Jonathan Hopkin, "Bringing the Members Back In?
Democratizing Candidate Selection in Britain and Spain,"
Party Politics, 7 (May 2001), 343-361.
Candidate selection in West European parties has
traditionally been the preserve of small numbers of party
officials operating in less than transparent conditions,
leading Gallagher and Marsh to describe it as the 'secret
garden' of politics in their 1988 study. However, a decade
later, forms of candidate selection involving membership
ballots of various kinds are becoming an increasingly
visible feature of West European party politics, with major
parties in a number of countries, including Spain and the
UK, including members in the party 'selectorates' which
elect candidates for public offices. This article assesses
the causes and consequences of parties extending membership
participation in candidate selection, and examines the
emerging empirical reality in two cases where parties have
made such changes.
This is why pessimistic predictions that candidate selection
reform hastens the disappearance of European-style
membership parties appear off the mark. Party cohesion in
the two cases studied has not been seriously undermined by
membership participation in candidate selection, for the
very reasons outlined above. The powers that party leaders
retain ensure organizational cohesion. Party primaries may
create greater uncertainty over some key party decisions,
but candidates will not be independent of party if their
nominations have to be formally approved by party committees
and their campaigns rely on party resources. Parties appear
to face a dilemma between organizational cohesion and
responsiveness. The involvement of individual party members,
or even party voters, undermines cohesion by creating rival
sources of internal legitimacy, challenging leadership
authority. Party cohesion is more likely in closed party
structures where leaderships leave nothing to chance and the
internal opposition has restricted opportunities for voice.
The parties studied here have maintained their cohesion at
the expense of a genuine democratization of their internal