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Parties, mandates and multilevel politics: Subnational variation in British general election manifestos

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alistair Clark



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


The three main statewide British parties – Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats – all produce different versions of their manifestos in British general elections. Many policies debated in a British general election no longer apply at the subnational level, where separate devolved institutions control large areas of policy. This article therefore assesses the roles of national party manifestos at the subnational level in British general elections. It develops an original theory linking Strom’s alternative party goals to Ray’s typology of mandate/contract manifestos, advertisement manifestos and identity manifestos. It then explores a comparative overview of British parties’ general election manifestos at the subnational level, before focusing in detail on Labour’s 2010 and 2015 general election manifestos, which reflect the party’s strategic difficulties caused by devolution. The expected variation is found between the national and subnational manifestos. In some instances, multiple goals are pursued simultaneously and this is reflected in manifestos which assume elements of more than one manifesto ideal type. This supports the additional conclusion that manifestos can perform multiple functions in complex multilevel systems of government.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clark A, Bennie L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Party Politics

Year: 2018

Volume: 24

Issue: 3

Pages: 253-264

Print publication date: 01/05/2018

Online publication date: 16/11/2016

Acceptance date: 19/08/2016

Date deposited: 31/10/2016

ISSN (print): 1354-0688

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3683

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/1354068816678892


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