Partisanship and the Constitution

Partisanship and the Constitution is a new joint research project by myself, Ewan Smith and Leah Trueblood of the Bonavero Institute, with generous support from the Law Faculty’s Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government. It looks at how the constitution regulates political parties.

The architects of the first modern constitutions thought their new structures could transcend partisanship. George Washington spoke of the “baneful spirit of party”, and the Marquis de Condorcet said “one of the primary needs of the French republic is to have none.” Two hundred and forty years later, many people are still concerned about the tension between partisan loyalty and constitutional duty. Nevertheless, political parties play an important role in almost all constitutional orders

Modern constitutions have largely acknowledged the need to accommodate partisan behaviour, but many constitutional orders remain ambivalent, and at times hostile, towards political parties. Parties are enigmatic subjects of constitutional law. They can be private subjects, with private rights. They can be public utilities, bearing public duties. They can have privileged access to the state. They can be insulated from state organs like the judiciary. Yet, they are only intermittently assigned formal constitutional powers and duties, and they are often overlooked altogether.

Future Activities

On the 14th and 15th March 2019, the Bonavero Institute will host a Conference for Early Career Researchers, including research students, working on political parties. You can find our call for papers below.

On the 26th and 27th of June 2019, the Oxford University Law Faculty will host a high-level conference for experts working on political parties. We will issue a call for papers in due course.

On the third of October 2019, the Bonavero Institute will host a Conference on Political Parties and the UK Constitution. We will issue a call for papers in due course.

Further details about the project are available here. If you would like further information about any of these events, please do not hesitate to contact us at


Call for Papers

Political Parties, Partisanship, and the Constitution:

A Workshop for Early Career Researchers

From 14-15 March 2019 the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights will host a workshop for early career researchers on the topic of Political Parties, Partisanship, and the Constitution. The workshop is part of a wider project on the role of political parties under the constitution.

Submissions are welcome from early-career researchers working in the humanities and social sciences, as well as those working for political parties, think-tanks, government, and civil society. Our aim is to build a closer network of early-career scholars working in this field, and to provide an opportunity for feedback in a welcoming and supportive environment.

Important Dates:

  • If would like to attend, please send abstracts of no more than 500 words to by 11 January 2019
  • Successful applicants will be contacted by 1 February 2019
  • Papers (which should be no more than 12 000 words, including footnotes) will be circulated to discussants by 1 March 2019
  • The workshop will be held on 14-15 March 2019

We will provide accommodation in Oxford for all participants. We will also make every effort to defray travel expenses, though our resources will be limited.

If you would need support to attend the workshop, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at