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  1. Course Overview 1 item
    1. Page Module Basics   Lecturer: Dr Alan Renwick   Office Hours: Wednesdays 11am to 1pm (except in the week of 1st October: 3 to 5pm), 29 Tavistock Square, room 3.15   Teaching: 10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of seminars   Credits: 0.5 Course Units/ 4 US Cre... click to read more
  2. Reading Guide 1 item
    1. This reading list starts with some introductory and general readings and then provides specific readings organized by lecture/seminar topic. You are not expected to read everything on the list, but you should do some reading each week, and you should come prepared to discuss what you have read with others in the class. To prepare for the class you should follow at least the instructions in the "Required Reading" section for each topic. In fact you should aim to spend around five hours reading for the class each week, which is enough to read at least three chapters or articles. On top of this is the reading you will need to do for your presentation and essays.

       

      Most of the readings – including all journal articles, blog posts, and reports, and also many books and book chapters – are available online, at least when you are logged into the UCL system. Readings that are not available online can be found in UCL library, although there are limited copies.  Many items are also held in Senate House library and at the LSE library.

       

      Please note that the reading list is only a starting point.  If you are writing an essay on a topic, you should take the relevant parts of the reading list as your launching pad.  But go beyond it: follow up on items that are cited in these readings that look like they might be interesting; use Google Scholar to find further academic writings; use a general search engine to find other relevant sources.  The more you take control of the subject, working out what you think is important and following up interesting leads, the better you are likely to do.  (But remember, while taking control, you should also listen to what others say: always be open to the possibility that they might change your view.)

  3. General Sources for the Module 41 items
    The readings here may be useful to you across all the topics and assignments.
    1. Textbooks 5 items
      This module is NOT based upon a textbook. We will be seeking to develop our own collective understanding of British politics through the lectures, seminars, and other work, not following a template provided by someone else. Nevertheless, particularly if you have not engaged much with British politics before, you may find it useful to read the relevant sections of a textbook before you embark on the other readings, as those other readings often presume some background familiarity. The following textbooks all offer good introductions. It is worth noting, however, that, at the time of writing (summer 2018), none had been updated since the 2016 Brexit referendum, meaning that all are somewhat out of date.
      1. Exploring British politics - Mark Garnett, Philip Lynch 2016

        Book 

      2. Politics UK - Bill Jones, Philip Norton 2014

        Book 

      3. British Politics - Robert Leach, Bill Coxall, Lynton Robins 2011

        Book 

      4. Government and Politics in Britain - John Kingdom, Paul Fairclough 2014

        Book 

      5. Politics and Governance in the UK - Michael Moran 2015

        Book 

    2. General Books 6 items
      The books here are not textbooks and are therefore not intended to provide comprehensive introductions to the debates. But they do give excellent overviews of many aspects of British politics.
      1. The New British Constitution - Bogdanor, Vernon 2009

        Book  Vernon Bogdanor is one of the UK's leading constitutional scholars. Here he provides an overview of the various aspects of the British political system.

      2. Who Governs Britain? - Anthony King 2015

        Book  This new book is intended for the general reader with an interest in British politics. That means that it presumes no knowledge of political science, but it does suppose a familiarity with what has been happening in the UK in recent years. That does not mean it won't be useful to those of you who haven't been following British politics, but you may find it a tougher read than will the core audience.

      3. The British constitution - Anthony Stephen King 2009

        Book  Each chapter in this book explores a particular part of the British political system. Each one gives an excellent account of what the situation is now and how this has developed over time. The book is now a few years old, but most of its content remains accurate.

      4. Developments in British Politics 10 2016

        Book  This is a latest in a long-running series of books that examine recent developments in British politics. It was published in September 2016, so it is more up-to-date than any of the textbooks. It contains many interesting chapters. The text was, however, all but finalized before the EU referendum in June 2016, so it is already behind the most recent developments in various ways.

      5. Sex, Lies, and the Ballot Box: 50 Things You Need to Know about British Elections 2014

        Book  This is an excellent, recent set of short, readable essays addressing many aspects of electoral politics.

      6. Brexit and British politics - Geoffrey Evans, Anand Menon 2017

        Book  This is a really good introduction to Brexit and (what we can say so far about) the nature of British politics post-Brexit.

    3. Journals 5 items
      Many academic journals contain articles that are useful for this course. This section contains only those that are most relevant. New issues appear several times a year, and new articles appear online throughout the year, whenever they are ready. So do check back regularly. In addition, you can use Google Scholar to search for articles on particular topics across all journals.
      1. The Political Quarterly

        Journal  This is the best journal for up-to-date discussion of key issues in contemporary British politics.

      2. Parliamentary Affairs -

        Journal  Parliamentary Affairs carries valuable articles on all aspects of contemporary British politics: while it is focused particularly on Parliament, it also often ranges more widely.

      3. British Politics

        Journal  British Politics is a bit less headline-chasing than the two journals above, so its articles often give a longer-term perspective on the key debates.

      4. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties -

        Journal  JEPOP (as it is known) covers the topics in its title. It isn't just focused on the UK, but it does contain a lot of UK-specific analysis.

      5. Political Insight

        Journal  This is a magazine containing short scholarly articles on contemporary issues in (mainly) British politics. It is very accessible and often contains useful routes into current topics.

    4. Websites 6 items
      The following provide a good starting point to some of the things you may want to look for:
      1. UK Parliament – Homepage

        Website  The Westminster Parliament's website is a vast and extremely useful resource. It includes the full text of debates in both Houses, committee reports, information on bills going through Parliament, and many other official documents and other useful materials.

      2. UK Parliament – Research Briefings

        Website  The libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords produce huge numbers of useful reports on all political issues – including the sorts of issues that we will be exploring in the module. This is the portal page to all those reports.

