010 for their failure  to reduce the extent of economic inequality which currently exists in the UK. Thus  in recent years there has been considerable controversy surrounding the extent to which the ideology of New Labour represents a shift away from the principles of social democracy and toward the ideology of the New Right and this controversy has certainly been  apparent in analyses of New Labour education policies. 

There are some problems surrounding the meaning of the term “Social Democracy”. It is sometimes taken to be synonymous with the term “Democratic Socialism” and to apply to Evolutionary Socialism as a whole as distinct from “Revolutionary Socialism.” However it is also often argued that there are important distinctions between democratic socialism and social democracy and I shall assume here that the ideology of democratic socialism focuses upon the fundamental transformation of society involving the significant growth of the public ownership at the expense of private ownership combined with much increased equality in the distribution of wealth, income, power and opportunity. Furthermore in the comparison of the ideology of social democracy with the ideology of New Labour I shall assume that the term “social democracy” might be associated most closely with the revisionist conception of “Socialism” outlined in the 1950s by Anthony Crosland and broadly supported subsequently by the Labour Governments of Harold Wilson [1964-66; 1966-70; 1974-1974; 1974-1976] and James Callaghan [1976-1979].


Partly because of the poor performance of the UK economy in the 1960s and 1970s economic growth faltered and this undermined the overall social democratic strategy because redistribution of resources to the poor via the expansion of the welfare state was to be achieved mainly via economic growth: without the economic growth redistribution would be limited.


Consequently there was increasing pressure from members of the  left wing of the Labour party [who were more likely to define themselves as democratic socialists than as social democrats] for increased public ownership, greater central government economic planning and a more determined attempt to reduce economic inequality and poverty. The left also demanded increasing workers control over industry, unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the EEC and for reform of the Labour Party constitution which according to the left would increase the possibilities of election of a left wing leader and the adoption of more left wing policies. Opposition to such policies from senior figures within the Labour Party [David Owen, Shirley Williams and William Rodgers] and from former senior Labour Party politician Roy Jenkins led to the formation of the Social Democratic Party which was pledged to halt the leftward drift of the Labour Party


Constitutional reforms were introduced in the early 1980s and Labour did fight the 1983 General Election on a more left-wing manifesto promising more public ownership, more central government control of the private sector of the economy, unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the EEC. For a variety of reasons it suffered humiliating defeat; its leader and deputy leader[Michael Foot and Dennis Healey]  resigned and they were replaced by Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley whose basic strategy was modernise the Labour party and to re-establish Labour again as a party of relatively moderate social democracy .


{Michael Foot died on March 3rd 2010. Click here for a BBC Obituary]


Progress in this direction was meaningful but gradual between 1983 and 1987 when Labour where again defeated in the 1987 General election. The processes of modernisation and moderation accelerated after 1987 particularly as a result of the 1987 Labour Policy Review which promised more moderate economic policies, continued membership of the EEC and the ending of Labour’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Once again, however, Labour was again defeated in the 1992 General Election: Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley were replaced by John Smith and Margaret Beckett as leader and deputy leader respectively and the process of gradual modernisation and moderation continued.


However in September 1992 a serious financial crisis occurred [Black Wednesday] in which the UK was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism   which resulted in the destruction of the Conservative government’s reputation for economic competence and opened up a large Labour lead in the opinion polls. It now seemed that a “steady as you go” policy would be sufficient to secure a Labour victory at the next General Election but more radical modernisers such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown felt that more rapid modernisation was necessary and that John Smith’s leadership was too cautious.


John Smith had experienced heart problems for some time but it was nevertheless entirely unexpected when he died in 1994. Following difficult discussions whose impact is still being felt in British politics, Gordon Brown agreed that Tony Blair rather than he should be the modernising candidate in the Labour Party leadership election which Blair duly won comfortably. John Prescott was elected deputy leader.


The Case for the Modernisation of the Labour Party


According to Blair , Brown and their supporters the disastrous defeat of 1983 established beyond doubt the case for modernisation and despite the best efforts of previous leaders Neil Kinnock and John Smith further modernisation was now essential if Labour were ever to regain power again.


By 1992 Labour had been defeated in four consecutive General Elections [1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992] and there were both sociological and political reasons for these defeats


  1. Labour traditionally received relatively more electoral support from the working class but the relative size of the working class was declining and it was believed also that as working class people became more affluent they identified less with core Labour policies such as relatively high taxation and high expenditure on the welfare state [the so-called tax and spend approach to social policy], support for further nationalisation and close links with the trade unions.
  2. It was therefore necessary for Labour to devise policies which would appeal to a coalition of middle class and more aspirational working class voters who opposed relatively high taxation and looked instead for greater individual freedom for themselves and their children to better themselves by their own efforts.
  3. It was claimed that orthodox social democracy had been undermined because the “fall of communism” was considered to have occurred because of the inefficiencies of centrally planned communist economies and it was suggested that that the social democratic emphasis on high government spending on nationalisation and an over-bureaucratic welfare state was also misguided. In this respect it was argued that Thatcherite New Right ideas were actually more credible than the ideology of orthodox social democracy.
  4. Finally the growth of globalisation meant that it would be more difficult for nation states to organise their economies on a social democratic basis. Social democratic governments might wish in principle to levy high rates of income taxation on the rich and high rates of corporation tax on business profits and to redistribute income to the poor but if they did so talented individuals would leave the country and foreign investment into the UK would be reduced resulting in reduced economic efficiency and increased unemployment. Therefore efforts to increase economic equality would actually result in reduced living standards for the poor. There were limits also in the extent to which Keynesian policies could be used to reduce unemployment because such policies were potentially inflationary and would lead rapidly to increased unemployment caused by reduced international competitiveness.



Old Labour and New Labour: Socialism, Revisionism [Crosland] and neo-Revisionism [Blair] [It is important that you are familiar with the terms “revisionism” and “neo-revisionism” as applied to Crosland and Blair]


Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour party in July 1994; at the October 1994 Labour party conference the term “New labour” was unveiled for the first time in the slogan” New Labour: New Britain” and at a special Labour party conference in April 1995 the apparent fundamental break with past Labour party history was symbolised when the Labour party accepted Blair’s redrafted Labour party constitution which removed its commitment to the nationalisation of the means of production.


