Micro-institutions in liberal democracies: what they are and why they matter

Micro-institutions in liberal democracies: what they are and why they matter

Liberal democracies combine core ‘macro-institutions’ (like free elections and control by legislatures) with swarms of supportive ‘micro-institutions’. By contrast, semi-democracies keep only the façade of macro-institutions, subverting a range of critical micro-institutions so as to make political competition and popular control a hollow sham. Drawing on a new book, Patrick Dunleavy explains why these developments mean that political science has to get a lot more granular and sophisticated, instead of focusing just on ‘toy models’.

Auditing the UK’s democracy in 2018: Core UK governance institutions show sharply declining efficacy

Auditing the UK’s democracy in 2018: Core UK governance institutions show sharply declining efficacy

Today we are publishing The UK’s Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit, a systematic assessment of the country’s democratic institutions, large and small. Previous audits of the UK’s democracy, including the most recent in 2012, have generally found that, overall, the quality of our democratic institutions have improved over the past twenty years. However, Patrick Dunleavy and Alice Park find that this year’s Audit shows unprecedented declines in the core institutions of the UK’s democratic system, particularly at the centre.

In comparative league tables of liberal democracies the UK’s democracy is judged to be First Division, but not Premier League

In comparative league tables of liberal democracies the UK’s democracy is judged to be First Division, but not Premier League

Ranking established liberal democracies against countries that are still developing a democratic polity risks awarding the long-lived countries ‘ceiling’ scores at the top of the table – feeding complacency amongst their elites and domestic publics that they can now rest easy on their laurels. However quantitative rankings typically do not treat the UK in this manner. Instead they assign it to a ‘good but not great’ category, well behind the states leading democratic good practice. For our new book, The UK’s Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit, Patrick Dunleavy explores why.

Youthquake 2017: how the rise of young cosmopolitans in Britain could transform politics

Youthquake 2017: how the rise of young cosmopolitans in Britain could transform politics

In a new book, James Sloam and Matt Henn examine the much-disputed rise in political participation of 18–24 year olds in the UK. They find that the overwhelming majority share a set of cosmopolitan cultural values, which has significant implications for long-term voting patterns and the increasingly entrenched intergenerational politics.

How democratic and effective are the UK’s civil service and public services management systems?

How democratic and effective are the UK’s civil service and public services management systems?

Citizens and civil society have most contact with the administrative apparatus of the UK state, whose operations can powerfully condition life chances and experiences. In an article from our forthcoming book, The UK’s Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit, Patrick Dunleavy considers the responsiveness of traditionally dominant civil service headquartered in Whitehall, and the wider administration of key public services, notably the NHS, policing and other administrations in England. Are public managers at all levels of the UK and England accountable enough to citizens, public opinion and elected representatives and legislatures? And how representative of, and in touch with, modern Britain are public bureaucracies?

How democratic and effective are the UK’s core executive and government?

How democratic and effective are the UK’s core executive and government?

In an article from our forthcoming publication, The UK’s Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit, Patrick Dunleavy looks at how well the dominant centre of power in the British state operates – spanning the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Cabinet committees, ministers and critical central departments. How accountable and responsive to Parliament and the public is this ‘core executive’? And how effective are these key centres of decision-making and the rest of Whitehall government, in making policy? Do they consistently serve UK citizens’ interests?

‘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. 

Posted in: Book reviews
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.