1st Edition

British Democracy at the Crossroads Voting and Party Competition in the 1980s

    274 Pages
    by Routledge

    Those who keep a finger on the pulse of British democracy often announce that the patient is in a critical state. In the 1970s, the diagnosis most often came from the right, with dire warnings of the debilitating effects of social democracy. Since the 1979 election, it is those on the left who are pessimistic, pointing to an insidious authoritarianism that threatens democratic values.

    Therefore, a book which maintains that a major turning point in British politics has been reached is not, in itself, particularly rare. What sets British Democracy at the Crossroads (originally published in 1985) apart, however, is the breadth and depth of its analysis. It breaks the mould of conventional political science by marrying a study of voting in the 1983 election (using a specially commissioned survey) with a detailed presentation of the context in which the election took place, including analyses of the dynamics of political parties, of the role of the news media before and during the campaign, and other important issues.

    This markedly different approach to the subject allows the book to serve two valuable functions. It provides a clear and concise introduction to the various methods of electoral analysis, which will be welcomed in the classroom and lecture theatre. Also, by drawing on modern political theory, it develops a distinctive radical perspective on the interconnected themes of party competition and electoral behaviour, contesting many of the assumptions that underlie the orthodox accounts of electoral dealignment. This is a challenging and stimulating book that no one with an interest in the future of democracy in Britain can afford to ignore.

    Part 1: Theories and Models  1. Explaining Voting Behaviour  2. Explaining Party Competition  Part 2: Competing for Votes  3. The Run-Up, May 1979 to May 1983  4. The Election Campaign of May and June 1983  5. Voting, Party Images and the Media in 1983  Part 3. The Analysis of Voter’s Behaviour  6. The Social Bases of British Politics in 1983  7. Party Issues and Voter Attitudes, 1979 to 1983  8. The New Political Map of Britain, 1974 to 1983  9. Conclusion and Afterword  Appendix A: A Day-by-Day Chronology of the Major Events in the Campaign and the Results of Published Opinion Polls  Appendix B: Tables  Appendix C: The Sources of Data


    Patrick Dunleavy is Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at LSE. He is the Editor-in-Chief for LSE Press since autumn 2020. Dunleavy is a (founding) fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a Fellow of the British Academy. 

    Christopher T. Husbands is Emeritus Reader in Sociology at LSE. He has carried out a considerable amount of research on racist political parties in several countries of western Europe and an assemblage of his articles on this subject covering the period from 1990 to 2008 was published in 2020 by Routledge in its series, Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right.

    Review of the first publication:

    'What sets [the book] apart is [the authors’] rejection of the party identification and issue voting approaches to the study of electoral behavior in favor of a "radical approach" focusing on the conflicts of interest produced by social inequality and ideological pervasiveness.'

    Jorgen S. Rasmussen, Political Science Quarterly