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Patrick Seyd, "New Parties/New Politics? A Case Study of the British Labour Party," Party Politics, 5 (July 1999), 383-405.

First Paragraph:
For some considerable time academic observers have been suggesting the demise of mass-membership parties. They argue that party membership is declining because individual lifestyles have altered, the political market-place is now full of other organizations competing successfully for individuals' time and commitment, and party leaders have alternative, and more efficient, means of communicating with voters. Contradicting these apparently inexorable trends of membership decline, however, Britain's two major parties - Labour and Conservative - have adopted active membership-recruitment strategies linked with the introduction of intra-party direct democracy. Labour began the process in the late 1980s, followed by the Conservatives a decade later. In this article I propose to examine this strategic and structural transformation that has occurred during the 1990s. First, I consider the adoption of active membership-recruitment strategies and direct democracy in both parties and suggest reasons why it has been introduced. Second, I examine in detail the procedural changes that have been introduced by the Labour Party, involving the use of both direct democracy and more deliberative policy-making forums involving larger numbers of members. Finally, I conclude by assessing the impact that these changes might have on the nature of parties and the party system.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1: Labour's new policy-making process
Table 1: Labour Party members' attitudes, 1990-7 (%)
Table 2: A comparison of Labour meeting-attenders and non-meeting-attenders, 1997 (%)
Table 3: Changes in Labour Party members' activities 1990-92 (%)
Table 4: rates of activism among old and new Labour Party members during the 1997 election campaign (%)

Last Paragraph:
Numerous assertions have been made over the past 2 decades that parties are declining in importance and falling party memberships have been cited as one crucial dimension of this decline. Labour and Conservative party leaders' indifference towards, and tolerance of, membership decline appeared to confirm these assertions. Now, however, both major British parties are making great attempts to recruit members, and the success of Labour's recruitment strategy since 1994 runs counter to this particular aspect of the party decline thesis. There are various explanations of this significant reversal of previous strategies. [First paragraph in Conclusions. The next 3 paragraphs present the three conclusions.]