[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2018.
The role of biraderi kinship networks has recently gained attention in U.K. elections.
Biraderis are patriarchal and hierarchical kinship networks that are led by male elders
and originate from Pakistan and Bangladesh. These networks have been accused of influencing
selections and elections through bloc votes. Existing research into the actions and
implications of biraderi in U.K. politics has examined these networks in isolation.
To further understand and contextualise the actions and implications of biraderi networks
in U.K. politics, I compare them to trade union networks. Trade unions are paid membership
networks in which groups of employees take collective action to maintain and improve
employment conditions. Using my two case studies, I focus on the Labour Party and
ask two questions. Firstly, what are the implications of network influence for electoral
choice? Secondly, are the actions of biraderi networks, and the implications of these
actions, different to other networks? And if so, why?
I use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data in the process of this inquiry.
In chapter three, I use the analysis of 37 interviews with political and community
activists to introduce biraderi networks and present their role in the selection and
election of political representatives. In chapter four I use the same data to contextualise
the role of biraderi and examine the relationship between biraderi networks and the
Labour Party. In chapter five, I introduce trade union networks and use the analysis
of 16 interviews with MPs, political activists and trade unionists to outline three
aspects of the role that trade unions take in the selection and election processes:
the legitimate aspect, the controversial aspect and the idealised aspect. In chapter
six, the final empirical chapter, I ask which candidates receive support from trade
unions. I build upon an existing dataset to analyse financial and in-kind trade union
donations to the Labour Party.
I find that biraderi and trade union networks both, to some extent, carry out five
actions in the selection and election of political representatives: providing political
education; providing financial and in-kind support; providing campaigners in selections
and elections; selecting candidates; supporting the under-represented. I find that
the implications of these five actions for voter choice are two-fold. On the one hand,
networks can increase voter choice by providing political education and support to
candidates who might not otherwise be able to stand for election. On the other hand,
I find that networks can reduce electoral choice. Through a combination of legal and
illegal actions, when elders control votes biraderi networks can at best restrict
electoral choice and at worst remove it entirely. Although these networks carry out
the same five actions, I do find that they differ in the way that they carry out some
of these actions. I ague that there are three reasons for this: differing network
structures; differing network motivations; and access to different resources to influence
selections and elections. I argue that networks are motivated to influence selections
and elections by instrumental desires to increase their political influence and power
as well as ideological motivations to support the party. I find that political parties
need networks to help to campaign and deliver political education. Networks can work
alongside parties to do this but they can also takeover as political parties abdicate
their responsibilities, effectively becoming the party on the ground in a constituency.