Achieving accountable government

Three ways of theorising ‘capture’: when politics and business join together

Three ways of theorising ‘capture’: when politics and business join together

In the strongest-performing liberal democracies the separation of the political sphere from dominant or directly controlling business influences is protected by a range of ‘blocked exchanges’ (in Michael Walzer’s terms). But in authoritarian regimes, semi-democracies and flawed liberal democracies it is common for business interests to take control of the levers of political power acting alongside top politicians, with a joined-up elite or ‘oligarchy’ thereby ‘capturing’ the state. In different forms, this worldwide phenomenon can be seen from Russia to South Africa and from China to Brazil. Frank Vibert outlines three ways of looking at these situations, and stresses the difficulty of identifying and implementing a cure.

Dominic Cummings’s thinking on the civil service is a potent challenge to the Whitehall system – and is likely to be opposed

Dominic Cummings’s thinking on the civil service is a potent challenge to the Whitehall system – and is likely to be opposed

Patrick Diamond discusses Dominic Cummings’s stated intent of imposing disruptive reforms on the civil service, and explains why his rhetoric may prove to be particularly counterproductive in a Conservative Government.

A Conservative majority means parliamentary scrutiny is in danger of being weakened

A Conservative majority means parliamentary scrutiny is in danger of being weakened

Marc Geddes considers the potential impact the recent Conservative victory may have upon parliamentary scrutiny. The size of the majority, the current government’s agenda for legislative reform and the changes to select committee membership may all have a detrimental effect on parliament’s ability to scrutinise government effectively.

The government’s refusal to release the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into Russian activities against the UK is part of a worrying pattern of obstruction and delay

The government’s refusal to release the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into Russian activities against the UK is part of a worrying pattern of obstruction and delay

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has produced a report into Russian interference in UK politics, but it cannot be published without government approval. Andrew Defty explains that Number 10’s failure to release the report before Parliament was dissolved is the latest in a series of government actions that have hindered effective parliamentary scrutiny of the intelligence and security services. Reform to ensure the committee has greater independence from executive obstruction should be considered in the next Parliament.

The rule of law, not the rule of politics

The rule of law, not the rule of politics

Joelle Grogan comments on the UK Supreme Court’s Cherry/Miller No 2 judgment on the government’s attempt to prorogue Parliament. She argues that criticisms of the court as ‘too political’ are misguided, and its ruling defended the rule of law, and upheld the principle that Parliament is at the core of the British constitution.

Press freedom is necessary to advance environmental protections across the globe

Press freedom is necessary to advance environmental protections across the globe

Journalists face increasing threats and obstacles to investigating environmental conditions internationally. In new research, Jeff Ollerton, Matt Walsh and Ted Sullivan find that press freedom goes hand in hand with a higher level of environmental protection. Therefore, for countries to address the climate crisis, they need an open, well-resourced media.

The modern monarchy and prorogation: clearer rules are required

The modern monarchy and prorogation: clearer rules are required

The question of the legality of Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament reaches the Supreme Court this week. In this context, Craig Prescott argues that, if politicians can’t exercise restraint, then clearer rules for when one parliamentary session ends and a new one begins are needed to avoid the politicisation of the modern monarchy.

Can politicians act with impunity? The constitutional principles at stake in the prorogation case

Can politicians act with impunity? The constitutional principles at stake in the prorogation case

In considering whether the recent decision to prorogue Parliament was legal, the English and Scottish courts came to different conclusions because they considered different questions, explains Pippa Catterall, not because Scottish and English public legal approaches differ. She discusses the points of constitutional law that are at stake as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the case.

Brexit shows both the importance of the British Political Tradition and the extent to which it is under threat

Brexit shows both the importance of the British Political Tradition and the extent to which it is under threat

Matt Hall and David Marsh discuss what recent developments in British politics, especially since the election of Boris Johnson, tell us about the British Political Tradition – a view of democracy that emphasises a limited liberal conception of representation, which focuses on the importance of free and fair elections, and a conservative conception of responsibility based on the idea that the ‘executive knows best’.

Theresa May and Boris Johnson: secrecy as statecraft?

Theresa May and Boris Johnson: secrecy as statecraft?

During UK–EU Brexit negotiations, Theresa May pursued a determined path of concealment and non-disclosure. Envisaged as a way to protect herself against political opposition, enhancing her bargaining power vis-à-vis the EU and deliver policy promises, the strategy failed and contributed to the end of her premiership. Ben Worthy and Marlen Heide detail how her case illustrates the powers of increasing transparency expectations and the risks of concealment over longer times or around contentious issues. It provides a useful lesson for her successor.