Given the four consecutive general election defeats suffered by the Labour party in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992 it is easy to see why Tony Blair and his modernising supporters wished to re-brand the Labour Party as “New Labour” in order to signal its break with the failed policies if “Old Labour”. However the meanings of the terms “Old Labour” and “New Labour” must be analysed with care.


The Blairites did not wish to distance themselves  from the achievements of the 1945-51 Labour governments  but from the perceived relative failures of the Wilson and Callaghan governments of the 1960s and 1970s and in particular from the more radical left wing policies  of the Labour Party between 1979 and 1983.


Thus while in the eyes of the Blairites the Wilson-Callaghan governments had accepted the continued existence of nationalised industries, had retained close relationships with the trade unions and had failed to reform the institutions of the welfare state and Labour in 1979-83 had also supported increased state control of the economy, increased public ownership, withdrawal from the EEC and unilateral nuclear disarmament, Blair’s New Labour party would accept none of these things.


Instead it would accept the privatisations, trade union reforms and low income taxation policies introduced by Mrs Thatcher but it would also modernise the welfare state and modernise the UK constitution via the introduction of a range of liberal reforms.


It would be fair to say, therefore, that under Tony Blair New Labour did represent a break with Labour’s past and in this sense Blair could be described as a neo-revisionist of Labour’s ideology. However we should also note important continuities between Blair’s ideology and the ideology of traditional social democracy. Moderate social democrats have always played an important role within the Labour party such that, for example, the revisionist Labour party theorist Tony Crosland had called for the restriction of further nationalisation in 1956 and the then Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell had tried [but unsuccessfully ] to remove the commitment to nationalisation from the Labour party constitution in 1959.


Furthermore Tony Blair might be seen as accelerating the reforms of the Labour party begun initially by Neil Kinnock in the difficult circumstances following the 1983 General Election defeat although Blair probably did take these reforms further than Neil Kinnock would have done.


We might conclude therefore that although Blair’s re-branding of the Labour party did result in fundamental shift of ideology and policy there are also continuities with the complex past history of the Labour party : some  elements of New Labour thinking have always been present to some extent within Labour party ideology.


We may investigate the ideology of New Labour in more detail via the consideration of the so-called “Third Way.”




New Labour and the Third Way


It has been suggested that in practice New Labour policies have been heavily influenced by the ideology of the so-called Third Way as developed primarily by the famous Labour supporting Sociology professor Anthony Giddens who claimed that the Third Way  "is an attempt to transcend both old style [or classical] Social Democracy and Neo-Liberalism”.


In the ideology of the Third Way it was argued that centralised state economic control of both communist and social democratic types generated economic inefficiency but that Thatcherite neo-liberalism had increased economic efficiency. However it had done so at the expense of increased economic inequality and poverty, reduced equality of opportunity, community breakdown and social disorder. Furthermore in the globalised world economy countries with inadequate education and training systems would be unable to compete effectively leading to long term job losses and falling living standards.


Giddens argued that in order to address these problems markets should still be allowed to operate according to neo-liberal principles but the role of the state should be extended and modified to deal with the problems created by neo-liberalism and globalisation. The Third Way state should be both a “competitive state” and an “enabling state”: it should take on especial responsibility for the provision of suitable education and training which would be necessary for the UK to compete effectively in the globalised economy while these skills would also enable individuals to improve their job security and develop their talents to the full.


While the education system was to enhance equality of opportunity the social security system was to focus more on encouraging individuals into work rather than on the provision of unconditional benefits for the unemployed. In the words of Bill Clinton [who was an American supporter of the Third Way] individuals were to be given “a hand up rather than a hand out” although a range of social security benefits would still be available for those unable to work.


However although in the ideology of the Third Way it was highly desirable to reduce relative poverty and to increase equality of opportunity it was recognised that it might be counter-productive to increase economic equality significantly because this would result in reduced financial incentives which would reduce economic efficiency and ultimately reduce the living standards of poorest rather than increase them.


The concept of communitarianism also plays an important role in Third Way ideology. Individuals are seen as having the rights to a range of state services and benefits but they are seen also as having duties to act as responsible citizens if community strength and solidarity is to be increased. Parents have duties to raise their children so that they can benefit from educational opportunities; workers have rights to unemployment benefits but also duties to take work when it is available; and especially perhaps individuals have a duty to obey the law and can expect punishment from Labour governments if they do not. As Tony Blair expressed it Labour would be “tough on crime: tough on the causes of crime.”


Tony Blair and his supporters have argued in relation to communitarianism that they are seeking to encourage the community spirit which has always been a major element of social democratic ideology but his critics have argued that he has adopted  a rather conservative view of communitarianism in that responsibility for community solidarity is placed excessively on the individuals living in disadvantaged communities while Labour governments do not do enough themselves to alleviate the poverty and social disadvantage which are the ultimate causes of the decline of community spirit.


There have difficult theoretical disputes s surrounding the precise nature of the Third Way. It has been noted that whereas Tony Blair often used the term, Gordon Brown rarely if ever did so and that Labour stalwarts such as Roy Hattersley of the right and Tony Benn of the left of the Labour Party both agreed that the term was essentially meaningless although they have never agreed on much else.


Nevertheless Labour governments did introduce a range of policies which reflected Third Way ideology in combining elements of neo-liberalism and modified social democracy as well as constitutional reforms traditionally associated with the Liberals/Liberal Democrats.


Subsequently disputes have arisen among theorists who believe that   New Labour has sought to retain its fundamental social democratic values modified to take account t of changing circumstances and those who believe that New Labour has been so committed to the principles of neo-liberalism that it has broken more or less completely with the ideology of social democracy.


Labour Government Policies 1997-2008


In their study “New Labour” [Second Edition 2006] Steven Driver and Luke Martell have argued that in several respects New Labour might be seen as “part of the revisionist thread of British social democratic politics.” In this view it is argued that there are clear connections between the ideological positions of, for example, Tony Crosland and his supporters in the 1950s and Tony Blair and his supporters from the 1990s onwards.


