Old Labour and the Social Democratic Party

Anthony F. Heath, Roger M. Jowell and John K. Curtice

in The Rise of New Labour

Published in print April 2001 | ISBN: 9780199245116
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599453 | DOI:
 Old Labour and the Social Democratic Party

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Analyses the strategy of the opposition Labour party in the 1983 general election and the role of the newly created Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the political life in Britain at the beginning of the 1980s. The authors draw the conclusion that voters do not base their decisions only on issues important for them but, entirely rationally, give more weight to the issues on which the parties are polarized. Unfortunately for the Labour in 1983, it was unpopular on the issues where the parties were polarized such as nationalization and nuclear disarmament, and which therefore counted a lot, and its popular issues— unemployment and taxation—were ones where there was less perceived difference between the parties. In the 1983 election, Labour also lost some votes because the SDP positioned itself to the left of centre, competing for the left‐of‐centre ground and actually winning as many votes as Labour did from the moderate left. The reasons for this were a mixture of Labour's ideological extremism and perceived incompetence and division. The evidence also suggests that competence and policy are not the sole ingredients in the voter's calculus; loyalty, tradition and the more affective or emotional ties that link voters to parties account partly for the way the electorate votes.

Keywords: ideological extremism; Old Labour; party competence; party divisions; polarization; Social Democratic Party; voter's calculus

Chapter.  8438 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: UK Politics

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