Why it is essential we design the right digital democracy tools to suit local conditions

Why it is essential we design the right digital democracy tools to suit local conditions

Online tools that improve citizens’ access to information about their political system and enable greater democratic participation have become central to the political landscape in many democratic countries. A new report examines how such tools have worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, and finds that they can be effective, as long as initiatives are designed for each country’s circumstances, writes Rebecca Rumbul.

Why can’t some parliamentary select committees get female witnesses?

Why can’t some parliamentary select committees get female witnesses?

In their nearly eponymous 1995 hit, Reverend Black Grape, I’m a Celebrity runners-up and Bargain Hunt cheats, Black Grape, asked ‘Can I get a witness?’ In 2019, why is it that some select committees seemingly find it difficult to get female witnesses to give evidence at their sessions? Marc Geddes, Mark Goodwin, Stephen Holden Bates and Steve McKay find that some of the answer may well be found in the gendered make-up of the committees themselves.

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. 

Book Review | Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain by Mohan Ambikaipaker

Book Review | Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain by Mohan Ambikaipaker

In Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain, Mohan Ambikaipaker offers a new ethnographic study using an ‘activist anthropology’ approach that draws on his longstanding association with the grassroots anti-racism organisation Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) to explore the role that political blackness has played in its fight for racial justice and social change. This is an important book, writes Priyanka deSouza, that foregrounds the experiences of those fighting against institutional racism and is generative of new possibilities for forging solidarity. 

Posted in: Book reviews
‘The ability of the UK Parliament to override a measure made in any part of the United Kingdom is one of the mischiefs in the UK’s constitution that needs fixing.’ Why it is time to reform the Sewel Convention

‘The ability of the UK Parliament to override a measure made in any part of the United Kingdom is one of the mischiefs in the UK’s constitution that needs fixing.’ Why it is time to reform the Sewel Convention

The Sewel Convention, by which the UK’s government normally seeks the consent of the devolved legislatures on matters that come within their competence, is enshrined in legislation. However, writes Matthew Hexter, it remains too weak and a constitutional convention is needed to fundamentally alter the balance of powers between London and the devolved nations.

The slow death of Hungarian popular sovereignty

The slow death of Hungarian popular sovereignty

Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, is often accused of promoting a form of ‘illiberal democracy’, where governance is rooted in the popular support of a majority of the country’s citizens, but without a strong guarantee of minority rights and the rule of law. Lise Esther Herman argues that this criticism, which has been put forward by many of Orbán’s opponents, overlooks that it is not only liberal principles that are being trampled on in Hungary, but also the notion of popular sovereignty itself.

Posted in: EU politics, Populism
Party preferences and prior expectations moderate voters’ perceptions of winning and losing an election

Party preferences and prior expectations moderate voters’ perceptions of winning and losing an election

What is the relationship between who you vote for in an election and satisfaction with the outcome? Looking at evidence from four countries, which span both majoritarian and proportional systems, Carolina Plescia finds that, beyond objective measures of party outcome, public opinion on which party has won or lost is affected by a party’s change in vote share, voters’ expectations, existing party preferences and the electoral system under which it is contested.

Book Review | Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Book Review | Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

In Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Arlie Russell Hochschild explores the ‘deep story’ behind the rise of the Tea Party and Donald Trump in the USA, drawing on close contact with her research subjects over a five-year period of living in Louisiana. While the book may struggle to ultimately explain the origins of this phenomenon, writes Tim Winzler, Hochschild’s intense immersion in the field and her use of interconnected research methods make it a valuable contribution to sociological understanding of this topic. 

Posted in: Book reviews
Labour’s political calculations: explaining the party’s muddled policy on Brexit

Labour’s political calculations: explaining the party’s muddled policy on Brexit

Why is Jeremy Corbyn ignoring calls for a second referendum, despite these being backed by a substantial part of his party’s membership, as well as by non-members? Eric Shaw explains the factors affecting Labour’s inability to agree on a clear and feasible Brexit policy, and warns that inevitably divisive decisions will have to be taken.

Posted in: political parties
Election petitions remain important to the integrity of UK elections, but reforms are urgently needed

Election petitions remain important to the integrity of UK elections, but reforms are urgently needed

Until recently, widespread confidence about the integrity of UK elections meant that almost no information was available about election petitions, the only legal mechanism through which a UK election result can be challenged. Stuart Wilks-Heeg and Caroline Morris present significant new data about elections petitions from 1900 to 2016. Their findings fill an important gap in our historical knowledge about electoral integrity and inform current debates about the need to reform the petition mechanism.