      3. How Government Works – gov.uk

        Webpage  The www.gov.uk website is the gateway to the UK government, providing links to various departments, the devolved institutions, and lots of other useful information. The page that is linked to here provides a useful overview.

      4. Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street – gov.uk

        Webpage  The 10 Downing Street website gives details of recent initiatives and also includes general guides to government.

      5. Palgrave Macmillan - Politics and Governance in the UK - Michael Moran

        Webpage  This is the companion website for Michael Moran’s book (see above). Even if you don’t buy the book you can access the reading list and updates taking the material beyond the book's publication date. The most recent edition of the book was published in July 2015, so there are not many updates at the moment. But these will be added to as time goes by.

      6. Constitution Unit

        Webpage  This is the site of the Constitution Unit here at the School of Public Policy, which includes useful updates on recent constitutional reform as well as an archive of publications and a range of links.

    5. Blogs 5 items
      The following blogs all provide useful commentary on major issues in British politics.
    6. News Sources 14 items
      Regularly reading news sources is incredibly important for two reasons. First, it helps you to keep abreast of what is happening in British politics – and there is a lot happening just at the moment! Second, it allows you to see how the different parts of the media world portray politics and how other political actors engage with the media.
      1. Broadcasters 3 items
        1. BBC News

          Webpage  The BBC is by far the UK's biggest news provider in terms of the size of both its operation and its audience. This link takes you to the BBC News website. In addition, look out for programmes on BBC Television and BBC Radio. The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 (6–9am on weekdays; 7–9am on Saturdays) is the most important news programme and plays a large part in setting the political agenda for the day.

        2. Sky News

          Website  Sky (which is part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire) offers a rather more populist, tabloidy take on the news. As well as the website linked here, see also the Sky News television channel.

        3. Channel 4 News

          Website  Channel 4 News is, like BBC News, a serious-minded source. It has much less content than the BBC, but a lot of it is good. Particularly useful is the FactCheck section, where claims that are currently prominent in political debate are carefully scrutinized.

      2. Newspapers 8 items
        1. The Guardian

          Webpage  The UK's premier serious-minded newspaper with a left-of-centre orientation.

        2. The Times

          Webpage  The UK's premier serious-minded newspaper to the right of centre (though also containing a diverse range of voices). Note that the website is behind a paywall.

        3. Daily Telegraph

          Website  The Telegraph is the most widely read right-of-centre newspaper. Given its steady loyalty to the Conservatives, it is sometimes known as the 'Torygraph'.

        4. Financial Times

          Webpage  The Financial Times has the most international approach of any British newspaper. You can read a small number of articles per month without having to pay.

        5. Daily Mail

          Webpage  The Daily Mail was traditionally known as a "mid-market" paper between the broadsheets and the tabloids. But it is now stuffed full of celebrity gossip. It pursues a strongly right-wing political agenda and is the bête noir of the liberal left for its decidedly illiberal stance on matters such as immigration.

        6. Daily Express

          Website  The Daily Express occupies a similar position in the market to the Daily Mail.

        7. The Sun

          Webpage  The Sun is the most widely read newspaper in the UK. It is a tabloid, full of celebrity news. It is to the right of centre politically.

        8. Daily Mirror

          Website  The Daily Mirror is another tabloid. It is the only low-brow newspaper on the left of centre politically.

      3. Web-Only News Sources 3 items
        The main sources for political news in the UK are still the old broadcasters and newspapers – whether in their traditional formats or online. There are also now a few influential online-only news outlets.
        1. The Huffington Post UK

          Website  The Huffington Post UK edition is much the biggest online-only source of news and comment relating to British politics.

        2. politics.co.uk

          Website  The politics.co.uk website is also a good online-only news source.

  4. Topic 1: Brexit Britain: Who Wants What Why? 24 items
    Brexit currently dominates politics in the UK. The course begins by examining how the UK electorate voted for Brexit and why voters remain split down the middle on this issue. By doing so, we explore some of the fundamental underpinnings of politics in the UK: What roles are played by national identities in the UK? What is the role of class and other related factors in UK politics today?
    1. Seminar Questions:

      • What does the 2016 EU referendum campaign tell us about the nature of national identity in the UK today?
      • Is education now the key dividing line in British politics?  If so, why?

    2. Required Reading 3 items
      In advance of the seminar, everyone should read AT LEAST the two readings here AND two further readings from the sections below.
      1. The new politics of class: the political exclusion of the British working class - Geoffrey Evans, James Tilley 2017

        Book Essential UCL username and password required for off-site access. Print version also available below.

      2. The new politics of class: the political exclusion of the British working class - Geoffrey Evans, James Tilley 2017

        Book  Most of this book was written before the 2016 referendum, but contains crucial background material on the factors that shape political attitudes and voting patterns in the UK. The postscript then provides an analysis of the referendum. Please read AT LEAST Chapter 1 (Introduction) and Chapter 10 (Postscript).

    3. Further Reading: The Brexit Referendum 13 items
      The readings in this section offer a variety of perspectives on the Brexit referendum. Most examine voting patterns, at least in part. Many also look at the nature of the campaign.
      1. 'A Nation Divided' - Robert Ford, Matthew Goodwin 2017

        Article 

      2. 'How Brexit was made in England' - Ailsa Henderson, Charlie Jeffery, Dan Wincott, Richard Wyn Jones November 2017

        Article 

      3. 'Who voted for Brexit? A comprehensive district-level analysis' - Sascha O Becker, Thiemo Fetzer, Dennis Novy October 2017

        Article 

      4. 'How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday... and why' - Lord Ashcroft Polls - Lord Ashcroft 24 June 2016

        Webpage  Most - though not all - of the political scientists who write about the UK and the EU favour the UK's EU membership. It is useful, therefore to see the perspective of someone who publicly announced that he would vote to leave. Lord Ashcroft is one such person, and he commissions and writes about many public opinion surveys. Here are the results of his referendum survey.