Both groupings argued that the labour party would have to respond electorally to the changes in the UK class structure involving the decline in size of the working class which meant Labour would need to attract secure the support of increasing numbers of middle class voters in order to secure electoral victory. Both recognised the limitations of public ownership. Both believed that a dynamic private sector was necessary to secure rising living standards for all.


In this view times may have changed but New Labour is simply developing new policies which will enable it to be true to its old values in changing circumstances. There are several elements of New Labour policy which reflect the party’s social democratic Croslandite traditions.



  • New Labour did not succeed in reducing significantly economic inequality as measured by the distribution of income and wealth. However whereas in the Thatcher years income inequality increased significantly partly because of natural trends within capitalist economies and partly because of Conservative taxation and social security policy which further increased income inequality, Labour’s taxation and social security policies, taken in isolation, were redistributive toward the poor but they were not strong enough to offset the natural trend toward income inequality.
  • New Labour politicians argued that in any case increases in economic equality not have helped the poor because they would undermine incentives, economic efficiency and ultimately result in lower living standards for poorer people.
  • However New Labour did reduce significantly the extent of relative poverty partly as result of its mildly redistributive taxation and social security policies, partly because unemployment remained low and  partly also as a result of the introduction of the minimum wage.
  •  Labour’s attitude to economic equality of outcome may be seen as supporting the views on distributive justice of the liberal philosopher John Rawls, views that it would not be difficult to imagine Tony Crosland supporting.
  • Economic growth remained fairly steady under New Labour and New Labour was able to increase significantly government spending on Health and Education [exactly in line with the Croslandite proposals of the 1950s.]
  • Labour has signed up to the European Union Social Chapter which provides for an extension of workers’ rights.


New Labour has also introduced policies which to some extent may be seen as intended to extend the basic liberal democratic principles of the UK system of government.

  • Labour’s devolution policies could be seen as representing an attempt to enhance citizen involvement in politics in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. [It is noteworthy that the elections to the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly are all conducted using the more proportional additional member system and Northern Ireland uses the single transferable system. PR has obviously not been introduced for House of Commons elections.]
  • It is intended finally to remove the hereditary element from the House of Lords although final decisions on method of selecting members of the Second Chamber have not yet finally been agreed. The House of Commons has voted in support of and 80% elected second chamber and in support of a fully elected second chamber but these are advisory votes only at present.
  • Labour has signed the European Convention on Human Rights meaning that individuals can defend their rights in UK courts where previously they would have had to apply to the European Court of Human Rights which would have been more time-consuming and expensive.


However other theorists have claimed that New Labour has made an accommodation with the New Right in general and with neo-liberalism in particular. In this view New Labour is seen simply as Thatcherism Mark Two and it is emphasised that New Labour governments have retained several of the New Right policies introduced by the Thatcher and Major administrations between 1979 and 1997.

  • Labour removed its commitment to public ownership from its constitution in 1995 and industries which were privatised by the Conservatives have not been renationalised by New Labour.
  • Labour has extended the role of the private sector in state activity by means of the expansion of public-private sector partnerships whereby private companies build and maintain hospitals, schools and schools and lease them back to the state at a considerable profit.
  • Legislation introduced by the Conservatives to restrict the powers of the trade unions has been retained by New Labour.
  • Conservative governments 1979 -1997 introduced significant reductions in income tax rates particularly on the higher paid as a means of increasing financial incentives. New Labour has not reversed these changes and the economic inequality which increased substantially under Conservative governments 1979-1997 has not been reduced under New Labour.
  • The New Labour defence of economic inequality is invalid. The Incentive effects of lower taxation are questionable and equality of opportunity is impossible with the high levels of economic inequality which currently exist in the UK.
  • Conservatives restricted the growth of some social security benefits such as unemployment benefits which they claimed led to the creation of a welfare benefit- dependent underclass whose members preferred to live off state benefits rather than to seek paid work. New Labour have to some extent accepted this line of argument and have claimed that the poor can best be helped by the provision of advice and training which will help them to find work rather than by the provision of more generous social security benefits.
  • New Labour’s emphasis on communitarianism places excessive blame on disadvantaged individuals themselves for the breakdown of their communities while in reality community breakdown is caused by the ravages of neo-liberalism and the overall failure of New Labour’s own economic and social policies to address the problems created by neo-liberalism.


We see therefore that in practice New Labour policies have contained elements of mild social democracy, modified to meet changing circumstances, Thatcherite neo-liberalism and liberal constitutionalism. Living standards have improved, expenditure on public services has increased and relative poverty has been reduced so there is apparently much to praise in New Labour’s record.


However we are perhaps about to find out how well prepared the UK is to withstand economic difficulties and according to those socialists who believe that equality of opportunity is impossible in a grossly unequal society New Labour’s social and economic policies  will be rather unconvincing although social liberals  may find them rather more acceptable.


  • The Electoral Significance of the Iraq

Opinion Poll data from YouGov suggested that voters rated Iraq as only 11th out of the 12 most salient issues of the campaign and other polling organisations reported very similar if not absolutely identical findings. However there are good reasons to believe that in practice the Iraq war did have a significant effect on the General Election result although it is obviously impossible to quantify its exact significance.

For example , Butler and Kavanagh quote Labour spokespersons who themselves believed that Labour lost 2-3% of their vote share mainly to the Liberal Democrats, as a result of the Iraq war; they quote a Sky News Election day poll which found that fully 25% of Liberal Democrat voters said they would have voted Labour "but did not do so because of Iraq; and they quote a YouGov poll which found that 15% of Labour identifiers voted Lib Dem because of Iraq.

It is likely also that the Iraq War helped to explain several of the Conservative Party's 33 gains. Although the Conservatives gained 33 seats their share of the vote rose by only 0.3% and  several of the Conservative Constituency gains occurred despite an actual fall in the number of votes cast for the Conservative party. Such gains may have been caused by switches of previous Labour voters to the Liberal Democrats and/or by abstentions of previous Labour voters , each of which may have been related to the Iraq War. In addition Labour support fell especially in constituencies with a high concentration of Muslim voters.

