How democratic are the reformed electoral systems used in Britain’s devolved governments and English mayoral elections?

How democratic are the reformed electoral systems used in Britain’s devolved governments and English mayoral elections?

As part of our 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Patrick Dunleavy and the Democratic Audit team examine how well citizens are represented by the two main reformed electoral systems used in the UK – the ‘additional members system’ (AMS) and the ‘supplementary vote’ (SV). How successful have they been in showing the way for more modern electoral systems to work well under British political conditions?

How democratic is the Westminster ‘plurality rule’ electoral system?

How democratic is the Westminster ‘plurality rule’ electoral system?

In the first part of our 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Patrick Dunleavy examines a topic of foundational importance for any liberal democracy – how well does the electoral system (in this case the Westminster plurality rule, aka ‘first-past-the-post’) convert votes into seats? A sudden growth in two-party support in 2017 allowed the UK’s ancient voting system to work far more proportionately. But is this outcome a one-off blip, or the start of a new long-term trend?

Book Review | The People vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and How We Can Save It) by Jamie Bartlett

Book Review | The People vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and How We Can Save It) by Jamie Bartlett

In The People vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and How We Can Save It), Jamie Bartlett offers an incisive account of the key challenges that Western democracy faces in light of the growing power of technology companies, presented alongside twenty suggestions for how to save it. While it could attend more to the role of capitalism in fostering such behaviour, the book will help readers formulate the questions that need to be asked of the technology surrounding us, recommends Kevin Seidler. 

Posted in: Book reviews
Digital campaigning and the GetUp effect in Australia’s 2016 election

Digital campaigning and the GetUp effect in Australia’s 2016 election

GetUp is a unique political organisation in Australian politics. Since their formation in mid-2005 they have accrued over 1,000,000 members, and fundraise about $8 million annually, from mostly small donations. In 2016 they had their most successful election campaign so far, writes Ariadne Vromen, in terms of both member mobilisation and political impact.

Understanding the ‘rise’ of the radical left in Europe: it’s not just the economy, stupid

Understanding the ‘rise’ of the radical left in Europe: it’s not just the economy, stupid

A considerable amount of attention has been paid to understanding the electoral rise of populist radical right parties in Europe. However, much less research has focused on understanding the recent electoral fortunes of the populist radical left across Europe. James F. Downes, Edward Chan, Venisa Wai and Andrew Lam argue that three key factors, in the form of the 2008–13 economic crisis, the decline of the centre left and Euroscepticism can partly explain the post-crisis electoral growth of populist radical left parties in Europe. In addition, it is important to note that this electoral growth is higher than centre left and right parties, but considerably lower than populist radical right parties.

Posted in: EU politics
Unionism versus self-interest: would MPs support Proportional Representation?

Unionism versus self-interest: would MPs support Proportional Representation?

In light of the electoral divergence between the UK’s constituent nations, and the real danger of a break-up of the Union, Klaus Stolz makes the case for Proportional Representation. He explains, however, that reform will be a choice between the collective self-interest of Labour and Conservative MPs on the one hand, and their ideological values on the other.

How to maintain high ethical standards in local government: a perspective on the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review so far

How to maintain high ethical standards in local government: a perspective on the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review so far

Colin Copus offers his perspective on some of the evidence heard so far by the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review into ethical standards in local government. He argues that it is a difficult task to balance the issues at stake in refining the current system. There are also important arguments surrounding whether or not to nationalise or localise standards in local government. But the work of the Committee is vital if we are to maintain high standards of ethical behaviour in local government.

Book Review | The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment edited by Julian Zelizer

Book Review | The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment edited by Julian Zelizer

With The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment, editor Julian Zelizer brings together contributors to reflect on different aspects of the Obama administration, from social, economic and legal issues to foreign policy. Jonny Hall explores how the volume grapples particularly with the themes (and frustrations) of Tea Party obstructionism, Obama’s failure to live up to the expectations established by his 2008 campaign and the potential impact of the Trump presidency on his predecessor’s legacy. 

Posted in: Book reviews
‘New poll suggests…’: How to tell when public opinion has really changed

‘New poll suggests…’: How to tell when public opinion has really changed

Every day we are being presented with new opinion polls on various social and political issues, but do these really represent public attitudes? Using a statistical method called bootstrapping to estimate sampling variance, Patrick Sturgis and Jouni Kuha explain how such an approach can improve the quality of debate about UK public opinion.

Does democratic discontent foster support for challenger parties?

Does democratic discontent foster support for challenger parties?

Established parties across Europe are being challenged by the growth in new parties on the left and right. To assess the extent to which support for challenger parties is a result of dissatisfaction with existing democratic practices, Enrique Hernández has developed a model to distinguish different forms of democratic discontent. He finds that the specific focus of a voter’s democratic discontent shapes their support for these parties, and that this varies between left- and right-wing challenger parties.

Posted in: Populism