The American D.H.4 (Profile Publications Number 97) by Peter M. Bowers

By Peter M. Bowers

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The 1997 election was marked by two major changes in the geography of party support. Labour's vote rose, and the Conservatives' vote fell, rather more in the south than north. The evidence points to dealignment in the regional cleavage since the north-south divide peaked in 1987. Moreover in 1997 there was a higher incidence of 'tactical voting' in constituencies which the Conservatives were defending, as voters switched to whichever Labour or Liberal D emocrat was best able to defeat the Conservative incumbent.

Media and party debates do tend in the course of an election to simplify policy alternatives into one over-riding choice between 'left' and 'right'. ) promised by Blair and New Labour. This kind of left-right contrast is not new. One can argue indeed that it has dominated party confrontation throughout the postwar - and even prewar - era. Because of this it can also be traced throughout the post­ war manifestos. The only question is how to measure it. Previous research across a number of countries has identified a number of policy stands and emphases as classically 'left wing' and another set as characteristically right wing (Klingemann et al.

Incidentally, as the manifesto is the only document regularly issued as an official, all-party statement of policy, it also helps in tracking the evolution of underlying ideology - a point we shall come back to below, as it is vital to the assessment of the 'new' element in Labour as opposed to the 'old'. Of course the other parties issue manifestos too, in exactly the same way as Labour. Common influences can be seen in the glossy format of all three: prominent cover photographs of the leader and texts edited into snappy sections with headings suitable as sound-bites.

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