      5. 'Racism, Crisis, Brexit' - Satnam Virdee, Brendan McGeever August 2018

        Article 

      6. 'Immobility and the Brexit vote' - Neil Lee, Katy Morris, Thomas Kemeny March 2018

        Article 

      7. 'The malaise of the squeezed middle: Challenging the narrative of the ‘left behind’ Brexiter' - Lorenza Antonucci, Laszlo Horvath, Yordan Kutiyski, André Krouwel June 2017

        Article 

      8. EU Referendum Analysis 2016: Media, Voters and the Campaign July 2016

        Book  This book came out just after the 2016 referendum. It contains lots of very short and very interesting analyses of the campaign. Feel free to read a selection of the chapters that most interest you.

    4. Further Reading: Explorations of the Nature of Britishness 5 items
      We won't focus on these readings in the seminar. But you might find them useful: they all date from before the Brexit referendum, so they give a less time-specific sense of debates about the nature of 'Britishness'.
      1. "What is Britishness? Citizenship, Values and Identity", Red Pepper - David Beetham 2008

        Webpage  This blog post is written from the position of a left-wing intellectual

      2. "Britishness in the 21st Century" - Linda Colley 8 December 1999

        Document  This was a lecture given to the prime minister, Tony Blair, and guests, at 10 Downing Street. It was a response to growing government and public interest in the notion of "British identity".

      3. “Nation and Empire: English and British National Identity in Comparative Perspective” - Krishan Kumar 2000

        Article  This essay gives useful comparative and theoretical perspective on the nature of Britishness.

      4. "(Re)imagining Magna Carta: Myth, Metaphor and the Rhetoric of Britishness" - Judi Atkins July 2016

        Article  This very recent article looks at the very recent rhetoric of 'Britishness' used by political leaders in the UK.

      5. Roundtable on English Nationalism and Euroscepticism, British Politics, September 2015 - Michael Kenny, Chris Gifford, Emma Vines, Ben Wellings

        Article  These four very short articles are responses to a recent book on the relationship between English national identity and Euroscepticism. You don't need to read the book - you will get the gist of what it says by reading these responses, which say a lot about the ideas about nation that may have shaped the EU referendum of June 2016.

    5. Further Reading: Class in British Politics 2 items
      The stereotype of Britain is that it is a country in which social class matters. People's social class was clearly important in mid-20th century to their attitudes and how they voted. There is much debate about what has happened since then. The required reading above by Geoffrey Evans and James Tilley is a crucial recent contribution to this debate. The readings here offer useful perspectives.
      1. Symposium: James Tilley and Geoffrey Evans, The New Politics of Class - Harold D. Clarke, Eric Kaufmann, Rachel Reeves, Mike Savage 2017

        Article  The required reading above by Geoffrey Evans and James Tilley is a crucial recent contribution to this debate. This symposium continues the discussion. You will need to scroll down a bit to find the symposium. Once there, you will find four responses to Evans and Tilley's book - by Harold D. Clarke, Eric Kaufmann, Rachel Reeves, and Mike Savage - followed by a reply to these by Tilley and Evans. All of these are very short and all are worth reading.

      2. "Class" - Fiona Devine

        Chapter  This chapter examines the nature of class - and particularly class inequality - as it actually exists in British society, and at how this has changed over time.

  5. Topic 2: Gender and Race/Ethnicity in Contemporary British Politics 35 items
    In this second topic, we continue to explore the sociological underpinnings of politics in the UK by considering the roles played by gender and by ‘race’ or ethnicity.
    1. Seminar Questions: 

      • To what extent is politics in the UK less gendered today than in the past?
      • What roles does ethnicity play in UK politics today?

    2. Required Reading 2 items
      Please read AT LEAST the two readings in this section AND two further readings from the sections below.
      1. 'More Stable than Strong: Women’s Representation, Voters and Issues' - Emily Harmer, Rosalynd Southern March 2018

        Article  This is a study of the role of gender in the 2017 general election and provides a fascinating, up-to-date overview of many aspects of the topic.

    3. Further Reading: Gender 9 items
      Gender, of course, has many aspects and can influence politics in enormously many ways. The readings here offer a variety of ways of thinking about a range of aspects - though, of course, they cannot cover everything.
      1. "Gender" - Fiona MacKay

        Chapter  This is a recent overview of and a good way into the topic of gender in British politics.

      2. “Women Acting for Women? An Analysis of Gender and Debate Participation in the British House of Commons, 2005–2007” - Ana Catalano

        Article  One of the key issues in debates about women's representation is whether having more women in Parliament (more 'descriptive' representation for women) leads to debates and policy outcomes that better reflect women's interests and concerns (more 'substantive' representation). This article offers empirical analysis of that issue.

      3. "The Gender of News and News of Gender: A Study of Sex, Politics, and Press Coverage of the 2010 British General Election" - Karen Ross, Elizabeth Evans, Lisa Harrison, Mary Shears January 2013

        Article  Gaining perspective across multiple elections is valuable. This article provides a good analysis of media reporting of the 2010 general election.

      4. "Men Writing about Men: Media and the UK General Election 2015", Loughborough University Communication Research Centre - Emily Harmer 22 May 2015

        Webpage  This blog post provides the results of detailed media analysis of the degree to which women were present in reporting of the 2015 general election campaign.

      5. 'UK Election Analysis 2017 - Election Analysis'

        Website  This is a book published shortly after the 2017 general election containing lots of very short chapters analysing different aspects of the election. Please read chapters 21, 39, 51, 52, 53, 87, 88, and 89, all of which explore gender in different ways.

      6. "Gender and the Development of a Political Persona: The Case of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon" - Michael Higgins, Fiona M. McKay 2015 (online-first pre-publication)

        Article  Three out of the four executive leaders in the UK - the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland - are now women. This article examines the degree to which writing about one of them remains gendered.

      7. World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2017

        Document  You may be interested in seeing how the UK compares to other countries in terms of levels of gender inequality. This report offers one perspective on that issue – though you might want to consider whether it measures gender inequality in the ways that you consider most important.

    4. Further Reading: Sexuality in British Politics 4 items
      We are unlikely to have much time in the seminar to explore the issues in these readings, but they nevertheless raise important and fascinating questions.
      1. "Public Opinion toward Homosexuality and Gay Rights in Great Britain" - Ben Clements, Clive D. Field June 2014

        Article  This is a fascinating analysis of changes in public opinion over view.

      2. "Partisan Attachments and Attitudes towards Same-Sex Marriage in Britain" - Ben Clements 01/01/2014

        Article  This is a useful and quick overview of attitudes on this issue.

      3. "Institutionally Homophobic? Political Parties and the Substantive Representation of LGBT People: Westminster and Regional UK Elections 1945–2011" - Paul Chaney January 2013

        Article  This article examines the policies of the various political parties on LGBT matters, as reflected in their election manifestos.

      4. Partisan and religious drivers of moral conservatism: Same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland - Jocelyn Evans, Jonathan Tonge 13/07/2016 - online-first publication

        Article  Most of our readings focus on UK-level politics or on attitudes in Great Britain. This article looks at the very different situation in Northern Ireland.

    5. Further Reading: Race and Ethnicity in British Politics 11 items
      1. Ethnic Heterogeneity in the Social Bases of Voting at the 2010 British General Election - Anthony F. Heath, Stephen D. Fisher, David Sanders, Maria Sobolewska May 2011

        Article 

      2. 'The democratic engagement of Britain's ethnic minorities' - David Sanders, Stephen D. Fisher, Anthony Heath, Maria Sobolewska January 2014

        Article 

    6. Further Reading: Race and Ethnicity in British Society 4 items
      The readings in the preceding section focus mostly on the impact of race/ethnicity on high-level politics. But politics also includes what happens in wider society, and it is important to consider these broader perspectives. The readings here are all valuable. You will find more by searching online.
      1. Brit(ish): on race, identity and belonging - Afua Hirsch 2018

        Book  This book has been very widely discussed. If you can't get hold of a copy or you don't have time to read it, you will find numerous reviews and interviews with the author online.

      2. The reality of being black in today’s Britain', Guardian - David Olusoga 29 October 2016

        Article  This is an excerpt from a book. You are, of course, welcome to read the book too. Available below in the library.

      3. Black and British: a forgotten history - David Olusoga 2016

        Book 

      4. Multicultural Britain in the 21st Century - Opinium research - James Crouch, Priya Minhas 2017

        Document  This report sets out evidence from public opinion research on the attitudes and perceptions of white and BAME Britons on matters of race/ethnicity and culture.

    7. Further Reading: Intersectional Approaches 4 items
      The concept of 'intersectionality' has received less attention in the UK than in the US, but some studies looking (particularly) at gender/ethnicity intersectionality are now available and are well worth reading.
      1. “Intersecting Inequalities: Britain’s Equality Review” - Judith Squires December 2009

        Article  The issue of "intersectionality" – relating to the problems of belonging to multiple cross-cutting minority or disadvantaged groups – has received less attention in the UK than in the United States. This article provides a fairly rare exception to that.

  6. Topic 3: Power at the Centre: Westminster and Whitehall 23 items
    This week we begin an exploration of the institutions of British politics. We begin at the centre, with the core relationship between the legislature (the UK parliament, based in the Palace of Westminster) and the executive (the UK government, based around Whitehall). We look at how these have been theorized, introducing the concepts of the parliamentary system and the ‘Westminster model’. And we look at who they operate in practice.
    1. Seminar Questions:

      • Does the UK's parliamentary system of government make the prime minister less powerful than a president would be?
      • Is the role of the UK Parliament in shaping new laws too weak?

    2. Required Reading 2 items
      Ahead of the seminar, everyone should read each of the readings in this section AND at least one reading from each of the following sections.
      1. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries - Arend Lijphart 2012

        Book  Chapters 2 ("The Westminster Model of Democracy") and 3 ("The Consensus Model of Democracy") are both essential reading - the latter because you can't fully understand something unless you also understand what it isn't.

    3. Further Reading: Parliamentarism and the Prime Minister 9 items
      The UK political system is a parliamentary one rather than a presidential or semi-presidential one. The readings in this section will help you understand this distinction and how the British parliamentary system operates in practice.
      1. "The Prime Ministerialisation of the British Prime Minister" - Keith Dowding July 2013

        Article  This is a response to authors such as Heffernan and Webb, and Foley, so it would be good to read at least one of them first. Note that there are also three short responses to the article immediately following in the same issue of the journal, and these are well worth reading too.

      2. “The British Prime Minister: Much More Than ‘First Among Equals’” - Richard Heffernan, Paul Webb

        Chapter  This chapter examines changes in the role of the British prime minister, and whether the notion of "presidentialization" of that role is useful. The e-book is also available below.

      3. The British Presidency: Tony Blair and the Politics of Public Leadership - Michael Foley 2000

        Book  This is a classic analysis of the rise of the so-called British "presidency". It is some years old now, so it will be good to consider whether its analysis is still accurate today (if it ever was).

    4. Further Reading: The Influence of Parliament 11 items
      The UK parliament has often been characterized as a weak institution that is dominated by the executive. But many more recent studies suggest otherwise - partly because of changes in the way parliament operates. The readings here discuss.
      1. Actors, Motivations and Outcomes in the Legislative Process: Policy Influence at Westminster - Meg Russell, Daniel Gover, Kristina Wollter, Meghan Benton January 2017

        Article 

  7. Topic 4: Political Parties and the Place of Ideology in British Politics 51 items
    The basic character of British politics is shaped not only by the official institutions of the state, but also be the unofficial institutions that occupy state office: political parties. We will have looked at some aspects of parties in topic 3. Here, we focus on the organizational structures of political parties in the UK and on those parties’ agendas. What are parties like as organizations, and how does that shape what they do? What ideological families do they belong to? Do they compete for votes mainly on the basis of ideology or more on other grounds? Do voters adhere to particular ideologies or are they interested in other things?
    1. Seminar Questions:

      • What is the power of party members in the UK? Is this good or bad for British politics?
      • What is the place of ideology in British politics today?

    2. Required Reading 2 items
      In advance of the seminar, everyone should read the articles in this section AND at least one reading from the first two Further Reading sections below.
      1. 'The Labour party, Momentum and the problem with intra-party democracy' : Democratic Audit UK - Fabio Wolkenstein 31 October 2016

        Webpage  This is just a short blogpost. It focuses on the current Labour Party, which has seen huge change since 2015. It will be important for you to think about whether what it says can be extended beyond the time in which it was written and whether it also applies to other parties

      2. 'Brexit and the 2017 UK General Election' - Sara B. Hobolt September 2018

        Article  Full analyses of what shaped peoples votes in the 2017 general election is yet to emerge, but this article offers a useful account of what we know so far.

    3. Further Reading: Political Parties and Their Members 10 items
      The role of party members has varied a lot over time and between political parties. It has long been debated in the UK and is in other countries. It is useful to embed our discussions in these longer discussions, so some of the readings here are quite old and others are comparative rather than focusing specifically on the UK. It will be important for you to consider whether and how they are relevant to the UK today.
      1. 'Membership of UK political parties' - House of Commons Library report - Lukas Audickas, Noel Dempsey, Richard Keen 3 September 2018

        Document 

    4. Further Reading: Valence Politics 3 items
      One view of the role of ideology in British politics is that it really does not matter: at elections, voters do not choose between parties on the basis of ideology. This idea rose to prominence in the first fifteen years of the 21st century, but has been severely challenged since then. The readings here explore that approach.
      1. "Valence Politics': How Britain Votes Now" - David Denver May 2005

        Article  This article focuses on the degree to which ideology is a factor shaping voting behaviour. There is one key book that has transformed the debate on this issue. That book is, however, an extremely difficult read. This review of the book provides a short, readable summary and assessment of the main argument.

      2. "Valence Politics and Electoral Choice in Britain, 2010" - Harold Clarke, David Sanders, Marianne Stewart, Paul Whiteley May 2011

        Article  The authors of this article are the leading exponents of the 'valence politics' view of voting. Here they apply that to the 2010 election.

      3. “Owning the Issue Agenda: Party Strategies and Vote Choices in British Elections” - Jane Green, Sara B. Hobolt September 2008

        Article  This article goes further in considering the importance of ideology and other factors in shaping who voters vote.

    5. Further Reading: Ideology and Voters' Relations with Parties 5 items
      Some of the readings here come from before 2015 and, even then, disputed the 'valence politics' thesis. Others are more recent and seek to understand developments in the last few years.
      1. "The Declining Representativeness of the British Party System, and Why It Matters" - Heinz Brandenburg, Robert Johns December 2014

        Article  This fasinating article argues that the weakness of ideology's role in British electoral politics has negative consequences.

      2. "Ideological Quietism? Ideology and Party Politics in Britain" - Katharine Dommett September 2014

        Article  This article has a different take on the issues, looking at why it *appears* that ideology is not important.

      3. "Downs and Two-Party Convergence" - Bernard Grofman 2004

        Article  This article is not focused specifically on the UK. But it provides a good overview of big theoretical debates about whether we should expect parties to converge on the ideological centre ground in the context of two-party politics.

      4. "The Marriage of Politics and Marketing" - Jennifer Lees-Marshment September 2001

        Article  This is an interesting take on the ways in which parties can use marketing techniques during election campaigns.

      5. 'Brexit or Corbyn? Campaign and Inter-Election Vote Switching in the 2017 UK General Election' - Jonathan Mellon, Geoffrey Evans, Edward Fieldhouse, Jane Green October 2018

        Article 

    6. Further Reading: The Conservative Party and Conservatism 14 items
      1. "Theorising Cameronism" - Peter Kerr, Christopher Byrne, Emma Foster May 2011

        Article  This is quite an early take on the question of whether it is meaningful to talk of 'Cameronism'.

      2. The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron - Tim Bale 2010

        Book  The best recent analysis of the modern Conservative Party.

      3. ‘The weaker-willed, the craven-hearted’ : the decline of One Nation Conservatism - Peter Dorey, Mark Garnett 2015

        Article  Digitised reading. Also available in the Teaching Collection, Main library at MAIN 4047.

    7. Further Reading: The Labour Party and It's Ideology 10 items
      1. "New Ideologies for Old?" - Andrew Vincent January 1998

        Article 

      2. "The Ideology of New Labour" - Michael Freeden January 1999

        Article 

      3. "Labour's New Labour Legacy: Politics after Blair and Brown" - Richard Heffernan May 2011

        Article  A useful review of the impact of the Blair–Brown years on the Labour Party. It is particularly interesting to read this in light of the recent Labour leadership contest, and to consider what each says about the other.