Furthermore the Iraq war may have had important indirect negative effects on Labour's reputation for unity and trustworthiness and hence on its electoral support

A series of intra-Party disputes arising, for example, from interconnected personal differences between Blairite and Brownite factions and policy differences over Health, Education, Europe and Social Security had begun to erode Labour's image of relative unity [in comparison to the Conservatives] and the Iraq War contributed further to this decline as a result of the Commons revolt of backbench Labour MPs on the votes on the Labour government's decision to invade Iraq and the resignations of Labour Cabinet Ministers Robin Cook [now deceased] and Clare Short and of junior Labour Home Office Minister John Denham.

[nb. UK Prime Ministers may declare war without the support of Parliament but Blair clearly believed that a supportive Commons vote was necessary to help him to persuade the country at large of the necessity of war. The Government's motion " to allow all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction" was passed by 412- 149 with Conservative support while 139 Labour MPs voted against this motion and in support of a defeated rebel Lib Dem motion stating that the case for war had not been made. It was nevertheless important for Tony Blair to be able to show that at least a majority of Labour MPs had supported the Government's motion.]

The reputation of the Labour Government and especially of Tony Blair for trustworthiness  had gone into decline since 1997 gradually at first but more rapidly after 2001  as a result of the Bernie Ecclestone affair, the scandals surrounding the activities of Ministers such as David Blunkett and Peter Mandelson and the electorate's negative perceptions of the activities of various "spin doctors" operating mainly under the direction of Alistair Campbell [who was the Prime Minister's Press Secretary from 1997 to 2003 and ,having left this post in 2003 ,returned as a  significant adviser during the 2005 general election campaign.]

In relation to the Iraq War the Government sought to make its case for military intervention in two significant documents, one of which was quickly shown to have been plagiarised from a rather dated PhD thesis copied from the Internet and the other of which provoked controversies resulting in the death of M.O.D. scientist Dr. David Kelley and the setting up of the Hutton Inquiry, which exonerated the government from any wrongdoing but criticised the BBC to such an extent that the Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, Gavyn Davies and the Director-General of the BBC Greg Dyke both felt obliged to resign. The subsequent Butler report into the Government's handling of Intelligence material was also relatively uncritical of the Labour Government although it did criticise what it considered to be the excessive informality of the Blair style of government.

Many voters believed from the outset that Tony Blair [either knowingly or unknowingly] had misled them in relation to the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and Blair's case for war appeared to have been weakened still further once no such weapons were found during the US/UK military occupation of Iraq. Therefore it could certainly be argued that Labour's already deteriorating reputation for trustworthiness was further undermined by  many voters' perceptions of the disingenuousness of the Labour Government's presentation of the case for war. Also, although , as has already been mentioned, Iraq did not appear to be a very salient issue for the electorate it certainly was considered salient by the mass media [ranking as the second most covered topic in Press front page articles and editorials  and the most covered topic of all by the broadcast media] .

Some campaign difficulties were caused for Labour as a result of the mass media's emphasis on the controversy surrounding whether the Attorney General had been persuaded by government to give advice indicating that the invasion of Iraq would be legal under international law without a second UN resolution. Labour hoped to draw a line under this issue by the publication of the actual advice received from the Attorney General but many were unconvinced by their explanations and in any case the mass media emphasis had prevented Labour from getting onto their preferred electoral issues: education, health and the economy. Even here however it could be argued that Labour's lower ratings for trustworthiness [caused partly by their handling of Iraq] also adversely affected their ratings on Health and Education because even though Labour had spent much more money on Health and Education, many believed that the spending statistics had been "spun" in Labour's favour and that in any case service quality had improved little or not at all and for this reason an increasing number of voters opposed increases in taxation on the grounds that Labour was in any case likely to waste the money.

We see therefore that many voters in key constituencies may well have changed their vote directly as a result of the Iraq issue and that Labour's handling of the Iraq issue may well have affected adversely its reputation for unity, trustworthiness and effectiveness in handling the public services. All of this could have led to a disastrous result for Labour but luckily for them the Conservatives were seen as even less united, even less competent to run the Health and Education services and even less trustworthy. Indeed, having supported Labour's decision to invade Iraq, Michael Howard may have opened himself up to charges of hypocrisy and political opportunism with his allegation that Blair had lied over the case for the invasion of Iraq.


Gordon Brown had waited for a long time  to replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party but when he finally did so it was not under very auspicious circumstances.

