Author Archive: Democratic Audit UK

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‘How We Vote’: British Columbia faces a complex choice about its electoral system

‘How We Vote’: British Columbia faces a complex choice about its electoral system

British Columbia’s voters face their third referendum on reforming the province’s electoral system. Christopher Stafford looks at the choices they face, and notes that the participation (or not) of undecided voters will be key to the result of this postal-vote referendum.

Book Review | Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing by John Boughton

Book Review | Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing by John Boughton

In Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing, John Boughton offers a compelling and grounded biography of council housing in England, enlivened by his deep familiarity with the developments he describes. While more convinced by the historical analysis than the more polemical aspects of the author’s arguments, John P. Houghton finds the book a worthy addition to understandings of council housing. 

How democratic is the UK’s basic constitutional law?

How democratic is the UK’s basic constitutional law?

The foundations of any liberal democracy lie with its constitutional arrangements, the key means by which the powers of the state are specified, distributed across different institutions and regulated. Constitutions set out how the state is structured, what its major institutions are, and what basic principles govern their relations with each other and with citizens. In the UK these provisions are famously diverse and uncodified, with no single written ‘constitution’ document. Michael Gordon looks at how to assess the democratic basis of constitutional law, and how well recent experience suggests that the UK has been performing.

Do party leaflets and canvass visits increase voter turnout?

Do party leaflets and canvass visits increase voter turnout?

Experiments in the US consistently find that Get Out The Vote campaigns boost participation at election time. Is the same true for Britain? Using a field experiment carried out in cooperation with the Liberal Democrats in May 2017, Joshua Townsley finds that leaflets and canvass visits did boost turnout, but that postal voters were unaffected by campaign contact.

Book Review | The Political Class: Why It Matters Who Our Politicians Are by Peter Allen

Book Review | The Political Class: Why It Matters Who Our Politicians Are by Peter Allen

In The Political Class: Why It Matters Who Our Politicians Are, Peter Allen lays out the case for and against the dominance of formal politics by a narrow social group – as well as pointing to the ways we could and should change things. Diverse audiences will find much in Allen’s balanced and thoughtful book, recommends Lawrence McKay, which retains an impressive clarity through its engaging style.

Opening up Pandora’s box? How centre-right parties can outperform the radical right on immigration

Opening up Pandora’s box? How centre-right parties can outperform the radical right on immigration

It is often assumed that populist radical-right parties have dominated European politics throughout the refugee crisis period (2015–18) and laid claim to the immigration issue. James F. Downes, Matthew Loveless and Andrew Lam argue that this narrative is far too simplistic and that incumbent (governing) centre-right parties have responded to the electoral threat of the radical right by highlighting their own anti-immigrant positions. This strategy has helped the centre right to outperform the far right and even offset electoral challenges from them. However, it may also be a double-edged sword that benefits the radical right in the longer term.

How accountable are the UK’s security and intelligence services to Parliament?

How accountable are the UK’s security and intelligence services to Parliament?

For our 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Sean Kippin and the Democratic Audit team assess the ways in which the UK’s four main security services are scrutinised, to ensure that they are operating legally and in the public interest. For matters that must be kept secret, ‘compromise’ forms of scrutiny have now been developed in Parliament. But how effectively or independently do they work?

How undemocratic is the House of Lords?

How undemocratic is the House of Lords?

For our 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Sonali Campion, Sean Kippin and the Democratic Audit team examine how the UK’s deeply controversial current second chamber, the House of Lords, matches up to the criteria for liberal democracies with bi-cameral legislatures. Now an almost-all appointed Chamber, the Lords has achieved recent prominence on Brexit and tax credits by exerting some bipartisan influence moderating Commons proposals. However, its members remain creatures of patronage, and wholly unaccountable to the UK’s citizens. All parties except the Tories now support its replacement by an elected Senate. Increasingly only the Tories and Liberal Democrats are still appointing any peers – although there are also a fifth of peers who are ‘crossbenchers’, not taking a party whip.

Book Review | How Democracy Ends by David Runciman

Book Review | How Democracy Ends by David Runciman

Is democracy in crisis? In How Democracy Ends, David Runciman offers a compelling and convincing account of the state of democracy today, separating clear threats from alarmism in an accessible, well-written and thoughtful book. Sean Kippin recommends this to anyone seeking to understand our current predicament and the future paths for democracy – if any – ahead. 

Patriotism, pessimism and politicians: understanding the vote to Leave

Patriotism, pessimism and politicians: understanding the vote to Leave

Ben Worthy reflects on the numerous overlapping reasons for the Brexit vote, the parallels with previous elections, and why a second vote risks exacerbating the anti-elite sentiments that underpinned it.