Centre-left parties and the European Union

Power, accountability and democracy

By Isabelle Hertner

Centre-left parties and the European Union


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2033-5
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: January 2018
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / EU & European institutions, Society & social sciences / Political structures: democracy, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics, Politics, Political structures: democracy, EU (European Union), Comparative politics, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties, POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / European, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics


Does European integration contribute to, or even accelerate, the erosion of intra-party democracy? This book analyses the impact of European Union (EU) membership on power dynamics, focusing on the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party (PS), and the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Utilising a principal-agent framework, it investigates who within the parties determines EU policies and selects EU specialists. Drawing on original interviews with EU experts from Labour, the PS, the SPD and the Party of European Socialists (PES), as well as an e-mail questionnaire, this book reveals that European policy has remained in the hands of the party leadership. The study also suggests that the party grassroots are interested in the EU, but that interest rarely translates into influence. As regards the selection of EU specialists, this book highlights that the parties' processes are highly political, often informal, and in some cases, undemocratic.


'Isabelle Hertner provides a fascinating comparison of how three major social-democratic parties in Britain, France and Germany responded to the key policy issue of European integration. She uses an insightful principal-agent approach to uncover power relationships between the three faces of party organisation in public office, in central office and on the ground, as well as at national and European levels. Based on an impressive array of methods, this book shows clearly how oligarchic pressures were regularly at work in the selection of candidates and policies.'
Tom Quinn, Senior Lecturer, Deparment of Government, University of Essex

'The overall answer of the book ... is that even though EU matters are being discussed at the grassroot- and local level, these inputs remain largely unheard at the higher ranks of the party organization. This insight is highly relevant for understanding the difficulties that social-democratic parties currently have in mobilizing voters against the rise of populist and eurosceptic parties. From a scholarly perspective, in turn, this book is one of the first empirical confirmations that party elites have lost touch with their constituencies.'
Journal of Common Market Studies


1. Centre-left parties and the European Union
2. Labour, the PS, and SPD: organising for multi-level governance
3. The European policies of the Labour Party, the PS, and the SPD
4. Principals, agents, and the delegation of power inside political parties
5. Cheerleaders or players? Centre-left parties on the ground and the EU
6. Lions or toothless tigers? The parties in central office and the EU
7. Winners or losers? The parties in public office and the EU
8. Centre-left parties and the European Union: what next?


Isabelle Hertner is Lecturer in the Politics of Britain in Europe at King's College London

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