Children with politically engaged parents are more likely to deviate from their parents’ political views in adulthood

How do the political attitudes of parents influence those of their children? As Elias Dinas notes, a common assumption is that children from more politically engaged families are more likely to retain their parents’ political views. Taking issue with this perspective, he finds evidence that while young people from politicised homes may be more likely to acquire an initial partisan orientation from their parents, they are also more likely to abandon that preference as they enter adulthood and experience politics for themselves.

How do we end up supporting a specific political party? Why do some people in the UK, for instance, call themselves Labour or Conservative supporters, whereas others fail to identify with any individual party at all? One of the most oft-cited explanations alludes to the role of parents. Through family socialisation, young individuals get to know about the `goodies’ and the `baddies’ of the political world. Accordingly, they form their partisan preferences before they develop a sophisticated understanding of politics. These attachments may not be strongly felt, but children rarely declare a party identification with the main rival of the party to which parents are loyal. Continue reading

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.

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

We need more trust in political leaders and more community engagement alongside a measured dose of healthy scepticism

Matthew Flinders suggests that the idea that we should not be too trusting of leaders is simplistic. He argues that, though we should not set people or institutions up to the heights where they cannot do anything but fail, it would be quite wrong to suggest that individuals cannot make a positive difference, or to deny that some politicians have in fact delivered on their promises.  

Justin Welby recently used his first Easter sermon as Archbishop of Canterbury to warn of the dangers of investing too much faith in frail and fallible human leaders, be they politicians or priests. Blind belief in the power of any single individual to bring about true change in any sphere, he argued, was simplistic and wrong, and led inevitably to disillusionment and disappointment. Surely this was the point in the sermon when a member of his flock was duty-bound to heckle ‘But what about that bloke called Jesus!’ Unfortunately, good manners triumphed and the leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans was able to continue his sermon. ‘Put not your trust in new leaders, better systems, new organisations or regulatory reorganisation’ he told the congregation at Canterbury cathedral. ‘They may well be good and necessary, but will to some degree fail. Human sin means pinning hopes on individuals is always a mistake, and assuming that any organisation is able to have such good systems that human failure will be eliminated is naïve’. 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

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 decline in party membership across Europe means that political parties need to reconsider how they engage with the electorate

Is party membership still an important part of European political systems? Ingrid van Biezen outlines results from a study, co-authored with Peter Mair and Thomas Poguntke, of party membership rates in 27 European democracies. She notes that party membership levels vary significantly between European countries, with Austria and Cyprus containing the highest levels as a percentage of national electorates. Despite this variation numbers are declining in almost all of the countries studied, which may mean that parties have to reconsider the forms of organisation appropriate to politics in the 21st century.

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

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, political parties in European democracies have clearly lost the capacity to engage citizens in the way they once did. There is scarcely any other indicator relating to mass politics in Europe that reveals such a strong and consistent trend as that which we see with respect to the dramatic decline of party membership. 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