With Professor Ludger Helms, Professor of Political Science and Chair of Comparative Politics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria
One of the key defining features of Westminster-type democracies is the acknowledgement of an official Opposition and a Leader of the Opposition typically referred to as a ‘prime minister in waiting’. This guest-talk focuses on this crucial element of Westminster democracy and applies a gender perspective, looking into women leaders of the opposition in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (1975-2022). As a comparative inquiry reveals, there have not only been conspicuously few women opposition leaders; most of them also have faced significantly less favourable conditions than their male counterparts. In particular, for women the office of leader of the opposition has generally not proved as a springboard to the premiership (or at least less often so than for male candidates). Indeed, many women opposition leaders were not even given the opportunity to represent their party as lead candidate at the polls. This assessment looks into possible explanations for the patterns observed.
Ludger Helms is Professor of Political Science and Chair of Comparative Politics at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. His research has focused on comparative political institutions, political elites, executive politics and political leadership. He is the author of some 150 scholarly publications in those fields, including the Oxford Handbook of Political Executives (co-ed, 2020). He has been a member of the editorial boards of several learned journals, such as Government and Opposition, and European Political Science, and an official visiting fellow at several major universities, including Harvard University, Barnard College at Columbia University, UC Berkeley, the London School of Economics, Tokyo, CEU, and Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta.