Achieving accountable government

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.

Why it’s not just about the outcome: citizens also care about democratic decision-making

Why it’s not just about the outcome: citizens also care about democratic decision-making

 A well-known claim for citizens’ involvement in politics is that, when things are going well, they care little about participating in decision-making processes. Michael A. Strebel, Daniel Kübler and Frank Marcinkowski test this claim, and find that, in fact, democratic participation and transparency matter for citizens too, independently of the specific policy outcome.

Making a 21st century constitution: the rules we have established for democracies are now outdated

Making a 21st century constitution: the rules we have established for democracies are now outdated

Democratic constitutions are unfit for purpose, with governments facing increased pressures from populists and distrust from citizens. The only way to truly solve these problems is through reform, argues Frank Vibert. He draws on his new book on the topic and sets out the ways in which constitutions should be revitalised.

How the Treasury Committee has developed since 1997

How the Treasury Committee has developed since 1997

A close analysis of the Treasury Committee’s recent history shows how it has become a successful example of a House of Commons select committee. It has developed a broad remit for scrutinising high-profile figures and institutions in the financial sector beyond the Treasury department, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, writes Saskia Rombach.

How the partisan context of parliamentary votes affects MPs’ party loyalty on free votes

How the partisan context of parliamentary votes affects MPs’ party loyalty on free votes

To measure the extent to which MPs make decisions about how to vote out of agreement with a policy or party loyalty, Christopher D. Raymond measured the variation in MPs’ voting behaviour in a series of free votes. He found that the closeness of each parliamentary division affected MPs’ voting behaviour, indicating that loyalty to their party, and the desire for a partisan win, has an effect independently of an MP’s own position and the party whip.

Why the Grieve amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill is not unconstitutional

Why the Grieve amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill is not unconstitutional

On Wednesday, 20 June, the House of Commons will consider again amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill intended to give Parliament a meaningful vote on the Brexit negotiations, particularly in the case of no deal being agreed. Ben Margulies considers the constitutional implications of these highly contentious proposals.

Out from the shadows: the case for external oversight of UK Special Forces

Out from the shadows: the case for external oversight of UK Special Forces

While the UK government maintains a strict ‘no comment’ policy about the country’s special forces, allied countries, including the US, allow for parliamentary oversight of their covert military operations. Liam Walpole argues that the UK’s approach lacks democratic accountability and prevents proper evaluation of the military effectiveness of special forces. Options for reform include expanding the Intelligence and Security Committee’s remit to cover special forces.

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly on the 8th Amendment is a model for participatory democracy, which other democratic countries should follow

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly on the 8th Amendment is a model for participatory democracy, which other democratic countries should follow

Ireland’s referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of its constitution, and so liberalise the country’s abortion laws, was preceded by a Citizens’ Assembly which recommended these reforms. This form of democratic participation, which crucially was state funded and informed the Irish government’s approach, is a model for producing better democratic decision making, argues Jack Bridgewater.

The UK government’s imaginative use of evidence to make policy

The UK government’s imaginative use of evidence to make policy

It is a frequent complaint by public policy academics that the UK government does not follow evidence-based policy, and instead cherry-picks research to further its political priorities to produce ‘policy-based evidence’. However, writes Paul Cairney, evidence is used to inform policy in more ways than these two opposing categories suggest. As illustrated by family intervention initiatives, the cynical and short-term use of evidence to make policy in one arena can provide cover for more sincere and long-term policymaking in another.

Are citizens good judges of government performance? Evaluations of promise keeping by governing parties

Are citizens good judges of government performance? Evaluations of promise keeping by governing parties

Only a minority of UK citizens think that politicians generally keep their election promises. However, research by Robert Thomson and Heinz Brandenburg indicates that the public are  good at evaluating whether politicians have kept specific policy pledges, but this is affected by their pre-existing levels of distrust in politicians and in particular parties.