The development of the official opposition as an institution in the UK political system from 1935 to 2010

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The thesis identifies the relative lack of research interest in the Official Opposition as an institution in the UK and considers this to be a problem, given its importance to the British political system. Firstly, it argues the concept of opposition is inherent in the conduct of politics and government, and reviews existing literature to highlight how problems of definition require careful consideration. It then presents a detailed study of the experience of Official Opposition in the UK from 1935-2010, structured thematically. It looks first at how increased institutionalisation has been manifested in practical terms through state support and recognition, then considers staffing, office resources, and the practical constraints of opposition which have frustrated politicians tasked with holding the government to account. Finally, it considers the approaches used by successive Leaders, along with some assessment of their effectiveness. The thesis concludes by arguing that the role of the Official Opposition is vital but ill-defined, that the inadequacy of its resources has impacted on its effectiveness, and that there are potentially serious challenges to it as a model. It identifies several areas that merit further detailed study, and argues that the imbalance between the resources of government and opposition is mirrored by the imbalance in academic attention each has received, and that this should be addressed.
Date of Award1 Feb 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorKen Young (Supervisor) & John Meadowcroft (Supervisor)

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