Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:James P. Allan
Title:The British Labour Party in Opposition, 1979-1997: Structures, Agency, and Party Change
Degree:Master of Arts
Department:Political Science
Committee Chair: Charles L. Taylor
Chair's email:
Committee Members:Rebecca H. Davis
Stephen K. White
Keywords:The Labour Party, electoral performance, structure and agency
Date of defense:April 24, 1997
Availability:Secure the entire work for patent or proprietary purposes.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


The British Labour Party has spent eighteen years in opposition since 1979. During that time it lost four consecutive general elections to the Conservative Party. In 1997, however, it now looks set to win its first election since 1974. This thesis examines the Labour Party in opposition since 1979, using a theoretical framework informed by Anthony Giddens' structuration theory. Based on a dialectical notion of the structure and agency linkage, a two-tiered framework is constructed which at one level views a political party as consisting of a set of structures which can constrain and enable party leaders in their attempts to make the party electorally successful, and at another level the party is regarded as a collective agent in its own right, which in turn is subject to the effects of larger external structures. By comparing the strategies adopted by the Labour Party and its leaders since 1979, the thesis demonstrates that the apparent recovery in the Party's electoral fortunes has corresponded with an increase in the ability of agents to successfully negotiate structural constraints, whilst taking advantage of enabling structures. However, it is also clear that the transformation of Labour into an electorally viable party in 1997 is not solely the product of agency in the period since the last election; rather, it is the culmination of a longer-term process of party change.

List of Attached Files

Etd.pdf Etd1.pdf Etd2.pdf
Etd3.pdf Etd4.pdf Etd5.pdf
Etd6.pdf Etd7.pdf Etd8.pdf

The author grants to Virginia Tech or its agents the right to archive and display their thesis or dissertation in whole or in part in the University Libraries in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all proprietary rights, such as patent rights. The author also retains the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis or dissertation.