National Uncertainties

  • David Butler
  • Dennis Kavanagh


Successive British elections resemble each other to a notable degree. In spite of the development of television, opinion polling and the party press conference, the ritual in the constituencies, and even at the centre, changes slowly. Party organisation and party argument tend to follow standard forms. Nonetheless, an election can be very different in essence from its predecessors because the atmosphere has changed. Certainly the picture that the electorate had in 1979 of the country’s status, and of what could be expected from the political system, was far removed from that of twenty years earlier. The rules of the political game had evolved, and the internal mood and general state of. the national economy contrasted sharply with the years of Macmillan and Gaitskell.


Public Expenditure Money Supply Proportional Representation British Government Labour Party 
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  1. 1.
    For full discussion, see Ivor Crewe, James Alt and Bo Sarlvik, ‘Partisan Dealignment in Britain 1964–1974’, British Journal of Political Science, (July 1977).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See D. Butler and D. Stokes, Political Change in Britain, 2nd ed. (London, 1975), pp. 193–200.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See P. Norton, Dissension in the House of Commons (London, 1975).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See e.g. R. Rose ‘Ordinary People in Extraordinary Economic Circumstances’, Strathclyde Occasional Papers in Politics, 1977.Google Scholar
  5. See also the contributions of P. Jay and S. Brittan in E. Tyrrell ed., The Future That Doesn’t Work (New York, 1977);Google Scholar
  6. R. Rose and G. Peters, Can Government Go Bankrupt? (London, 1979);Google Scholar
  7. A. King, ‘Overload: Problems of Governing in the 1970s’, Political Studies, 1975;Google Scholar
  8. J. Douglas, The Overloaded Crown’, British Journal of Political Science, 1976.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    Lord Hailsham ‘Elective Dictatorship’, The Listener, (October 21, 1977);Google Scholar
  10. Lord Scarman, English Law — The New Dimension, (London 1975); Select Committee; House of Lords Select Committee Reports H. L. 176, 1978.Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    This was best illustrated in the lawsuit over the publication of R. H. S. Crossman’s diaries. See H. Young, The Crossman Affair, (London 1976).Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    For the full argument see the contributions to S. E. Finer, ed., Adversary Politics and Electoral Reform, (London, 1975).Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    See D. Kavanagh, ‘New Bottles for New Wines: Changing Assumptions about British Politics’, Parliamentary Affairs, (Winter 1978).Google Scholar
  14. 10.
    For example see G. Allen, The British Disease, (London 1977).Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    See R. Bacon and W. Eltis, Britain’s Economic Problem, (London 1976).Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    See P. Jay, ‘Ending the age of full employment’, The Times, (April 10, 1975).Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    See the essay by John Biffen, ‘The Conservatism of Labour’ in M. Cowling ed. Conservative Essays, (London, 1978). The money supply was increasing at 27% per annum in 1973 but only at 8% in 1977.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Butler
    • 1
  • Dennis Kavanagh
    • 2
  1. 1.Nuffield CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.University of ManchesterUK

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