Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Electing and Ejecting Party Leaders in British Politics

01 January 2007 - Ongoing

Party political leaders are central to how the electorate interprets British politics. The individual selected as party leader will find themselves to be perceived as the public manifestation of their party. They will be assumed to have an influence upon the ideological and policy direction of the party, and critically their own parliamentarians and party activists will expect them to influence public attitudes and voting behaviour to the advantage of the party.

Despite the importance of party leaders to party competition the methods by which they are selected and ejected remains an under developed area of research within British politics. Focusing on the Conservative and Labour parties, this project aims to address the eternal succession dilemmas of who was chosen as the new party leader; how the succession process was determined (i.e. what procedures were utilised); and the variables (notably ideological) that explain why the victors were chosen.

Project Publications


  • Heppell, T. (2010 forthcoming) Choosing the Labour Leader: Labour Party Leadership Elections from Wilson to Brown (London: I. B. Tauris)
  • Heppell, T. (2008) Choosing the Tory Leader: Conservative Party Leadership Elections from Heath to Cameron (London: I. B. Tauris) ISBN: 1-84511-486-8, pp. 288


  • Heppell, T. (2010, forthcoming), 'The Labour Party Leadership Election of 1963: Explaining the Unexpected Election of Harold Wilson', Contemporary British History
  • Heppell, T. (2010), 'Ideological Alignments within the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Leadership Election of 1976', British Politics, Vol. 5, No. 1.
  • Heppell, T. and Hill, M. (2010), 'The Voting Motivations of Conservative Parliamentarians in the Conservative Party Leadership Election of 2001', Politics, Vol. 30, No. 1.
  • Heppell, T. and Hill, M. (2009), 'Transcending Thatcherism? Ideology and the Conservative Party Leadership Mandate of David Cameron', Political Quarterly, Vol, 80, No. 3.
  • Heppell, T. and Hill, M. (2008), 'The Conservative Party Leadership Election of 1997: An Analysis of the Voting Motivations of Conservative Parliamentarians', British Politics, Vol. 3, No.1.

Conference Proceedings

  • Heppell, T. 'Labour Leadership Elections from Wilson to Brown: Ideological Factions and Succession Planning Strategies', Elections, Public Opinion and Parties PSA Specialist Group Annual Conference, August 2009, University of Strathclyde.

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