  1. Commentators had documented evidence of the deep seated rivalries which existed between Tony Blair and Gordon  Brown even before the former came to be Leader of the Labour Party in 1994. As Tony Blair's tenure of the Premiership lengthened Gordon Brown increasingly came to believe that Blair had betrayed promises to step down in his favour and this exacerbated conflict between the two men  with clearly adverse consequences for overall government effectiveness.
  2. It was widely believed eventually that Gordon Brown and his supporters had actually forced Tony Blair to resign "not under circumstances of his own choosing" which meant that Brown took over a Labour Party which was now disunited and seen as such by many voters.
  3. It had appeared, that no other senior Labour Party politician would be able to defeat Brown in a Labour Leadership contest so that Brown was consequently elected unopposed as Labour Party leader and then automatically became Prime Minister without winning a general election. It has been fairly common for UK Prime Ministers to be replaced between general elections as exemplified most recently by the replacement of Harold Wilson by James Callaghan in 1976 and of Margaret Thatcher by John Major in 1990 but at least James Callaghan and John Major had faced elections to become leaders of their respective parties which Gordon Brown had not. Consequently there were initially fairly strong feelings among voters [especially among those not fully conversant with the workings of the UK Constitution] that Gordon Brown's position as Prime Minister was lacking in legitimacy and that he should ideally call a general election as soon as possible.
  4. Labour by 2007 had been in government for 10 years and although it had won "landslide" General Election victories in 1997 and 2001 its margin of victory in the 2005 General Election was much smaller and there was growing evidence of increasing voter disillusion with the New Labour project. Gordon Brown as Chancellor had sometimes attempted to distance himself from Blairism but since in many respects he had been the main architect of much of Labour's domestic policy both he and the Labour Party could be expected to suffer electorally as  a result of its declining popularity.
  5. Given that by 2010 Labour had been in office for 13 years it was clear that "Time for a Change " would be a major General Election theme. Therefore it would be essential for Gordon Brown as new Labour Prime Minister to offer the realistic prospect of "renewal" and "change"  within the Labour Government and to convince the electorate that he would craft a coherent future strategy appropriate to the needs and wishes of the British electorate . If he failed to do so he could expect to be punished at the next General Election as voters might turn instead to David Cameron who  would claim to have modernised the Conservative Party  or to the Liberal Democrats and  Nick Clegg who would criticise what he claimed were the tired solutions of "the two old parties" .
  6. Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as PM  on 27th June 2007 and it has been suggested that Gordon Brown hoped initially to spend about one year establishing himself as a credible leader of a changed, rejuvenated Labour Government before calling a General Election perhaps in May 2008.
  7. However Brown's apparently assured handling of two terrorist incidents and the problems associated with severe flooding and an out break of foot and mouth disease resulted in a surge in Labour's opinion poll ratings at the beginning of Brown's Premiership and the "Run" on branches of Northern Rock in September may also have encouraged voters to believe that any such financial difficulties would be handled more effectively by the experienced Gordon brown and the steady Alistair Darling rather than by the as yet untried David Cameron and George Osborne. Consequently speculation mounted that Brown might call an early General Election  which however  Brown chose not to do when opinion poll data from marginal constituencies indicated that Labour was far from certain to win an early General Election. The popularity of the Labour Government and of Gordon Brown then declined seriously , and despite some recovery at various times during the next three years a Labour victory never seemed likely although in the Spring of 2010 some narrowing of the polls suggested  that even if an outright Labour victory was unlikely Gordon Brown  might at least avoid outright defeat despite the many difficulties which he, his party  and the country had faced between 2007 and 2010.  And so it proved to be!
  8. Students requiring detailed information on the Brown Premiership should consult the reading list above  but in summary the major difficulties faced by Gordon  Brown during the course of his premiership included the following. It should be noted that some of the issues listed were more significant than others but that all combined to damage Labour's electoral prospects.
  • There were from the outset concerns in some quarters that even if he had been an effective Chancellor he might lack to the flexibility to deal with the much wider range of issues that that he would now face as Prime Minister and the presentational skills necessary to popularise Labour policies although some did argue that a shift away from the Blairite emphasis on presentation to  a Brownite emphasis on policy substance would be no bad thing. Be that as it may it was soon being suggested that Brown's own working methods were disorganised, that he was failing to coordinate effectively the work of No.10 and of the Government as a whole and indeed that he was prone to outbursts of bad temper and to bullying his officials . These criticisms would be re-emphasised in Andrew Rawnsley's book The Death of the Party [2010] but denied by Brown's supporters.
  • It was claimed that Brown was unable to establish a new attractive political narrative suggesting that he would be able to combine what [if anything?] remained of the attractions of the Blairite project with new insights and initiatives of his own.
  • The circumstances surrounding the decision in the Autumn to postpone the General Election created difficulties for Gordon Brown from which arguably he never recovered. As the poll ratings of the Labour Party and of Gordon Brown personally improved in the early stages of his premiership speculation intensified that Brown might call an early General Election. The Conservatives were extremely worried that they might well lose such an early election but hopeful nevertheless that if they had a successful party conference this might just deter Labour from calling the election . In the event George Osborne  promised an increase in the inheritance tax threshold to £1,000,000 to be financed by  a £ 25,000 flat rate  offshore domicile levy on wealthy foreigners living in the UK; David Cameron delivered an effective [note-free] speech which attracted favourable mass media coverage; and in what was seen as a serious tactical blunder Gordon Brown visited British troops in Iraq in the midst of the Tory Conference which enabled his critics [including former PM John Major]  to claim that his visit had reflected less his concern for the welfare of British troops  than his desire to draw mass media attention away from the Tory Party Conference ;  furthermore it was argued that Brown then made misleading announcements about the scale of imminent British troop withdrawals which provided yet more evidence of Brown's fundamental duplicity. Meanwhile new Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling was obliged to announce his own proposals for inheritance tax reduction which appeared to be a pale copy of Osborne's original proposals although there were important technical differences between the Osborne and Darling schemes.
  • Now , however, came polling data suggesting that Labour were rather less popular in marginal constituencies than they had believed and this finally persuaded Brown that he should not call an early General Election after all. Clearly Brown's initial  failure to dampen electoral speculation in the first place  followed by his decision to not to call an election had put him in a very difficult situation. To admit that he had called off the election because of the weakening polls would have undermined him seriously enough  but his claims that if an election had been called Labour would still have won it  but that he had decided against an early general election because he wanted to continue to govern in the national interest was widely seen as a disingenuous attempt  to extract himself from a difficult political situation which failed dismally. The "Father of the Nation" had become "Bottler Brown" as Cameron described Brown in Parliament as "the only PM in living memory who had flunked an election because he was certain to win it."
