Articles on parties, their members, and their ideology were some of our most popular this first quarter of 2016. On a party level, ideological shifts don’t happen overnight: Jeremy Corbyn’s election was no accident, as Labour members – old and new – had long been waiting for someone like him. Similarly, the Green Surge in the run-up to the 2015 general election did not alter the Green party’s ideological composition, but instead reinforced earlier movements to the left. As for non-mainstream parties that failed to resonate with the electorate – such as those on the Trotskyist Left – they believed their failure was not representative of their ideological appeal.
Minority views? Labour members had been longing for someone like Corbyn before he was even on the ballot paper
Recent media reports suggest Labour MPs may be gearing up to move against Jeremy Corbyn. This is supposed to happen before a change in rules could see the number of nominations needed for any would-be candidate to enter a leadership contest reduced. Yet Corbyn was not elected by mistake, explain Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti. A large number of Labour members – whether they joined before or after Corbyn was nominated by MPs – wanted what they got. Persuading them to change their views now they’ve got it will not be easy.
Tens of thousands registered as Labour supporters in the run up to the leadership contest, making the party’s election rules the main controversy of the event – despite being in place since 2014. Jessica Garland explains that such organisational changes, originally aimed at achieving greater numerical support, have inevitably altered the party’s make up. And while the change is not a comfortable one for the party, it is up to Corbyn to articulate what he means by “new politics of engagement” and how that translates into a more open, yet effective party.
What does it really mean to be “right” or “left” in England today? Can we be certain that all who identify as conservative are against immigration? Or can we say that anyone opposing Trident is invariably “left”? And can we assume that one can never be both pro-immigration and “right-wing” in economic terms? Jonathan Wheatley explains ideology has a cultural and an economic dimension, and each should be assessed separately. He also argues that for many voters, the terms “left” and “right”, especially in economic terms, don’t mean much.
Ideology is in the eye of the beholder: How British party supporters see themselves, their parties, and their rivals
Although the number of voters prepared to declare an affinity to a political party has shrunk over the last half century, they still represent a substantial slice of the electorate. Here, Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti show that the gap between where strong supporters of Britain’s top six political parties place themselves ideologically and where they place the parties with which they feel such an affinity is not that big. However, those with strong allegiances to a party often see other parties as being much more extreme than do the supporters of those parties.
Upbeat and in the margins: the British Trotskyist Left and their exceptionally poor election results
Only eight out of forty-one Trotskyist candidates secured more than one per cent of the vote in the 2010 general election. But how do parties cope with, and explain, such results? John Kelly writes that Trotskyist organisations saw the vote share as not reflecting the actual level of support for their policies. Many would also highlight positive features of the campaign, such as new party recruits, while others thought the result was due to tactical voting, and hence actually not that bad.
Between 2010 and 2015, the Green Party went from being an afterthought in British politics to an established member of the second tier of Britain’s party system. Although their 2015 election result disappointed many, the Green Surge in membership from late 2014 onwards turned them into the third largest party in England and Wales. Monica Poletti and James Dennison explain the surge did not alter the party’s ideological composition but instead reinforced earlier movements to the left. The Green Surge also created a more balanced membership profile in terms of gender, education and social class. But while most of the party’s members voted for the Greens, one in five of these “surgers” did not, raising questions as to the durability of their membership.