Leadership domination in a populist party

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


Among the apparent contradictions of the National Party is the central role in policy-making played by the parliamentary leadership and the weak connection between the values and objectives of the grassroots membership and the party's elites. This is surprising for a party that had its roots in populism and still exhibits many populist traits (see Chapter 6). This chapter explores this paradox within the National Party. It begins with an overview of the values underpinning the party's establishment. These are covered in more detail in Chapters 6 and 8 but are restated briefly here. The chapter then highlights the gap between these traditional values and the policy settings of recent Coalition governments of which the National Party has been part. It considers the reasons for the leadership's apparent willingness to accept policy outcomes seen by some supporters as detrimental to rural industries and communities, in return for preserving the Coalition arrangement. Part of the explanation for this can be found in the policy-making structures within the party, which give little real power to party conferences and have allowed the leadership to dominate policy direction. The chapter concludes with some discussion about the leadership/membership divide, exploring how it might be bridged and the risks of failing to do so.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe National Party
Subtitle of host publicationProspects for the Great Survivor
EditorsLinda Botterill, Geoff Cockfield
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherAllen & Unwin
Number of pages133
ISBN (Print)9781742370255
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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