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The Death of May’s Law: Intra- and Inter-Party Value Differences in Britain’s Labour and Conservative Parties

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Alan Wager, Tim Bale, Philip Cowley, Anand Menon

Original languageEnglish
Accepted/In press2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: The Party Members Project’s research was made possible by the support of the Economic and Social Research Council’s grant ES/M007537/1, which we gratefully acknowledge. The MP survey was conducted through the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s UK in a Changing Europe initiative (grant number ES/S014608/1). Fieldwork for this research – both the representative sample of UK members of Parliament and data drawn from the Party Member’s Project – was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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Party competition in Great Britain increasingly revolves around social or ‘cultural’ issues as much as it does around the economic issues that took centre stage when class was assumed to be dominant. We use data from surveys of members of parliament, party members and voters to explore how this shift has affected the internal coalitions of the Labour and Conservative Parties – and to provide a fresh test of ‘May’s Law’. We find a considerable disconnect between ‘neoliberal’ Conservative members of parliament and their more centrist voters on economic issues and similarly significant disagreement on cultural issues between socially liberal Labour members of parliament and their more authoritarian voters. We also find differences in both parties between parliamentarians and their grassroots members, albeit that these are much less pronounced. May’s Law, not for the first time, appears not to be borne out in reality.

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