Fanning the flames: political discourse analysis of anti-austerity social movement intervention in the UK general elections of 2015 and 2017

Rhodes, Abigail (2020) Fanning the flames: political discourse analysis of anti-austerity social movement intervention in the UK general elections of 2015 and 2017. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Once thought of as sitting outside of institutional politics, social movements have been a consistent and dominant feature of the political landscape in the twenty-first century. Social movements, as political actors, can have a refining and reinforcing effect on conventional politics through the highlighting of specific issues that shape both political party and voter behaviour. However, in the field of political communication the literature has traditionally focused on the ways in which institutional political actors – political parties and politicians – have communicated, often via the media, with the electorate. Conversely, the social movement literature has tended to focus on extra-parliamentary politics that occur outside of election time and, as such, neglects this aspect of the political process. This thesis begins to address that lacuna by exploring the role of communication by the UK-based social movement The People’s Assembly Against Austerity in electoral politics and assesses how far they can be seen as political actors in electoral campaigns.

The project examines the 2015 and 2017 general election campaigns, during which the notion of ‘austerity’ formed a major element of the political environment. The political issue of the National Health Service (NHS) forms the focus of the research because it was one of the few remaining areas of the Welfare State said to be protected from the full impact of austerity policies. To discover what role movement communication played in electoral debates on the NHS, a comparative analysis between The People’s Assembly Against Austerity texts and the Conservative and Labour Party manifestos was conducted. In order to analyse what each of the political actors were arguing for, this research used Fairclough and Fairclough’s (2012) approach to Political Discourse Analysis (PDA). This methodology facilitated the explication of competing views that were circulating during each election and allowed for competing perspectives and claims for action to be foregrounded. What is contended in this thesis is that social movements can be publicly and politically influential by presenting discourses that challenge (or reproduce) established definitions, meanings and understandings of social reality.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Birks, Jennifer
Wright, Colin
Keywords: social movements; election analysis; political discourse analysis; political communication; movement-led communication
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Item ID: 59827
Depositing User: Rhodes, Dr Abigail
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2020 11:00
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2020 11:00

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