The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Alistair Clark

Reader in Politics

Background

Introduction

Dr. Alistair Clark is Reader in Politics. His research interests revolve around political parties, party organisation, electoral integrity and administration, and urban/local politics. Related interests include: comparative party systems and small party challenges; devolved and British party politics; voting behaviour and electoral systems. Alistair Clark’s doctoral research, entitled ‘Local Parties, Participation and Campaigning in Post-Devolution Scotland’, won the 2007 Political Studies Association Arthur McDougall Prize for Elections, Electoral Systems and Representation. His research has been funded by the ESRC, the British Academy, the Nuffield Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust.

Dr Clark has given expert evidence to the Scottish parliament, House of Commons and House of Lords and regularly engages with practitioners and policymakers. He is also regularly invited to comment on political matters in the UK and international media. He has provided expert analysis on general election results for the BBC World Service for the 2015, 2017 and 2019 general elections. 

Qualifications

PG Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (PGCHET) (2009) Queen’s University Belfast

PhD (2006) Political Studies, University of Aberdeen

MRes (2003) Political Research, University of Aberdeen

MA (Hons) (2001) Politics and International Relations (First Class), University of Aberdeen

Previous positions

2007-2011: Lecturer in Political Science and Research Methods, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen’s University Belfast.

2005-2007: Research Fellow, Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham.

2015: Visiting Professor, Dept. of Political Science, LUISS Guido Carli University, Rome, Italy

2017-2019: House of Commons/Political Studies Association Parliamentary Fellowship  

Honours and Awards

Nominated (2010) for the Political Studies Association of Ireland Teaching and Learning Prize 

Political Studies Association (2007) Arthur McDougall Prize for the best dissertation in Elections, Electoral Systems and Representation.

Research

Research interests

Dr. Alistair Clark’s research interests revolve around electoral integrity and the quality of democracy, political parties, party organisation, political participation and urban/local politics. Related interests include: comparative party systems and small party challenges; devolved and British party politics; and voting behaviour and electoral systems. His research has been funded by the ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust.   

Current work

Dr. Clark’s research has focused around political parties and electoral politics, at the local and regional level and also nationally. He is the author of Political Parties in the UK, 2nd edition published by Palgrave in 2018. His current work revolves around three strands.

Firstly, although often held up as a model of electoral integrity, recent controversies in Britain have suggested that this perception may not be wholly justified. Incidents casting doubt on the integrity of the electoral process have been evident across the UK, with one election court judge even likening the conduct and administration of postal voting in local elections to that of ‘a Banana republic’. The integrity of the electoral process can often be attributed in the first instance to issues around electoral administration. This research therefore assesses electoral integrity across Britain, examines the numerous challenges facing electoral administrators and highlights the potential consequences of these challenges for both public policy and electoral integrity in Britain and beyond. More details can be found at: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/social-science/research/#casestudies 

Secondly, since devolution in 1999, the three main British parties – Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – have produced different versions of their UK general election manifesto for Scotland, Wales and Britain more generally. With Dr. Lynn Bennie (Aberdeen), the research assesses how these different manifestos differ, asking what such intra-party variation means for party strategies and their abilities to adapt to constitutional change. Whether these circumstances challenge the idea of manifestos granting parties ‘mandates’ across the UK is also examined. Initial analyses suggest that party manifestos serve a broader range of purposes under the UK’s multi-level polity than hitherto recognised.

Thirdly, minor parties have been proving attractive options for increasing numbers of voters in many different countries. Dr. Clark’s research has examined the rise and relevance of minor parties in both British and Irish politics leading to a range of publications on these themes. With Dr. Liam Weeks (Cork/Macquarie, Australia), research examined the role and party system effects of minor parties in the aftermath of Ireland’s 2011 ‘earthquake’ elections. This followed up a co-edited previous special issue of Irish Political Studies (2010) on these themes and resulted in a co-edited volume Radical or Redundant: Minor Parties in Irish Politics published in late 2012.                 

Future research

Developing and continuing interests in comparative electoral integrity and the quality of democracy, urban/local politics and elections and local policy responsiveness; party organisation and territorial politics.      

Esteem Indicators

Co-Editor, European Consortium for Political Research Political Data Yearbook, 2018-

Trustee & Executive Member, UK Political Studies Association 2012-2016  

Deputy Editor, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 2009-2015

Political Studies Association (2007) Arthur McDougall Prize for the best dissertation in Elections, Electoral Systems and Representation.

Teaching

UNDERGRADUATE

POL3092 Political Parties and Elections in the UK (Module Leader)

POL3046/3047 Dissertation / Project

POL1047 Power, Participation and Democracy: Comparative Perspectives (Module Leader)

POL3011 Parliamentary Studies

Publications