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Neil Carter, "Party Politicization of the Environment in Britain," Party Politics, 12 (November, 2006), 747-767.

First Paragraph:
There is a strange imbalance in the academic study of the party politics of the environment. While every aspect of green party development seems to have been scrutinized, there has been surprisingly little analysis of the impact of the environment on established political parties, particularly in countries without an electorally successful green party, such as Britain.1 Yet the response of established parties to the environmental issue dimension has several important implications in any polity.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Environmental protection in party manifestos, 1959-2005
Figure 2. Environmental index in party manifestos, 1959-2005
Table 1. Ranking of environment against other issues in party manifestos, 1983-2005
Table 1. Ranking of environment against other issues in party manifestos, 1983-2005
Table 3. Estimated party positions on the environmental policy dimension
Table 4. Which party has the best policies on protecting the environment?

Last Paragraph:
To conclude, the main empirical finding of the article, based on a range of quantitative and qualitative data, is that the party politicization of the environment in Britain is limited, but that there has been considerable variation between the parties. While no party can afford to ignore the environment, the Conservative and Labour parties have both pursued a strategy of preference-accommodation, characterized by a reactive approach to public opinion, events and issues, but resisting competition over the environment (although Labour has been consistently 'greener' than the Conservative Party). The centrist parties adopted a similar strategy until the early 1990s, since when the Liberal Democrats have sought to present themselves as the greenest of the major parties, by consistently making the environment a core campaigning issue. The party competition literature has proved particularly helpful in explaining the different responses of the established parties to the environment. While new politics predictions have not materialized, the emergence of the Green Party in second-order elections in the new multi-level British polity, particularly if it attracts disillusioned left-wing voters, could pressure Labour to take the environment more seriously. The new politics insight that the environmental issue dimension cuts across the traditional left-right dimension indicates the importance of ideology in preventing the two major parties from embracing the issue more positively. This apparent ideological incompatibility raises a wider question for further research: is the failure of the Labour and Conservative parties to embrace environmentalism a case of British exceptionalism (grounded in the plurality electoral system), or is it a feature common to all traditional productivist parties?

last updated February 2007