British election law remains almost entirely based on the Victorian idea that what is involved is a whole set of separate contests between independent gentlemen fighting individual campaigns in each of 600 or so constituencies. In 1997, 3724 candidates (825 more than the 1992 record of 2899) battled to become MPs in the 659 seats in the new parliament. They were supported by some hundreds of professional agents and some hundred thousands of party workers. Yet a growing body of studies point to the importance of the local campaign, not only in affecting some results but also in recruiting party members and improving the local organisation.1 Reactions to the activities of leaders and parties at Westminster would largely swamp any local endeavours. In trying to assess what they did, we have been largely influenced by the responses of more than a hundred candidates to a long questionnaire and by our interviews with candidates and agents.
KeywordsParty Worker Electoral Register Local Party Safe Seat Constituency Level
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