Politics at the Centre is a comparative study of the rules, norms and behaviour surrounding political party leadership. The primary analysis includes 25 parties in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom from 1965 onwards. The topics covered include methods of leadership selection and removal and the nature of leadership politics. The themes of the book include intra party democracy, with an emphasis on the relative roles of the parliamentary and extra parliamentary groups, and the causes of organizational reform within parties.
Particular attention is paid to change over time and to differences among parties with explanations offered for both. Considerable attention is paid to the trend of expanding the leadership selectorate including consideration of why many parties are adopting this reform while others resist it. Data, collected from more than 200 leadership elections, are analyzed to consider issues such as the competitiveness of leadership contests, the types of individuals who win the contests and the longevity of leaders. The influence of different methods of selection and removal on these issues is also examined.
Much of the analysis is based on in-country interviews conducted with active politicians, former and current party leaders, political journalists and officials of the extra parliamentary parties. Extensive use is also made of a comprehensive review of party documents related to leadership selection. Many real-life examples from all five countries are used to illustrate the central concepts and themes.
A separate chapter considers the applicability of the findings from the Westminster systems to parties in other parliamentary and presidential systems. The concluding chapter makes a normative argument for a particular version of leadership selection and removal.
Comparative Politics is a series for students, teachers, and researchers of political science that deals with contemporary government and politics. Global in scope, books in the series are characterised by a stress on comparative analysis and strong methodological rigour. The series is published in association with the European Consortium for Political Research. For more information visit: www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr. The Comparative Politics Series is edited by Professor David M. Farrell, School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin, Kenneth Carty, Professor of Political Science, University of British Columbia, and Professor Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Institute of Political Science, Philipps University, Marburg.