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

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Britain is – still – less violent and lawless than it was 15 years ago

Andrew Blick

The civil disturbances which recently took place across England are important from the point of view of the Audit, partly because it is vital to a democracy that the rule of law is upheld, that people are protected from crime (in a reasonable, proportionate and accountable way); and – as far as possible – that they feel safe.

Some recently-published official analysis of the British Crime Survey (BCS), covering the period 2010-11 in England and Wales, is significant to this issue. Continue reading

What’s happening to our democracy?

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, 28 February 2011

Our fourth Audit of UK democracy, due for publication later this year, deploys International IDEA’s ‘State of Democracy’ assessment framework and is built around 77 separate ‘search questions’. As we consider the huge evidence base which our Audit is generating, however, one ‘overarching’ question which is not part of the framework becomes increasingly dominant in our minds. Is democracy in the UK changing for the better or for the worse?

To evaluate how UK democracy is changing, our analysis must inevitably look both backwards and forwards. Much of the assessment in our 2011 Audit necessarily focuses on the impact of the political and constitutional reforms introduced by New Labour from 1997 onwards. Yet, the formation of the coalition government in May 2010, with a far-reaching constitutional reform agenda of its own, also requires us to evaluate the likely significance of an emerging set of constitutional changes. Continue reading

Votes for prisoners: Still a reform too far?

Raminder Samrai 

Cross-posted from Our Kingdom,

As the party conference season approaches, political observers will be paying close attention to potential fault-lines within the governing coalition.

Yet those searching for tests of the coalition’s internal cohesion might be advised to look further afield than Liverpool and Birmingham this autumn – starting this week in Strasbourg.  At its 1092nd meeting on Human Rights, scheduled for 14 and 15 September, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers will consider how to respond to the UK’s continued denial of voting rights to prisoners. If ever there was a question likely to divide Liberal Democrat and Conservative opinion, it is surely this one. Continue reading

Reduce and equalise? Why electoral geography matters

Stuart Wilks-Heeg 9th July 2010 

Whether or not we end up voting under a different electoral system at the 2015 General Election, it looks almost certain that most of us will be voting in different constituencies. The Parliamentary Reform Bill, which will make provisions for the referendum on AV and for fixed term parliaments, will also trigger a process of boundary reviews. The purpose of the latter will be to aim to equalise the size of Parliamentary constituencies, at around 75,000 electors each, and reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. Continue reading

Reports of Parliament’s decline much exaggerated

Andrew Blick, 31st May 2011

The last decade has seen a series of significant innovations in the way Parliamentholds government to account, mostly involving the House of Commons, but in some cases the House of Lords as well. They include:

  • More resources for select committees;
  • The introduction of ‘core tasks’ for select committees in the Commons setting out their work objectives;
  • More select committees in both houses, holding more inquiries and producing more reports;
  • The Prime Minister holding twice-annual oral evidence sessions with the House of Commons Liaison Committee, which comprises the chairs of the various Commons select committees;
  • The introduction of public bill committees for more effective legislative scrutiny in the Commons; Continue reading