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Ideological Factors in Conservative Party Alignments on the EU: A Cross-national Comparison

Chris Flood
University of Surrey
Chris Flood
University of Surrey
Rafal Soborski
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper examines party ideological and policy alignments towards EU integration, focusing on variation within and between four conservative parties: the British Conservative Party, the French Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, and two Polish parties: Platforma Obywatelska and Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc. The parties share similar topographical locations on the centre-right in their countries and have recently been, or are currently, parties of government. The paper adopts a predominantly qualitative method of discourse analysis focused on a range of sources including more theoretical texts (books, articles, transcribed speeches, interviews) as well as party manifestos from the 2001-2010 period. Our focus on this period is productive both in terms of EU developments (introduction of the Euro, constitutional debates, Lisbon Treaty) and of party development in the respective countries (changes of party leadership and of government in Britain and France, founding of the parties in Poland and successive accession to power). While it is acknowledged that ideology and policy do not exist in a vacuum, but in constant interplay with a broad range of institutional and contextual factors, these other variables are largely bracketed out for present analytical purposes in order to concentrate on the ideo¬logical and policy dimensions in their own right. In this meso-level analysis the focus is on the complex relationship between core ideological values, ideologically coloured understandings of national and international environments, general posture towards EU integration, and positions on specific institutions, processes or policies. The degree of vari¬ation between the parties revealed even at this intermediate level of detail is a valuable complement to the inevitably reductive categorisations and generalisations drawn in macro-level, comparative studies.