    8. Useful websites 6 items
      1. UK Polling Report

        Website  This very useful website summarizes and intelligently analyses the latest polls on party support (and some other key issues) in the UK. It also includes links to the main polling organizations, which you might like to follow.

  8. Topic 5: The Media in British Politics 18 items
    The traditional media in the UK – print and broadcast – have some striking features when compared with the media in most other democracies: the tabloid newspapers can be unusually vitriolic; the regulation of broadcasting is unusually tight; and the BBC is unusually dominant. By contrast, the rising digital media raise challenges and opportunities in the UK that are common to those in many other countries. This topic examines the implications of both of these patterns for politics and democracy.
    1. Seminar questions:

      • Do the UK's tabloid newspapers strengthen or weaken British democracy?
      • Does the requirement for political neutrality in broadcasting strengthen or weaken British democracy?
      • Is the rise of digital media strengthening or weakening British democracy?

    2. Required Readings 1 item
      In advance of the seminar, please read AT LEAST the reading here AND two further readings from the sections below.
    3. Further Reading: Traditional Media - Print and Broadcast 8 items
      Even if they are declining in importance, the traditional (print and broadcast) media remain at the heart of British politics. The readings here offer a wide variety of perspectives.
      1. Tony Blair's Reuters Speech on the Media" and responses - Tony Blair and others October–December 2007

        Article  This is a speech that Tony Blair delivered in 2007 shortly before stepping down as Prime Minister. He offered a sharp critique of the impact of the media on British politics. The issue of the journal also contains some interesting responses.

      2. "Public Service and Commercial Broadcasting: Impacts on Politics and Society" - Ken Newton January 2016

        Article  This offers comparative perspective on the value of public-service broadcasting. Of course, you should not take for granted that its rosy view necessarily provides the whole picture!

      3. “May the Weak Force Be with You: The Power of the Mass Media in Modern Politics” - Kenneth Newton March 2006

        Article  Most studies argue that the media are powerful. This article provides a striking counterpoint to that, offering a very different, rigorously researched perspective.

      4. "Why the British Press Is Brilliant" - Stein Ringen 01/09/2003

        Article  This is a short think piece by a highly respected scholar rather than a piece of careful scholarship in itself. It offers an unusual and thought-provoking perspective.

      5. "Sketching Muslims: A Corpus Driven Analysis of Representations Around the Word 'Muslim' in the British Press 1998–2009" - Paul Baker, Costas Gabrielatos, Tony McEnery July 2013

        Article  This article explores the question of whether media representations of Muslims skew public perceptions.

    4. Further Reading: New Media 8 items
      The rise of digital media, especially social media, has begun to change fundamentally the nature of political communications in the UK. This is a fast-moving area, but the studies here offer some valuable recent analyses.
      1. Russian Involvement and Junk News during Brexit – Oxford Internet Institute - Vidya Narayanan, Philip N. Howard, Bence Kollanyi, Mona Elswah 2017

        Webpage 

      2. 'Social Media and News Sources during the 2017 UK General Election' – Oxford Internet Institute - Monica Kaminska, John D. Gallacher, Bence Kollanyi, Taha Yasseri 6 June 2017

        Webpage 

      3. 'Data and Democracy in the Digital Age', The Constitution Society - Julianne Kerr Morrison, Ravi Naik, Stephanie Hankey 10 July 2018

        Document 

  9. Topic 6: The Judiciary and Human Rights 18 items
    Judges have traditionally had a weaker role in British politics than in the politics of many other democracies, but that has been changing in recent years. This topic explores some of the particular features of judges’ place in British politics, focusing particularly on the degree to which political decision-making is constrained by measures designed to ensure protection of human rights.
    1. Seminar Questions:

      • Are declarations of incompatibility in the UK any different in practice from declarations of unconstitutionality in other countries?
      • How will Brexit affect the role of the courts in British politics?

    2. Required Reading 1 item
      In advance of the seminar, please read the reading here AND at least two further readings from the sections below
      1. "Human rights and the UK constitution", British Academy - Colm O'Cinneide 2012

        Document  This pamphlet provides an overview of the role of the judiciary, particularly in respect of human rights, and how that has changed in recent years.

    3. Further Reading: The Judiciary in British Politics: The Big Picture 4 items
      The first two articles in this section provide contrasting surveys of the changing role of the judiciary in British politics. The remaining readings give broad and very helpful overviews.
      1. "The Westminster Model, Governance and Judicial Reform" - Mark Bevir October 2008

        Article  In this article, Bevir looks at the role of the judiciary under the traditional Westminster Model and then argues that recent reforms have seen a substantial move away from that.

      2. "Labour's 'Juridification' of the Constitution" - Roger Masterman July 2009

        Article  Masterman here gives a sceptical response to Bevir, arguing that there are important checks on the 'juridification' process.

      3. “The Judges Come Out” - Anthony King

        Chapter  This is now a few years out of date, but it still provides an excellent and very readable account of the development of the role of the courts in the British governing system, giving more detail on the period before the Human Rights Act of 1998 than do many other sources.

      4. "Human Rights and the UK Constitution" - Colm O'Cinneide

        Chapter  This chapter provides a very good overview both of the historical development of the role of the courts in human rights matters in the UK and of more recent processes.

    4. Further Reading: The Human Rights Act and Declarations of Incompatibility 7 items
      The Human Rights Act of 1998 is argued by many to have marked a fundamental shift in the role of the judiciary in the British governing system, particularly through the introduction of 'declarations of incompatibility'. But just what its impact has been remains hotly contested.
      1. Ministry of Justice, 'Responding to Human Rights judgments: Report to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Government’s response to Human Rights judgments 2016–17', December 2017

        Document  This is the latest in a series of annual reports on judgements made under the Human Rights Act. The most useful part is the list at the end of 'declarations of incompatibility'.

