, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 113-135

The calculus of dissent: Party discipline in the British Labour government, 1974–1979

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The strength of political parties is taken to be one central difference between the political systems of the United States and the United Kingdom. We analyze defection from party line voting within the British Labour Party in the House of Commons between 1974 and 1979 to suggest that this dichotomy is overdrawn. In fact, the analysis shows that the dynamics of legislative behavior are quite similar in the two systems, notwithstanding the significant institutional differences between a separation of powers system and the West-minster model. Members of Parliament, like American Congressmen, balance the demands of their constituents, activists within their local party, and party leadership, as well as wage intraparty battles over the direction of policy.