New Labour and Party Management

An unfinished white Paper by Emmanuelle Avril of the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. The paper is called, The (Unintended) Consequences of New Labour: Party Leadership vs Party Management in the British Labour Party. and was presented to the Political Studies Association 2015 conference, in March so before the election. The abstract states, 

The Labour Party illustrates the paradox of highly efficient management tools and techniques leading to systemic failure. Since the mid-90s, in the pursuit of electoral success, leadership of the Labour Party has been subsumed in management of the party. Despite rhetorical emphasis on consensus-building and transparency, the party structure has evolved towards increased centralization and control, with strategic planning limited to delivery of the leadership’s dictates. Such emphasis on results rather than on behaviour in the management of change in the party has had a damaging impact on the organisation, leading, first, to loss of trust and demoralization among members, and, second, to the erosion of party loyalty and civic pride among voters. This paper draws from the fields of political science as well as organisational studies to explore the impact of recent Labour Leaders on the quality of party processes as well as on party reputation. It is based on the long-term participant observation of the Labour Party at local and regional levels, as well as national events such as annual conferences. This paper starts by identifying the distinctive features of New Labour’s party management. It then examines the “unintended consequences” of this brand of party management, showing this model to be mainly self-defeating. The final section provides a general assessment of the impact of this brand of management on organisational learning and innovation. The conclusion points to some of the main weaknesses of the New Labour leadership model and identifies the potential to re-engage with members – and, therefore, with voters – through more transparent, open and responsive structures.

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