  • Brown's failure  to dampen electoral speculation had undermined fundamentally his strategy to establish himself  as a genuine, heavyweight politician governing in the national interest to such an extent that it was difficult to see how his premiership could recover and in the event he would now face a catalogue of events which threatened his continuation as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. It seemed increasingly likely that Brown might be replaced before the next General Election or that  if he continued in office Labour would certainly lose the next election.
  • The Labour Government could be accused of administrative  incompetence as  a result of the loss in transit between the offices of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs [HMRC] and the National Audit Office [NAO]  of two  disks  containing the National Insurance numbers and bank and building society details tax details of 25  million parents eligible for Child Benefit. The Chairman of HMRC subsequently resigned  and the disks were never found.
  • It was in November 2007 that Vince Cable, acting as Temporary Leader of the Liberal Democrats wounded Mr Bown with his remark in the Commons that "  The House has noted the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr. Bean.". This apparently "brought the House down" which may however merely be evidence that humour is subjective.
  • Then came revelations that the Labour Party had received secret donations channelled through third parties from a certain David Abrahams  despite the fact that concealment of donors' identities was illegal under the terms of an Act introduced by Labour in 2000.This immediately brought back memories of the Cash for Honours affair of the Blair years and despite Brown's claims that he had no knowledge  of the details of these  donations created the impression Labour's financial affairs were of uncertain legality. Similar difficulties arose as a result of Peter Hain's enforced resignation following his late declaration of donations toward his Deputy-Leadership Campaign expenses. However in the event no charges were brought against Mr Abrahams.
  • Brown attracted further criticism as  a result of his Government's handling of the arrival in London of the Olympic Torch en route for China : Brown would be present as the torch was paraded in Downing Street but , given China's disregard of Tibetan civil liberties, Brown would not personally touch the Torch.
  • Brown decided that he would not attend a meeting of European Union leaders to sign the Lisbon Treaty: instead he would sign it alone one day later claiming that Parliamentary Business prevented him from attending the main meeting.
  • In his last Budget as Chancellor in 2007 Gordon Brown reduced the standard rate of income tax from 22p to 20p and abolished the 10p tax rate on low income earners apparently without the adverse financial consequences for millions of low income recipients which became abundantly clear when these tax changes came into force in the financial year 2008-9. Labour MPs were incensed at Brown's apparent economic mismanagement combined with his unwillingness to admit error  and despite the belated,  expensive and still not entirely effective financial measures which were introduced to offset the effects of the abolition of the 10P tax rate  Labour went down to humiliating defeat in the 2008 Local  Election results [including the London Mayoralty Election where Boris Johnson defeated Ken Livingstone], the Crewe and Nantwich By-election , the Henley by-election where Labour finished 5th behind the Greens and the BNP and the Glasgow East by Election where Labour lost what was thought to be a very safe seat to the SNP. Click here for a list of all by-elections between 2005 and 2010.
  • Also in June 2008 Gordon Brown narrowly secured the passage through the Commons of a Bill introducing the possibility of 42 day detention without charge of terror suspects but this was achieved only with the support of the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party and even then it was made clear that the provisions of the Bill were likely to be much amended in the Lords which they subsequently were. Brown certainly antagonised liberals in side and outside his own party via the promotion of this bill although it has been argued that overall public opinion , rightly or wrongly, does favour a tougher approach to threats of terrorism.
  • A challenge to Brown's leadership of the Labour Party seemed possible in the Autumn of 2008 but the intensification of the financial crisis and fairly widespread perceptions that Gordon Brown might be the leader best suited to deal with it destroyed the possibility of  any potential leadership challenge [for example from David Miliband who seemed to be positioning himself for such a challenge in the Summer of 2008 ] and also enabled Labour to close the opinion poll gap on the Conservatives. As Gordon Brown put it in his Labour Party Conference speech in a comment which could be taken to apply both to David Cameron and David Miliband, "This is no time for a novice."
  • Gordon Brown then faced further severe difficulties in the Spring of 2009 which again threatened  his leadership. Brown had in fact been credited with the very successful management of the April 2009 G20 Summit in London  which apparently resulted in  a range of important decisions that could be expected to improve the prospects for international financial stability. Yet Brown's kudos was quickly undermined as  a result of the intensification of economic recession in the UK and elsewhere, the circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Damien McBride, the breaking of the MP's expenses scandal and the furore surrounding Joanna Lumley's campaign to safeguard the immigration rights of retired Ghurkha soldiers and their dependents.
  • There then followed a series of ministerial resignations[ Beverly Hughes, , Hazel Blears, Tom Watson, Jacqui Smith, , James Purnell, John Hutton, Geoff Hoon, and Caroline Flint ] between June 2nd and June 6th immediately before and after  the Local Election and European Parliament results of May/June 2009  which were dreadful for the  Labour Party. [ Click here for BBC coverage of the June 2009 European Parliament l Election Results and here for BBC coverage of the 2009 Local Council results]
  • Brown certainly feared that there would be a challenge to his leadership at this point but for a variety of reasons no challenge was forthcoming and as the General Election approached it seemed increasingly unlikely that Brown would be replaced because it was not at all obvious that anyone else could do better, because any newly elected leader would have insufficient time to prepare for the approaching General Election and because potential candidates recognised that since electoral defeat seemed almost inevitable political self-interest suggested that it would be better to wait until after the General Election before launching their leadership candidatures. Nevertheless there would still be time for one more attempted coup against Brown in 2010 which again came to nothing.
  • Yet Brown's difficulties were still not over : there were ongoing disputes with Chancellor Alistair Darling surrounding economic policy making and its presentation ; there were ongoing difficulties with leading military personnel over his handling of  the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: he was obliged to correct the original financial information which he had provided as a witness to the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq war; he faced criticisms over his scrawled  letter to Jacqui Janes, the mother  of soldier Jamie Janes who had tragically died in the Afghan war and Labour's already faltering Election Campaign was further weakened by Mr Brown's description of Rochdale voter Mrs Gillian Duffy as a  "bigot". Clearly he had to apologise profusely for this , including at the beginning of the third televised leadership debate.

