The Profumo affair 50 years on: The collapse of the old establishment has not brought enhanced democratic participation

Wyn Grant looks back at the Profumo affair and suggests that it represented the beginning of the end for the old ‘establishment’. In the place of ‘club government’, a more rule bound regulatory state was created. However this transformation has been arguably incomplete, with politicians still being drawn from a narrow range of occupations and not being representative of the population they are supposed to serve.

On a recent visit to the National Portrait Gallery, a small exhibition on the Profumo affair was attracting more attention than any other exhibit in the free part of the gallery. Why is there so much fascination with this series of events fifty years on? The whiff of corruption and sleaze in high places that was so evident? The cast of characters such as Mandy Rice-Davies whose comment on Lord Astor denying sleeping with her [probably he didn’t] ‘He would, wouldn’t he?’ has become a catch phrase? The iconic and much reproduced photograph that was taken of Christine Keeler? The sexual dimension, some of which was greatly exaggerated in accounts provided at the time and since, not least in the report by Lord Denning? As a schoolboy, I went with friends to the local railway station to buy French papers to find out what was ‘really’ going on with such characters as the ‘man in the mask’, rumoured to be a Cabinet minister, but in truth a businessman. Continue reading

Democratic Audit Shorts: Big business still has too much influence over public policy

Taken from Section 2.6.4 of the 2012 Democratic Audit Report – Business influence on public policy’

A recent Democratic Audit study by David Beetham argues that corporate and financial interests have, since the 1980s, inserted themselves increasingly into government and its decision-making processes, over which they now exercise substantial influence (Beetham, 2011). As well as exercising indirect power on governments, Beetham identifies two broad categories of direct business influence over public policy, as follows: Continue reading

A wider debate on how Europe shapes British policy making is now needed

The UK’s forty-year relationship with the EU and its predecessors has seen a significant integration of EU policies into the UK’s institutional cultureJanice Morphet looks at how the UK has implemented EU legislation in recent decades, finding that there has been little public discussion of their potential implications. She argues that it may now be time to promote a more engaged discussion and debate on how the EU shapes UK public policy. 

This article was originally published on LSE’s EUROPP blog.

Since 1972, it has been difficult to have a conversation about the pooling of the UK’s powers within the EU. While the lead up to joining the EU saw a strong and coordinated campaign for membership, the 1975 referendum on ‘staying in’ may have created a continuing uncertainty in the relationship which can be characterised as ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But over the following forty years, why has this position persisted? And what effects has it had? Continue reading

The Endgame: How might the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government finish?

As the partisan debates around legislation on gay marriage wend their convoluted way through the Commons this week, exposing once again huge fissures between Conservative MPs and activists on the one hand and the PM and leading government modernizers on the other, so speculation about the end of the coalition government and the date of the next general election has revived. Chris Gilson reads the runes on when exactly the coalition government may end. 

This Sunday, against the background of the Conservative party’s continuing implosion over membership of the EU, the Daily Telegraph reported on a recent Total Politics interview with David Cameron. Here the Prime Minister raised the possibility that the coalition with the Liberal Democrats might not last until the next election, currently scheduled for May, 2015. Cameron said: Continue reading

Book Review: Accounting for Ministers: Scandal and Survival in British Government 1945-2007

Accounting for Ministers uses the tools of modern political science to analyse the factors which determine the fortunes of Cabinet ministers. Utilising agency theory, it describes Cabinet government as a system of incentives for prime ministerial and parliamentary rule. Lord Wilson has reservations about the attempts to analyse the rich, complex, impossible lives of Ministers with the methods of political analysis used in this book but nevertheless finds it a useful addition to the sum of political knowledge. 

Accounting for Ministers: Scandal and Survival in British Government 1945-2007. Samuel Berlinksi, Torun Dewan and Keith Dowding. Cambridge University Press. 2012. Continue reading

Time to tackle the growth of the ‘payroll vote’

Stuart Wilks-Heeg

Note: This article was amended on 23 October 2012 to clarify both how the ‘payroll vote’ is defined and the use of the term ‘paid government posts’.

In our latest full Audit of democracy in the UK, we highlighted our concern about the long-term growth of the government ‘payroll vote’ and its role in diminishing the independence of parliament from the executive.

Essentially, the payroll vote comprises MPs who are part of the government and are bound by convention to vote with it in divisions, or resign. In its broadest definition, the payroll vote includes government ministers and whips, as well as all MPs who are engaged as unpaid Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPSs) to ministers. It is also important to note than some ministerial roles are unpaid.   Continue reading

Fixing the Revolving Door

Guest author: Liz David-BarrettOxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation

There are many good reasons for government and business to talk to one another, to understand how the other side works, and to learn techniques that can be transferred from one context to the other.  But wherever such interactions occur, there is a potential conflict of interest.  The risk is most acute where particular individuals have a foot in each camp.  That is why a ‘revolving door’ between government and business, with individuals hopping between jobs in the public and private sector, is a key concern. Continue reading