This article examines the enduring significance of Britain's imperial past for understanding various aspects of contemporary British politics. It specifically explores its effects on British national identity and its role in shaping perspectives on globalization and foreign policy, as those policies attempt to modernize and maximize the UK's continuing role in great power politics. It takes up ‘the elusive question of the effects of the end of British Empire on post-colonial Britain’. The end of empire brought new British foreign policy formulations and challenges. The challenges facing Britain after empire may be simply stated: to achieve a high degree of social and political integration that helps resolve the tension between unity and diversity; and to refocus British foreign policy and the special relationship to advance development goals and strengthen multilateral institutions that will serve enduring British interests and sustain a robust international community.
This article investigates the association between ageing and politics, and emphasizes its dynamic nature. A summary of the new politics of ageing with reference to the macro- and meso/micro-levels is first provided. It also presents a discussion of the limitations of the political influence and potential influence of older people which casts doubt on the popular notion of grey power, and some reflections on the prospects for generational relations in Britain. The article is concerned with public issues rather than personal ones, even when these are political. Despite the signs of growing political participation, the article concludes that the barriers to it remain formidable and that the notion of ‘grey power’ is far-fetched.
This article deals with the evolution of British international development policy under the Department for International Development (DFID). It outlines the changing position of the international development agency within Whitehall and major developments in global thinking on aid and development policy. It briefly summarizes the organization of DFID as it relates to aid policy. It then covers aid allocation for poverty reduction, and emphasizes the importance of partnerships over conditionality. It finally addresses why the DFID chose certain approaches and offers a discussion of current policy statements that show economic growth and, in certain respects, suggest a shift of British development policy thinking to closer alignment with the mainstream. In the period since the DFID was established, Britain has become one of the most important and influential donors in terms of the volume of aid and aid policy and it is this that represents the international development legacy.
This article explores British approaches in politics over three periods — pre-1914, inter-war years, and post-1945 — and describes their merits. The first period is dominated by historians and a consensus around the Whig interpretation; the second sees the emergence of a number of academic political scientists based in universities; and the final period witnesses the stresses and pressures from the expansion and specialization of the discipline. Challenges have emerged from outside the discipline, particularly from: significant recent changes in British political institutions and behaviour, dissatisfaction with the performance of British political institutions and by extension with the mindset associated with the Westminster model, and the growing tendency to study British politics as part of a European system or polity. In general, there have been trends to professionalization and positivism in British political science. But these forces have not driven out other traditions from the discipline.
This article provides an historical narrative of the contingent ways in which anti-foundationalism has been brought to the study of British politics from within critical, socialist traditions. It starts by briefly mentioning some of the less contentious implications for social philosophy. It also explains why anti-foundational philosophy is compatible with diverse approaches to political science, and considers the implications of the analysis of anti-foundationalism for its place in the study of British politics. The anti-foundationalists' emphasis on meanings, contingency, historical narratives, and critique opens up the study of British politics. Anti-foundationalists have initiated dialogues between British politics and historiography, cultural studies, and post-colonial studies.
This article first reports the three key features of (‘early’) behaviouralism, namely its philosophy of social science, commitment to observable behaviour as the dependent variable in political analysis, and the commitment to ‘scientific’ methods. It also addresses the various reasons why, and ways in which, the British experience of behaviouralism is distinctive. The notion of post-behaviouralism, supposedly a new version emerging in response to potent criticisms of the approach, is considered. While the extent of change has been overstated, the post-behaviouralist critique highlights several criteria for evaluating the behaviouralist research. The article then imposes those criteria on to behaviouralism in Britain, and picks out some of its notable contributions to the understanding of British politics. It highlights the possible ways to improve that contribution further. Behaviouralism is a political science, but it is an inexact science, and in practice behaviouralists are always less rigidly positivist, and less grand in ambition, than is often assumed.
The association between political biography and the academic study of politics in Britain varies between the distantly tolerant and the mildly suspicious. British and American readers have shared Disraeli's assumption that the biographer's ‘life without theory’ is somehow more real. Non-academic writers have tended to follow suit. Against that background, this article tries to review the evolution of political biography, particularly in Britain, over the last century and a half. The story begins with the vast, intimidating, so-called ‘tombstone’ biographies of the Victorians and their early twentieth-century successors. There is more than a hint of Carl Schmitt's famous insight that the crucial political relationship is that of ‘friend’ to ‘enemy’, indeed that politics is about the identification of friends and enemies. Charismatic leadership is — or at least ought to be — fertile soil for political biographers.