      2. "The Human Rights Act and Parliamentary Democracy" - K.D. Ewing January 1999

        Article  In this early assessment, the author argued that the Human Rights Act would have a profound effect on the British political system. Note that his later publications (below) take a very different view.

      3. “The Continuing Futility of the Human Rights Act” - K.D. Ewing, Joo-Cheong Tham 2008

        Article  Here, in contrast to Ewing's early work (above), the authors argue that the Human Rights Act has in fact had little effect. The reasoning is very interesting!

      4. "The Resilience of the Political Constitution" - K.D. Ewing 2013

        Article  Ewing here develops further the argument introduced in Ewing and Tham. You will probably find it quite a tough read, but try at least to read sections A, G, and H, which contain most of the key points for our purposes.

      5. "What's so Weak About 'Weak-Form Review'? The Case of the UK Human Rights Act 1998" - Aileen Kavanagh 2015

        Article  This very fresh article provides probably the best detailed analysis of how the Human Rights Act operates in practice.

      6. "What’s so weak about “weak-form review”? A reply to Aileen Kavanagh" - Stephen Gardbaum October 2015

        Article  This isn't as readable as Aileen Kavanagh's article, but it is useful to see a different view.

      7. "The Atrophy of Constitutional Powers" - Adrian Vermeule autumn 2012

        Article  This article takes a more comparative perspective and makes the interesting argument that Parliament's ability to ignore declarations of incompatibility may be very limited.

    5. Further Reading: Brexit and the Courts 5 items
      This is a big topic and, as yet, it is difficult to know what the future might hold. The following readings offer a variety of relevant perspectives. The report by Vernon Bogdanor offers the most direct analysis if the question.
      1. 'The Constitutional Implications of Brexit' - Young, Alison L. 2017

        Article  This is quite a long article, so feel free to skim over the sections that do not relate to 'constitutionalization' and the role of the courts.

      2. 'The European Court of Justice and its political impact' - Michael Blauberger, Susanne K. Schmidt July 2017

        Article  In order to understand the impact of leaving the EU, we need to understand the impact of being in the EU. This is a very useful study of the impact of the court of the European Union - the European Court of Justice. It is not focused specifically on the UK.

      3. 'ECJ Judges Read the Morning Papers. Explaining the Turnaround of European Citizenship Jurisprudence' - Michael Blauberger, Anita Heindlmaier, Dion Kramer, Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen February 2018

        Article  It is sometimes claimed that judges rule within the EU. This interesting study suggests that judges are actually strongly influenced by what happens in the wold of politics.

      4. "The UK and the European Court of Human Rights" – Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report 83 - Alice Donald, Jane Gordon, Philip Leach 2012

        Document  This details report contains a wealth of useful information and analysis. The statistics in Chapter 4 and the analysis of impact in Chapter 5 are particularly useful for our purposes. When reading it, remember that the European Court of Human Rights is NOT an institution of the EU, and the UK's relationship to it will therefore not formally change as a result of Brexit. This is therefore a useful piece for helping us think about the way in which the European judicial dimension will remain relevant post-Brexit.

  10. Topic 7: The Vertical Dimension in UK Politics I: Devolution and Local Government 19 items
    The UK is governed today by multiple actors operating at multiple levels: not just central government, but also (for now) the European Union, the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and local government. This week we look at devolution and (to a lesser extent) local government.
    1. Seminar Questions:

      • How has devolution affected central government and how is this changing?
      • Does the 'English question' need to be answered?  If so, how?

    2. Required Reading 2 items
      Ahead of the seminar, please read the two items here AND at least two further readings from the sections below.
      1. "English Question or Union Question? Neither Has Easy Answers" - Robert Hazell, Mark Sandford January–March 2015

        Article  The "English Question" poses one of the fundamental challenges for the future constitutional structure of the UK. This article provides an almost-up-to-date assessment.

    3. Further Reading: Devolution and Central Government 9 items
      These readings look at how the system of devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland has developed, at implications for the structure of the UK as a whole, and at current efforts to reform that structure further.
      1. House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, 'Devolution and Exiting the EU: Reconciling Differences and Building Strong Relationships', Eighth Report of Session 2017-19 31 July 2018

        Document  This is the report discussed in the required reading by Jack Sheldon. It is well worth reading in its own right, and cuts across both of our seminar questions.

      2. "John Bull's Other Lands” - Anthony King

        Chapter  This chapter reviews the development of the UK's devolved structures over time.

      3. "A Stronger or Weaker Union? Public Reactions to Asymmetric Devolution in the United Kingdom" - John Curtice January 2006

        Article  This article examines public perceptions of the UK's asymmetric devolved structures. Much has happened since it was published, but it is nevertheless useful to see how things appeared before the last couple of years.

      4. Special issue on Scotland after the independence referendum – Political Quarterly

        Journal  This special issue of the journal contains a series of short articles exploring the many implications of the outcome of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. Read the introductory article by Paul Cairney, and then pick out further articles on topics that you find particularly interesting.

      5. Devolution in the Round: Can Britain Continue to Muddle through? - Alan Trench December 2014

        Article  A quick survey of the state of the union in the immediate wake of Scotland's independence referendum.

      6. The Smith Commission 2014/15

        Webpage  The Smith Commission was established immediately after the Scottish independence referendum to agree the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament. Here you will find links to the Commission's two reports, as well as other materials.

    4. Further Reading: The 'English Question' 7 items
      The 'English Question' is the question of how England should be governed when the other parts of the UK all have their own legislatures. Should there be a separate English Parliament too? Should there be devolution within England? Or some other innovation? Or are current arrangements the best option? The readings here discuss.
      1. House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, 'Devolution and Exiting the EU: Reconciling Differences and Building Strong Relationships', Eighth Report of Session 2017-19 31 July 2018

        Document  This is the report discussed in the required reading by Jack Sheldon. It is well worth reading in its own right, and cuts across both of our seminar questions.