Gordon Brown, therefore , had faced a difficult time as Prime Minister, and opinion poll data suggested that David Cameron was rated as potentially a far more effective Prime Minister, sometimes by significant margins. It could be suggested that Gordon Brown's low personal poll ratings helped to depress the poll ratings of the Labour Party as a whole yet, despite all the difficulties facing Gordon Brown and the Labour Party opinion poll data in the Spring of 2010 began to narrow. David Cameron was still preferred to Gordon Brown as a future Prime Minister and the Conservatives were still ahead of Labour in the polls but by margins suggesting that a Hung Parliament rather than an outright Conservative victory was the most likely outcome and so it proved to be.

  • The General Election of 2010: A Summary


  • The General Election of 2010 resulted in a Hung Parliament which subsequently led to the formation of a Coalition Government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
  • The Poll Ratings of Nick Clegg and of the Liberal Democrats improved as a result of his strong performance in the first debate  and the success of Nick Clegg  and the resultant transformation of the polls alarmed both of the main parties and led to the orchestration in the Conservative Press of a series of anti- Liberal Democrat editorials [often targeted particularly on the dangers of a Hung Parliament and the threats of electoral reform] as well as articles personally critical of Nick Clegg. Furthermore the Conservative Party itself organised a "Spoof" party Political Broadcast designed to emphasise the weaknesses[ according to Conservatives] of Proportional Representation
  • However although the Poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats and of Nick Clegg remained at historically high levels, they did decline gradually as Election day approached. and  further disappointments for the Liberal Democrats arose as their actual electoral support fell below their ratings in final eve of election polls . Nevertheless relative to the lack lustre ratings of the Liberal Democrats in 2008 and 2009 the 2010 General Election result could be rated as more of a success.
  • The operation  of the FPTP electoral system discriminated against both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. In 2005  Labour had secured an overall House of Commons majority on the basis of 35.2% of the popular vote whereas in 2010 the Conservatives failed to secure an overall majority despite gaining 36.1% of the popular vote. As usual the FPTP system discriminated most against the Liberal Democrats.
  • The result was clearly disappointing for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party whose share of the popular vote at29% was its second lowest in the post 2nd World war period. Labour failed because it failed to articulate a credible overall strategy for the future government of the UK and its opinion poll leads in terms of preferred party policies on salient issues, on a range of image criteria and leadership criteria had declined quite significantly between 2001 and 2005 and declined even further between 2005 and 2010. Thus the Conservatives were the preferred party on the economy [which was the most salient issue of the campaign], on immigration and race relations and on law and order [which had become increasingly salient issues in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections] and even narrowly [in some but not all polls on Education [which had traditionally been a "Labour issue"]. Labour remained the preferred party on Health but by a narrower margin than in previous General Elections . Labour's lead on a range of image criteria such as looking after people in real  need and understanding the problems of Britain had also declined significantly especially in comparison with 1997 and 2001.
  • Despite his apparent successes in relation to international financial matters Gordon Brown had failed to create an image of leadership competence and he failed to convince the electorate that he would be able to manage a process of necessary policy renewal within the Labour Party which left him open to the danger that many voters would now come to believe that after thirteen years of Labour Government it was now "time for a change". He also faced considerable political difficulties as a result of his perceived dithering over whether to call a General Election in Autumn 2007, the financial crisis,  the subsequent economic recession , his abolition of the 10p tax rate, the MPs' expenses crisis , the criticisms of his managerial style and his allegedly poor relations with ministers and senior civil servants and his poor presentational skills all of which led to three perhaps poorly organised and half-hearted attempts between 2007 and 2010 to force him to resign the leadership of the Labour Party . If even his own Party was dissatisfied with his leadership this could hardly be expected to encourage  confidence among the wider electorate while Brown's  so-called "Bigotgate"  gaffe could possibly have been expected to be the last straw [!] leading to Labour defeat and Conservative victory. But is was not to be...quite!
  • David Cameron had what many people believed to be very effective communication skills and a strategy designed to improve the overall image of the Conservative Party and to develop voter-friendly policies  which would locate the Conservatives closer to the ideological spectrum than had been the case under the successive unsuccessful leaderships of William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. Cameron's aim in a nutshell was to "decontaminate the Conservative brand" by reforming the Conservative PPC selection procedures and focussing on issues such as the necessary expansion of public services and the protection of the environment while de-emphasising  traditional Conservative themes such as immigration and race relations, law and order, taxation reduction and Europe in the hope that once the brand had been detoxified the electorate would now be more willing to listen sympathetically to what the Conservatives had to say on traditional Conservative themes.
  • In a phrase which was first coined during the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith this was to be the politics of AND: better public health services and tougher law and order; better schools and tougher immigration laws and so on. Opinion poll data suggest that Cameron's strategy was partially successful: he was preferred to Brown as a Prime Minister; the Conservatives were preferred to Labour as the Party best able to manage the economy; and Conservative ratings in other policy area and on other image criteria all improved but as the data presented in the main body of this document suggest the Conservative ratings simply did not increase enough to secure victory. Also given the parlous state of the Labour Party it must have been very disappointing to the Conservatives that they did not secure outright victory in these circumstances which seemed particularly favourable to them.
  • Data from Ipsos Mori indicate that although David Cameron was perceived at the time of the 2010 General Election as most likely to make the most effective Prime Minister his overall lead over Gordon Brown was considerably smaller than Tony Blair's over John Major, William Hague and Michael Howard respectively in 1997, 2001 and 2005 .
  • Thus the data on party policies, party images and party leadership along with the relatively negative effects of the first past the post electoral system on Conservative seat gains clearly help to explain why the Conservatives increased their support relative to 2005 but not by enough to secure outright victory. David Cameron failed to "seal the deal" with the British electorate.
  • With regard to the social influences on voting behaviour note the following basic points
  1. There was a significant decline in class voting such that in 2010 there were  little differences in the patterns of party support among AB, C1, and C2 voters although DE voters were still quite significantly more likely to vote Labour than to vote Conservative although the difference was smaller than in previous general elections.
  2. The combined effects of the relative increased and reduced sizes of the middle class and the working class respectively, the class differences in turnout and the decline in class voting meant that Labour actually received more middle class votes than working class votes. You may like to revisit the assignment on social class and voting behaviour.
  3. Ipsos Mori data and YouGov data on relationships between social class and voting behaviour in 2010 were very similar.