This article argues that the impact of Anglo-America on Britain and British politics has been profound and persistent, and that it is best understood as a transnational political space. First, it reviews the historical development of Anglo-America and the different theoretical perspectives for understanding it. It then investigates the three key aspects of the relationship — strategic, economic, and ideological — and shows how they have come to define Anglo-America. Despite the ever deeper involvement of Britain in the process of European integration, a significant part of the British political class and British public opinion is increasingly Euro-sceptic. There is still a question as to whether in the long term Anglo-America can provide a serious alternative to Europe for Britain.
Robert E. Goodin
This article provides a discussion on the British study of politics. First, it addresses the revolution of 1975. The puzzle of why big ideas do come out of Britain, but there is a reluctance to brag about them, might be explained by the simple fact that there is a live-and-let-live reluctance to try to shove one's own ideas, however big, down the throat of the profession as a whole. It is suggested that UK political science probably is not pulling its weight at the very highest levels of political science worldwide. While concentrating on providing an academic assessment of British political science, it then closes with some comments on the contribution of the profession to British public life more broadly. Much of the contribution comes through deep-background influence on public values and public culture, through media appearances and helping to shape public debates.
This article explores the conflict between interpretivists and mainstream researchers about the purpose of research and the role of theory, method, and evidence in the context of the British central state. It locates this debate within the context of the vaunted transition from government to governance. Moreover, the recent ‘third wave’ governance-theoretic research is described and the six specific research agendas in this field are presented: power in policy-making networks, multi-level governance, core executive studies, prime ministerial power, central departments and the administrative/politics interface, and the central state beyond departments. Finally, it locates the study of the central state within a number of broader themes and issues. The ‘first-wave’ analysis of governance was initially developed without any reference to the interpretivist approach and still sets the broad framework for current research. The vibrant current ‘third-wave’ research on governance has contributed knowledge about important substantive topics.
Theories of intergovernmental relations and public bureaucracy might predict that the civil service of the Scottish Government would be an independent political resource for the devolved system, exercised within a distinctive institutional pattern. Neither is quite the case, because both the officials and their structures derive from UK norms and models. Scottish civil servants are managerially part of the British Home Civil Service and the framework of appointment, pay, and relations with politicians is set from London. Government structures follow UK classification protocols based on funding and policy control, and do not offer novel hybrid models for conducting public business. Themes of integration, regionalization, and centralization have been evident, reflecting the weak policy and financial capacity of local government and the attraction of all-Scotland bodies in some functions. Lack of controversy, visibility, and distinctiveness on these issues is in itself a notable aspect of devolution. It proved an area of resilience in the 2014 independence referendum, when Scottish officials used UK protocols about exclusive loyalty to their own devolved ministers to resist accusations of partiality to either side.
This article deals with the evidence on widening class inequalities and addresses how that evidence may be used to evaluate Labour's ten years in power as it has sought to make Britain a more equal society. It first covers the main patterns and trends in class inequalities in Britain from the 1940s to the 1990s. The ongoing controversies around class and the growing consensus that social mobility is declining are explained. The article then elaborates Labour's social policies to enhance social mobility with specific reference to its education policies. Furthermore, it presents the challenges that remain and the difficulties that Labour confronts in tackling inequalities that have proved so resistant to change. The reproduction of class inequalities across generations is a complex affair and policy interventions have to be equally sophisticated in fashion. To date, policies to alleviate class inequalities have a mild effect.
This article reviews the nature of the British constitution, exploring its unusual ‘unwritten’ form, and presenting an account of its main substantive components. It also addresses a range of challenges which the contemporary constitution faces and argues throughout that the constitution is currently undergoing a profound transformation from being a largely parliamentary or political constitution to being a mainly legal or juridical order in which the courts will play a markedly expanded role, unprecedented in British constitutional history. It specifically outlines ‘Europe’ and New Labour's constitutional reforms. The present time is one of rapid and in many cases significant constitutional change in Britain, change which in some instances the Blair/Brown New Labour governments either caused or contributed to but which in other instances stems from different sources not altogether within the government's control.
Andrew Blick and George W. Jones
In exercising leadership, prime ministers must attain the compliance of individuals such as cabinet ministers. The extent to which premiers can secure such cooperation depends to a substantial extent on personal and political considerations and circumstances. Consequently prime ministers depend upon forces that are not within their immediate control; and the bases for the authority of premiers are changeable. They are subject to what can be termed ‘power contingencies’. It is necessary to develop an analytical framework wide enough fully to incorporate the role of contingencies; and to assess patterns over time through historical analysis. Discussions of prime-ministerial power can be grouped into two broad schools. The first emphasizes prime-ministerial dominance; the second stresses the constraints upon the power of the premier, and tends to place greater emphasis on contingencies. An important theme in a number of theoretical approaches to the premiership is the relationship between individual premiers and the wider environment within which they function. Through applying historical and theoretical analysis, the authors identify various errors in existing literature. Research opportunities exist in the study of the operation of the UK premiership within the coalition government formed in 2010.
