Book Review: Political Parties in Britain

This introductory textbook examines the factors contributing to parties’ fortunes and identities, and the causes of recent changes in both. It examines Britain’s main and minor political parties as well as peripheral parties like the BNP and UKIP. Eunice Goescontends Political Parties in Britain is a highly informative, accessible and up-to-date introductory text that should be included in all British Politics reading lists.


Political Parties in Britain. Matt Cole and Helen Deighan. Edinburgh University Press. July 2012. Continue reading

How will the coalition end? Cameron and Clegg may look to the precedent set by the 1945 caretaker government

Alun Wyburn-Powell provides a historical account of the 1945 caretaker government and argues that it provides a useful model for thinking about when the current coalition might end. Whilst obviously very different situations, there is good logic in parting some months prior to the start of the 2015 campaign for both the LibDems and Tories. It would allow a bit more freedom for the parties to maneuver and might neutralize Labour’s attempt to attack the coalition. 

Nick Clegg and David Cameron’s press conference in the Rose Garden at 10 Downing Street was the image which characterised the start of the current coalition in May 2010. At that time many people believed that the government was unlikely to last the full parliamentary term. Now, past the halfway mark, most think that it probably will. Continue reading

Liverpool’s mayoral election ‘censorship’ row

Stuart Wilks-Heeg

This week, every household in Liverpool will receive a booklet from the city council containing election addresses from the 12 candidates seeking to become the city’s first directly-elected mayor.

In theory, this arrangement, which is used for all mayoral elections, helps to level the playing-field for candidates, providing all with an equal chance to reach the electorate. This is especially important for candidates standing for minor parties or as independents, who simply do not have the resources or infrastructure required to leaflet every household in a local authority, particularly one as populous as Liverpool. Continue reading

How should ‘political England’ be recognised?

Lewis Baston

In the newly published IPPR pamphlet The Dog That Finally Barked: England as an Emerging Political Community, Richard Wyn Jones and Guy Lodge demonstrate, to anyone’s satisfaction, that there is such a thing as English identity and that it has a political component.

Perhaps their most surprising finding was that in comparative context, England has a stronger sense of identity in terms of the standard ‘Moreno scale’ than Bavaria, Galicia, Vienna or even Wales. Only Scotland and Catalonia (of areas surveyed) were stronger sub-state units of identity. The research found that only about a quarter of English respondents were happy with the constitutional status quo, although there was no consensus about an alternative and the question demonstrated some of the qualities of an issue that is ill-formed in the public mind, for example a strong effect from the wording of the poll question. Continue reading

Lords reform: the problem of piecemeal constitutional amendment

Andrew Blick

How far is it possible to carry out piecemeal reform of a constitution when we do not know and cannot agree on the rules governing such amendment, and are not even clear about the nature of the constitution in question?

In most democracies – that is to say, in the overwhelming majority that have written constitutions – the main rules of governance are set out in a single document or set of interlinked documents (though how well they perform this task can vary). This text also includes certain requirements that must be fulfilled – such as legislative supermajorities and/or assent by the electorate through referendums – if it is to be amended.

In the UK – famously – we have no such provisions. The constitution is scattered across various Acts of Parliament, codes, judicial decisions and unwritten (and often contested) understandings. Alterations to it can be carried out in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes a referendum is deemed necessary; sometimes it happens with few outside the government knowing it has occurred. No clear, consistent system exists. Continue reading

The Feltham and Heston by-election: more of the same

Lewis Baston

The Feltham and Heston by-election was not what one would call a classic. The result was not surprising, the location was an unglamorous patch of west London next to Heathrow, and it took place at an unpromising time of year. The turnout in the by-election was dismal, at 28.8 per cent. The cold, dark, wet conditions on polling day were partly to blame, but even so it reflected a lack of interest in elections and politics that has some significance. A fairly high proportion of votes cast were postal (6,854 out of the total of 23,298) so on the day turnout was very poor indeed: 23.7 per cent. In a couple of polling stations it fell as low as 15 per cent. All parties, except UKIP, polled fewer votes than they did in May 2010. Continue reading

Select committee report shows way forward on voter registration

Stuart Wilks-Heeg

The Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee’s 10threport of session, Individual Electoral Registration and Electoral Administration, has generatedwidespread media coverage. It is safe to say that a select committee report on electoral registration has never been awaited, and greeted, with such interest.

The reason for the interest, of course, has been the widely-repeated claim that the government’s proposals for the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER) couldlead to 10 million additional voters disappearing from the electoral registers.  The basis for this bleak projection of the impact of IER, the Electoral Commission’s written and oral evidence to the select committee, had been presented as a ‘worst case scenario’. But, perhaps inevitably given the source of the estimate, and the political passions which electoral registration evokes, it quickly acquired the status of ‘fact’ in some circles.   Continue reading