      2. 'Options for an English Parliament' - Constitution Unit report - Meg Russell, Jack Sheldon 2018

        Document  This report explores the idea of establishing an English Parliament in fascinating detail. If you don't have time to read it all, do read at least the introduction and conclusion. If you are really pushed for time, you will find a link to a summary blogpost at the bottom of the webpage.

      3. Campaign for an English Parliament

        Website  This is the website of the main group campaigning for an English Parliament.

      4. 'A nation divided? The identities, politics and governance of England, openDemocracy UK blog - John Denham 16 August 2018

        Webpage  John Denham (a former Labour MP, now a university professor) is a moderate voice arguing for an English Parliament. His arguments are well worth considering.

      5. The English Question - Robert Hazell 2006

        Book  This book goes into much more detail than the recent article by Hazell and Sandford (see Required Readings). It is now over ten years old, but much of what it says remains highly relevant. It is essential reading if you want to go into the issue of the English Question in depth.

      6. "One year of EVEL: evaluating 'English votes for English laws' in the House of Commons" - The Constitution Unit Blog - Daniel Gover, Michael Kenny 28 November 2016

        Webpage  This summarizes a report on how 'English votes for English laws' has worked over the first year since it was introduced in November 2015. It also contains a link to the full report, which you are welcome to look at should you wish.

  11. Topic 8: The Vertical Dimension in UK Politics II: the European Union 18 items
    To understand the current dynamics of UK politics, it is still important to understand the European Union: what it does and how the UK relates to it. How much power does it exert? And why has the UK’s relationship with the EU been so difficult?
    1. Seminar questions:

      • To what extent is the sovereignty of the UK parliament constrained by EU membership?
      • To what extent – and why – has the UK been the EU's awkward member?

    2. Required Readings 1 item
      Please read AT LEAST the readings here AND two others from the lists below.
    3. Further Reading: The Impact of the EU in British Politics 4 items
      One of the crucial points of debate in the referendum in 2016 concerned the impact of the EU in British politics, and particularly the degree to which the EU (allegedly) constrained the UK's state institutions. We looked at the judicial role of the EU in topic 6, so the readings here focus on the issue of how much the EU constrains the UK parliament.
      1. HMG, Review of the Balance of Competences 2012, 2012–2014

        Book  This link takes you to the portal page for a major review conducted by the government between 2012 and 2014 of what the EU does in every major policy area and whether the balance is right between EU and national competence. No overall analysis across the policy areas was produced (a point on which the government has been widely criticized – see the next reading). But you can gain a lot from dipping into some of the reports, particularly in relation to policy areas that you find most interesting.

      2. "United Kingdom: Parliamentary Sovereignty under Pressure" - Mark Elliott 2004

        Article  This article gives the perspective of a leading legal scholar on our topic.

    4. Further Reading: The UK as the EU's Awkward Partner 12 items
      To what extent has the UK always been a semi-detached member of the EU? What explains the UK's approach to EU membership? The studies here explore these and related issues. The first four readings look at public opinion towards the EU. Then there are four readings debating whether the UK is (or was) an 'awkward partner' to the EU. The remaining four readings explore further important aspects of the topic.
      1. 'A Reply to Buller' - Stephen George February 1995

        Article 

      2. “Britain's Place in the European Union” - Lori Thorlakson

        Chapter  This is not quite as closely related to our seminar topic as the other readings in this section, but it does give useful background on how the EU plays in British political debate.

  12. Topic 9: The Brexit Process 18 items
    The process of leaving the European Union will dominate British politics throughout the academic year. In this topic, we will explore this process as a way of seeing how policy-making in the UK really works. What roles are being played by the various key parts of the system that we have studied: the executive, legislature, judiciary, devolved institutions, EU, media, and voters?
    1. Seminar questions:

      • Does the Brexit process show that power lies primarily in the hands of the executive or primarily in the hands of the legislature?
      • "Brexit shows that, ultimately, it is the people who are in charge in British politics." Discuss.

    2. Required Readings 1 item
      Please read AT LEAST the readings here AND two further readings from the section below.
    3. Further Reading: Diverse Views on the Brexit Process 16 items
      It is clearly too early to make definitive judgements on the Brexit process, but the items here offer lots of useful perspectives. Some are from earlier in the process, others from later. Many are blogposts or reports rather than academic articles.
      1. 'Brexit: six months to go' - Institute for Government report - Joe Owen, Tim Durrant, Lewis Lloyd, Jill Rutter 17 September 2018

        Article 

      2. 'Do voters still want to leave the EU? How they view the Brexit process two years on' - UK in a changing Europe report - John Curtice 7 September 2018

        Webpage  This isn't about the Brexit process as such, but it gives useful insights into public opinion in relation to that process.

      3. 'The Brexit Endgame: A Short Guide' - UK in a Changing Europe report - Matthew Bevington, Jack Simson Caird, Alan Wager 29 September 2018

        Document 

      4. Constitution Unit Blog - Brexit theme

        Webpage  A series of readings below are all blogposts from the Constitution Unit blog. This carries many valuable and relevant analyses, so do click on the link here to see if there are any other posts that also interest you.

  13. Topic 10: The Future of British Politics 0 items
    In this final, lecture-only topic, we look into the future. What can we say about where British politics is heading? Will Brexit happen? Will the UK hold together? Will politics swing left or right? What other key questions need to be asked? There are no specific readings for this topic. Please simply come to the lecture having thought about all you have learnt over the course of the term and what they might suggest about the questions just listed.
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