Achieving accountable government

Does the House of Commons have power without influence?

Does the House of Commons have power without influence?

The impasse over the Withdrawal Agreement has highlighted the inability of the House of Commons to shape the substance of the Brexit deal. There is a growing sense of frustration at the apparent unwillingness of MPs to face up to the limited choices before them, writes Jack Simson Caird. A key lesson from the Article 50 process is that the UK needs a parliamentary system which is more oriented towards consensus and that is less adversarial, he concludes.

This government has already lost the confidence of the House of Commons: the response should be to replace the government, not to neuter parliament

This government has already lost the confidence of the House of Commons: the response should be to replace the government, not to neuter parliament

The government and Parliament cannot agree how to proceed with Brexit. For some, the solution is for the government to prorogue Parliament and implement its Withdrawal Agreement without the confidence of the Commons. David Howarth argues that given the Fixed Term Parliament Act means a general election will not necessarily follow from such a loss of confidence, a new government formed by MPs from across the Commons is a viable option.

Can voters influence social policy?

Can voters influence social policy?

One of the fundamental promises of electoral democracy is that voters influence governments’ policies. However, whether voters actually have such an influence remains an open question, with recent public debate and academic research often answering ‘no’. In a large-scale study of citizens’ preferences, Marc Hooghe, Ruth Dassonneville and Jennifer Oser investigate the extent to which there is a relationship between the political position of citizens and social policy in a broad range of countries over time. They find that, while there is no direct correlation between citizens’ preferences and their country’s social policy, high electoral turnout and the composition of the governing cabinet do have an effect.

Political knowledge and populist attitudes influence voter preferences for government formation

Political knowledge and populist attitudes influence voter preferences for government formation

Government formation in multiparty systems requires election losers to concede victory to the winners and, more often than not, winners to compromise to form a coalition government. Why will some voters concede victory to the winning party but others won’t? And what influences their openness to other parties during coalition talks? Looking at evidence from Austria, a multiparty system at the heart of Europe, Carolina Plescia and Jakob-Moritz Eberl find that, even after controlling for party preferences and ideology, political knowledge and populist attitudes are essential in explaining voters’ willingness or unwillingness to accept these fundamental prerequisites of coalition bargaining and political compromise.

The US Congress understands the importance of Special Forces oversight, why doesn’t the UK Parliament?

The US Congress understands the importance of Special Forces oversight, why doesn’t the UK Parliament?

The US Congress has recently ordered a review of the country’s special operations forces – something that the UK Parliament is unable to do. As special forces are increasingly used in actions overseas, and face growing questions about accountability and resources, Liam Walpole argues it is time for the UK government to abandon its outdated attitude and allow for the democratic oversight of special forces in Parliament.

Donald Trump: openness, secrets and lies

Donald Trump: openness, secrets and lies

Many politicians use the rhetoric of open government, but operate with a lack of transparency. Ben Worthy and Marlen Heide consider the Trump presidency in these terms, and find that, for all the lies, there is also an unintentional openness – and it is not yet clear which of these tendencies will weaken the presidency most.

Behind the scenes of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition

Behind the scenes of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition

The UK’s Coalition government of 2010–15 was established with an array of formal agreements and rules for cooperation. However, finds Felicity Matthews, the informal norms and micro-level practices of individual relationships were critical to its operation. This opens up a new area in research, which focuses on the detailed practices of multi-party governance. 

The House of Commons and the Brexit deal: A veto player or a driver of policy?

The House of Commons and the Brexit deal: A veto player or a driver of policy?

If, as expected, the House of Commons rejects Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, could it step in to determine what happens next? The House of Commons has not had to run anything directly since the Civil War in the 17th century, writes Andrew Kennon, and so could not long term: our political system depends on a government taking responsibility.

They’re making a list: the inexorable rise of the special political adviser

They’re making a list: the inexorable rise of the special political adviser

The government has released its annual data on the number of special advisers it employs. Andrew Defty assesses the figures and discusses how the numbers have grown over successive governments.

Many interest groups are more in line with public preferences than commonly thought

Many interest groups are more in line with public preferences than commonly thought

While some see lobbying as a threat to democracy, others portray interest groups as an important link between the public and the political system. But to what extent do interest groups actually support what the public wants? Linda Flöthe and Anne Rasmussen present a detailed cross-national comparison of congruence between interest groups and the public. They illustrate that despite the negative image of interest groups in politics, their positions are in line with public opinion more than half the time. Moreover, while business interests are often feared the most, a sizable share of them hold preferences in line with a majority of the public.