Achieving accountable government

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.

Taking off the blinkers: authoritarian practices in democratic societies

Taking off the blinkers: authoritarian practices in democratic societies

In an era when there is such concern about threats to democracy from ‘authoritarian’ leaders, it is imperative that political science develops a full understanding of authoritarian practices within democratic systems, writes Marlies Glasius. These go beyond electoral malpractice and at their core are patterns of action designed to sabotage accountability.

The government scuppers Leveson Part 2: is Britain’s press undermining democracy?

The government scuppers Leveson Part 2: is Britain’s press undermining democracy?

Recent amendments to the Data Protection Bill, supported by the House of Lords and then narrowly defeated in the Commons, would have revived Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into unlawful conduct and corporate cover-ups in national newspapers. Steven Barnett argues that in opposing Leveson Part 2 the government has surrendered to press lobbying, betrayed promises made to the victims of phone-hacking and undermined the public interest.

Collateral damage or a direct hit? Democratic ideals in the age of Trump

Collateral damage or a direct hit? Democratic ideals in the age of Trump

How robust are American democratic institutions under Trump’s presidency? Jennifer Earl argues that, even if his actions and lies do not amount to a coordinated effort to undermine democracy, the effect will be to systematically weaken the institutions of US democracy in the long term.

Gender and power-sharing – why a Citizens’ Assembly is needed in Northern Ireland

Gender and power-sharing – why a Citizens’ Assembly is needed in Northern Ireland

The prospects for Northern Ireland’s power-sharing democracy look bleak. A Citizens’ Assembly is planned for members of the public to deliberate on the disputed topics. Claire Pierson and Jennifer Thomson argue that these forms of public participation have a particular benefit for the representation of women, and has the potential to break down entrenched party political divides.

How is Oxfam being held accountable over the Haiti scandal?

How is Oxfam being held accountable over the Haiti scandal?

In February 2018, The Times newspaper revealed that Oxfam employees had been accused of sexual exploitation in Haiti. This event sparked a series of other reports about misconduct within major charities, which in turn raised serious questions about accountability in the NGO sector. Domenico Carolei looks at whether the systems of accountability that apply to British NGOs and charities working in poor countries are adequate and comprehensive. And he considers the voices still missing: those of the victims.