  4. In the Ipsos Mori poll data Women remained more likely to vote Labour and less likely to vote Conservative than men although some YouGov surveys suggest that the more traditional gender differences in voting behaviour had to some extent reasserted themselves. Given the differences in poll findings it will be important for students to discuss this point with their teachers.
  5. Age differences in voting behaviour were small
  6. Minority ethnic voters were more likely than White voters to vote Labour and less likely than White voters to vote Conservative. However support for Labour did decline among Minority Ethic voters and Indian voters were more likely to vote Conservative and less likely to vote Labour than other Minority Ethnic voters. You may Click here for a Runnymede Trust/BES article on Ethnic Minority Voting in the 2010 General Election which suggests  that even though there has been some decline in Minority Ethnic support for Labour Minority Ethnic voters remained considerably more likely to vote Labour than to vote Conservative in 2010..
  7. All regions/countries apart from Scotland swung from Labour to Conservative. Only in Scotland was there a swing from Conservative to Labour.
  8. The Liberal Democrats fared poorly in Scotland partly because they had dismissed two Scottish leaders [Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell between 2005 and 2007.
  • The outcome of General Elections depends to some extent upon the voters' assessments of parties' policies on the most salient issues of the General Election. In relation to the General Election of 2010 it is important to note the following main points but also to remember the strengths and weaknesses of the issue voting model of voting behaviour.
  1. The Conservatives were perceived as having better overall policies than Labour.
  2. The most salient issue of the campaign was the economy on which the Conservatives now enjoyed small advantage over Labour. In 1997, 2001 and 2005 Labour was considered more economically competent than the Conservatives.
  3. Asylum and immigration had become an increasingly salient issue between 2005 and 2010. In Ipsos Mori polls asylum and immigration were less salient than Health and Education but in YouGov polls Asylum and Immigration were more salient than Health and Education. This may have been because the questions on issue saliency were phrased differently in the different companies' polls
  4. Health was  the second most salient issue in the Ipsos Mori survey : Labour enjoyed a small lead over the Conservatives and but Labour's lead  had declined significantly between 2001 and 2005 and gain between 2005 and 2010..
  5. Education was now the third most salient issue in the Ipsos Mori surveys: Labour's large  lead on this issue had disappeared by 2010 and in some polls the Conservatives were rated narrowly ahead of Labour [Ipsos Mori: all respondents], in some polls the ratings were equal [Ipsos Mori : Individuals mentioning Education as important] and in other polls Labour were rated narrowly ahead of the Conservatives You Gov: All respondents]
  6. The Conservatives enjoyed substantial leads over Labour on Asylum/immigration, Taxation, Crime and anti-social behaviour, Defence and Reforming MPS expenses..
  7. In the Ipsos Mori polls Labour did have small leads over the Conservatives on Unemployment, Benefits and Climate change although the Liberal Democrats were actually the preferred Party on Climate change. However in the last YouGov Poll before the General Election the Conservatives' policies on unemployment were narrowly preferred to Labour's were
  8. The Conservative Party was perceived as better able than the Labour Party to deal with the MPs' Expenses Scandal but the electoral salience of this issue had declined significantly between April 2009 and May 2010.
  9. Conservative electoral support could therefore be expected to improve as a result of these developments in the issue and policy agenda but not necessarily by enough to propel the Conservatives to outright General Election victory.
  • With regard to the impact of changes in party images on voting behaviour I repeat the summary which has already appears above. Students may scroll upwards to find further details.
  1. In general terms between 1997 and 2010 Conservative party ratings have tended to improve and Labour's have tended to deteriorate on the basis of the criteria Used by Ipsos Mori. Between 2005 and 2010 Conservative ratings improved especially according to the following criteria: : they are now seen as more likely than Labour to understand the problems ; as having a better team of leaders than Labour; as having more sensible policies than Labour; and as more professional in their approach than Labour. The Conservatives in 2010 were also less likely than in 2005 to be seen as divided; less extreme ; less out of touch with ordinary people and less likely to promise anything to get elected. However it is important to note that even though the Conservative Party image has improved according to a range of criteria   its ratings remain lower  on several criteria than were those of the Blair Governments especially in 1997 and 2001.
  • Spatial Issues, Valence Issues and Party Leadership in the 2010 General Election [See above for further information on the distinction between Spatial Issues and Valence Issues]
  1. It has been argued more recently that in the era of declining party identification and increasing mass media focus on the political leaders that political leadership is an increasingly important influence on voting behaviour. This may arise especially if party policy differences on spatial salient issues are  relatively small because in these circumstances perceptions of overall governing competence to deliver on valence issues [such as improved living standards, better health care and reduced crime] are  likely to be more significant determinants of voting behaviour and it is the perceived abilities [or otherwise] of the  party leaders [and other significant members of the leadership team] which are crucial to the creation of an image of governing competence.
  2. Gordon Brown did experience a short honeymoon in the early stages of his Premiership when both the Labour Party and Mr. Brown personally achieved higher opinion poll ratings than the Conservative Party and Mr. Cameron personally. However following the postponement of an expected General Election the poll ratings of Mr Brown and of the Labour Party declined, recovered slightly in the early stages of the "credit crunch" but then declined mainly as a result of the combined effects of the economic recession, the MPs expenses scandal, [the significance of which had nevertheless declined by May 2010]  and the perceived relatively poor performance of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. However Gordon Brown's ratings did improve slightly in 2010.
  3. Click here  For the IPSOSs MORI slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election. Scroll down to the link stating Download the April Charts and then scroll to slides 10- 21 for information on Party leadership
  4. On May 5th, the day before the General Election in answer to the IPSOS MORI question "Who do you think would make the most capable Prime Minister best Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg  respondents answered: 33% David Cameron, 29% Gordon Brown, 19% Nick Clegg, 19% Non/Don't Know. We may note that David Cameron achieved significantly higher poll ratings  than previous Conservative leaders [except John Major in 1992] but that his ratings were lower than those of Tony Blair in 2005 and not much higher than those of Gordon Brown in 2010.
  5. The Conservatives were seen as having the best team of leaders and the best senior leaders but in each case their leads over Labour were small [5% and 3% respectively.
  6. On some criteria Gordon Brown was preferred to both David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
  • The MP's Expenses Scandal
  1. When the MP's Expenses Scandal first broke in April 2009 many voters were  enraged by it and the scandal was clearly a major explanatory factor in the reduced support for all three main political parties and increased support for UKIP, the BNP and the Greens in the European Parliament Elections of 2009. However in May 2010 by comparison with 2005 overall turnout increased slightly and support for non-mainstream parties increased only slightly suggesting that despite the involvement of some MPs from all mainstream parties in the Expenses Scandal the vast majority of voters still wished to support mainstream rather than non-mainstream parties. There were arguments that perhaps the Expenses Scandal might harm Labour more than the Conservatives but it seems likely that any such differential effect was small and possibly non -existent.


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