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Opposition in a Changing Political Environment: Leadership and the Conservative Party, 1997-2010

By ALEXANDER DAVID BEN HARRIS

Abstract

This thesis examines the changing nature of opposition within the British political system through a study of the balance of power between the Conservative Party and its leader in their most recent period in opposition from 1997 to 2010. A literature on the place of the opposition within the British political system was developed as part of post-1945 studies of the Westminster Model. However, despite dramatic changes in the political environment and the increasing rejection of the Westminster Model, more recent discussion has neglected systematic study of opposition. More recent writing on the Conservative Party has not been used to examine claims about the changing form and function of opposition, but has assumed the importance of the decisions of particular actors. In order to study the recent Conservative Party with a view to developing our understanding of opposition and the expectations upon its leader, the thesis identifies the change in the political environment as central. It suggests dealing with this by utilizing a conceptual framework derived from Presidentialisation theory. This offers a conceptualisation of the political system as a whole, identifying the increasing importance of leadership at its heart. Adapting this to the study of opposition suggests examination of three crucial components of leadership activity: the relationship between the party and the leader, the place of the leader within general elections and the place of the leader and opposition within the wider political environment including executive actions. Examination of these areas highlights the substantial ways in which power has moved from the leader to the party alongside the additional resources which the leader can command. It concludes that whilst the changing political environment may have served to make the leader of the opposition appear more powerful and prominent, there are significant structural constraints which prevent the exercise of this power

Topics: Britsh Politics, Conservative Party, Opposition, Leadership, Presidentialisation.
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:732
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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