Political Parties and the European Project

Posted on 12 March 2012

A leading political researcher at Keele will be giving the latest lecture in the University’s series of professorial Inaugural Lectures for 2011 – 2012 on Tuesday, 20 March, 2012. Professor Robert Ladrech, Professor of European Politics, will be speaking on “Political Parties and the European Project”.

Professor Ladrech said mainstream political parties in Western Europe have supported membership in the European Union, as well as initiatives in further European integration, over the past several decades. However, these actions have not been complemented by a political discourse that justifies this continuing support - including their party politicians' participation in EU decision-making - to their respective electorates. In other words, national party politicians participate in EU governance and implement the resulting legislation but do not articulate a reason for doing so to their national publics. When some EU proposed legislation proves unpopular, some national party politicians blame the EU by saying 'Brussels made me do it'. This silence or absence of a legitimising discourse has persisted despite a decline in public support for the EU in many member states, leading some commentators to suggest a growing legitimacy problem for the EU and even national government.

This lecture addresses the question of 'what prevents mainstream national political parties from developing a legitimising discourse for their support for the EU and integration initiatives'. It situates the answer within the dynamics of national competitive party systems, though how long the status quo may persist, especially in light of the current financial crisis in the eurozone, is open to question.
Robert Ladrech received his PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1986. He arrived at Keele University in 1995 after having taught Western European politics and political party analysis in the United States. He was a United States Fulbright Scholar from 1992 to1993, being the first recipient of the then newly created European Community Research Award. This allowed him to spend the 1992/1993 academic year in Brussels studying the development of transnational political parties in the European Parliament. Among other publications, he is the author of two highly influential articles, 'Europeanization of Domestic Politics and Institutions: The Case of France' (1994), which made a significant contribution to the emergence of Europeanization studies, and 'Europeanization and Political Parties: Towards a Framework for Analysis' (2002), which directed attention to the impact of the EU on national party activities. He is the author of Social Democracy and the Challenge of European Union (2000) and Europeanization and National Politics (2010). He was part of a Keele-led ESRC-funded project on the Europeanization of National Political Parties (2003-2006), and has recently completed a British Academy-funded project on Climate Change and Social Democratic Parties.
Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett. Admission is free; no ticket is required.

The other lectures in the series are:

Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, Professor Robin Jeffries, Astrophysics, "A star is born"; Tuesday, 8 May, 2012, Professor Carole Thornley, Management, "Why are the low-paid always with us?"; Monday, 11 June,  2012, Professor Andy Hassell, Medicine, "The patient with arthritis, the medical student and the rheumatologist: influencing tomorrow's doctors".