Author Archive: Democratic Audit UK

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Book Review | Democracy Under Threat edited by Surendra Munshi

Book Review | Democracy Under Threat edited by Surendra Munshi

In Democracy Under Threat, editor Surendra Munshi brings together twenty contributors to explore the challenges facing democracy globally. While the collection largely avoids examining the role of capitalism in undermining democracy, this is a well-edited, stimulating and distinctive book that is highly recommended by Luke Martell.

Are UK elections conducted with integrity, with sufficient turnout?

Are UK elections conducted with integrity, with sufficient turnout?

Across the world, there are many countries where elections take place but are rigged by governments or unfairly conducted. And even in core liberal democracies (like the United States) political parties have now become deeply involved in gerrymandering constituencies and partisan efforts at ‘voter suppression’. As part of our 2018 Democratic Audit, Toby S James looks at how well elections are run in the UK, and whether the systems for registering voters and encouraging turnout are operating effectively and fairly.

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

Brexit has become highly politicised in Northern Ireland. A damaging chasm is opening up between the two political blocs, and between the British and Irish governments, on the EU backstop. Mary C Murphy argues that a compromise formula is possible, but the lack of devolved government means new efforts – and new forums – will be needed to break the stalemate.

Should the rest of the EU follow Austria in reducing the voting age to 16?

Should the rest of the EU follow Austria in reducing the voting age to 16?

For the last decade, Austria has been the only country in the EU that allows voting at the age of 16 at all political levels. Paul Schmidt assesses whether this could offer a future model for the EU, and the possible lessons that can be learned from the Austrian experience.

The electoral decline of social democratic parties and the rise of the radical right in Europe during the refugee crisis

The electoral decline of social democratic parties and the rise of the radical right in Europe during the refugee crisis

Social democratic parties have experienced a significant electoral decline across Europe in recent years. James F. Downes and Edward Chan draw on the latest election data in demonstrating that social democratic parties have lost out considerably in the ongoing refugee crisis period, with populist radical right parties gaining considerably from this decline and achieving a high degree of electoral success at the ballot box. These results have important implications for the future of social democratic parties and for liberal democracy across Europe.

Book Review | Government by Referendum by Matt Qvortrup

Book Review | Government by Referendum by Matt Qvortrup

In Government by Referendum, Matt Qvortrup makes the case that rather than pose a challenge to democracy, referendums are a force for good and can work to enhance it, provided they are not exploited opportunistically by governments and politicians. This concise book contains many thought-provoking observations and factual details, finds Chris Stafford, that serve to underscore its key message that referendums should be embraced by the public and demanded more regularly. 

The results of the 2018 voter ID pilots and why this is not the time for a national roll-out

The results of the 2018 voter ID pilots and why this is not the time for a national roll-out

Ben Stanford looks at the results of the voter ID pilot scheme used in the 2018 local elections in England and the potential implications of a national roll-out. He concludes that, given the current levels of voter apathy, such fundamental reforms may end up discouraging even more individuals from voting.

Do election handouts actually ‘buy’ votes?

Do election handouts actually ‘buy’ votes?

Vote-buying is generally seen as detrimental for democracies. However, the efficacy of such bribes has rarely been studied. Jenny Guardado and Leonard Wantchékon find that there is little correlation between election handouts and support for the parties offering them. Possible explanations include the secrecy of the ballot and multiple opposing parties buying votes, and so we should be cautious about assuming they are effective.

Book Review | The Good Politician: Folk Theories, Political Interaction and the Rise of Anti-Politics by Nick Clarke et al

Book Review | The Good Politician: Folk Theories, Political Interaction and the Rise of Anti-Politics by Nick Clarke et al

In The Good Politician: Folk Theories, Political Interaction and the Rise of Anti-Politics, Nick Clarke et al offer a long-view account of the growing negative perception of the activities and institutions of formal politics in the UK and consider how citizens evaluate politicians. This is a rich, multi-layered and original take on the rise of anti-political sentiment, recommends Peter Allen, which sheds particular light on the myriad tensions shaping today’s political landscape. 

Ending UK involvement in torture: lip service is not enough

Ending UK involvement in torture: lip service is not enough

The Intelligence and Security Committee recently published its report on British involvement in torture up to 2010 and as part of the ‘war on terror’. Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael comment on the report, and explain how the government must respond in order to comply with its human rights obligations.