This article concentrates on functional delegation at the national level. It also focuses around two core arguments. The first argument is concerned with showing how dominant ideas about the British political system have had direct consequences for: the institutional focus of political studies; the theories and methods used; and the interpretive values held by scholars. The second argument is more interested on what is missing from the study of delegation within British politics. It starts by determining the three dominant traditions in the study of delegation and how these traditions affect the deployment of theories and methods. It explores the historical disparity between constitutional theory and constitutional practice. It then modifies the British state into its constituent elements in order to distinguish specific forms of delegation and the existence of gradations of autonomy. A plea for the politicization of delegation is finally shown.
The UK remains de jure a unitary state in the legal sense but de facto operates as a decentralized polity with a number of constraints on sovereign authority in the UK Parliament. This chapter assesses the role devolution has played on the development of this de facto reality. By placing Scottish devolution in context alongside developments in Northern Ireland and Wales, the chapter assesses some of the important aspects of devolution that have led to this new constitutional reality, such as the competencies of the Scottish Parliament and the Sewel Convention. The chapter also discusses the impact that Brexit is having on the UK territorial constitution.
This article first presents the features of the union state tradition. It then investigates the central themes in devolution research on the four nations of the UK. In addition, a number of overarching, UK-wide problems which arise from the failure to conceive of devolution as an integrated set of reforms to the UK state are covered. It argues that this disconnected approach to the UK's territorial constitution, while consistent with the traditions of the union state, is inherently unstable now that the UK has several governments rather than one, each with competing mandates. It further sets out a number of scenarios which may emerge as the UK grapples with this new territorial politics. The scope for the UK centre to hold the ring is compromised by its failure to renew itself for the post-devolution era and by its continuing preoccupation with England.
James Mitchell and Ailsa Henderson
Research on voting and political engagement suggests that structural features of political life can affect whether and how individuals participate. This includes the administration of elections, the ease with which one can cast a ballot, the opportunities for deliberation and engagement during election campaigns as well as the ways in which votes are translated into seats. Key here are the costs for voters—costs of time often chief amongst them—of getting involved, staying informed, reaching decisions, and casting a ballot. Scots have multiple electoral worlds to navigate, each of which has the capacity to alter the incentive structures for engagement for voters. This chapter explores these variations—focusing on the diversity of electoral experience in Scotland as well as frequent, recent, changes to elections—before focusing in greater detail on electoral systems, why they have been adopted and their implications for electoral outcomes in Scotland.
This article explores the different interpretations of England's position within the wider unit of Britain from which all the other entanglements flowed. It then examines the deep well of patriotism that ‘England’ has engendered since at least the mid-nineteenth century, still firmly within the ‘civilizational perspective’. Additionally, the article reports the English shadow that was cast across understandings of Britain in the inter-war period, but also continuing contestation of England itself among popular writers on both the left and the right. Enoch Powell's conception of Englishness in the wake of mass immigration within well-established traditions of English Conservatism, liberalism, and patriotism is addressed. It elaborates the recent charges of shallowness, bigotry, and insularity levelled against the English people as the cracks in their imperialist and British façade have become increasingly apparent. As a result of devolution, there has been a considerable decline among the English of a primary British identity and a corresponding increase in primary English identities.
Emma Hill and Nasar Meer
There is a gap between the ‘aspirational pluralism’ espoused by political elites, and Scotland’s record on the representation of ethnic minorities in politics. In this chapter we explore the status of a Scottish multicultural citizenship broadly conceived, and identify three clusters. The first centres on an aspirational pluralism, characterized by an ambition to avoid ethnically determined barriers on membership of Scottish nationhood. The second concerns the competing ways in which Scotland’s imperial role is used by different political actors. The third cluster points to potential limitations in minority claims-making and recognition, and questions the extent to which national-level, elite ‘pluralist’ discourse is translated into a successful model of political participation. Ethnic minority populations are disproportionately under-represented in local government across Scotland as a result of three features of local government recruitment and selection processes that adversely impact the participation of ethnic minorities in local politics. We discuss their implications for representation at the local and national levels. We conclude with a discussion of how the gap between elite ‘aspirational pluralism’ and the reality of ethnic minority under-representation in Scottish politics might be addressed.