Policy Differences In British Parliamentary Parties
Data that delineate the positions of 197 Labour and 126 Conservative M.P.’s on ten major policy issues were employed in an empirical examination of some of the positions taken by British party scholars, Samuel H. Beer and Robert T. McKenzie. Assuming that the more general ideological orientations of members of the two parliamentary parties are reflected in the positions they take on these issues, we delineated the aggregate differences between both parties, and between front and back bench members within and between the two parties. We found support for Beer's position that there are rather fundamental ideological differences on policy issues between the two major parties. They differ in a statistically significant fashion on five of the issues: comprehensive schools, East of Suez, prices and income regulations, Rhodesia, and trade union reform. By far the sharpest division occurred over the development of comprehensive schools, the type of domestic issue that traditionally has differentiated the parties. There also were substantial aggregate differences between the leaders of each party and the backbench members of the other party, although the differences between them were not entirely congruent. Neither were the issue differences that separate the two cadres of leaders especially congruent with those that divide their backbench supporters. Further, the differences between the leaders were noticeably less intense than those between their backbench colleagues. This last result tends to support one of McKenzie's principal assumptions. © 1971, American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.
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