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Revision Notes Chapter 1: Introduction: Explaining Politics Definitions and Decision-making Is Politics Necessary? Many suspect politicians as untruthful and insincere; it is also a risky and fraught occupation with speculative rewards and likely failure. Politicians seem attracted by the chance to exercise power over their fellows; maybe this brings them a sense of enhancement unachievable elsewhere. Orwell suggested power is the fundamental aim of all politics and especially totalitarian regimes which displayed dangerous tendencies to exult in the power they wielded and to abuse it – see his novel '1984'. Because of this tendency democratic countries build in checks and balances to prevent abuse. In these states politicians can be genuinely attracted to the public interest and good works. They will also like the trappings of power and the endless game like process which becomes addictive.
Crick's defence of politics Bernard Crick, in his 'Defence of Politics' argues that with all its failings politics is better than the alternatives of which 'tyranny' is at the top of the list and 'oligarchy' next. Politics equals a pluralistic process to Crick in which there is mediation and compromise. In the Observer, Rawnsely argues, citing Ulster, that when its politics has become boring and mundane that it will have finally won and achieved a 'noble' result.
Ambition and the career politician Disraeli wrote of 'living in the eye of the country' as his motivation; Crossman talked of the endless 'adventure' of the life. 'Ambition drives politics like money drives the economy' said David Owen. Riddell charts how politicians have become more career minded and focussed in recent decades; the percentage of those with 'proper jobs' halved from 1951 to 1992: 80–41%. Mature first time politicians are in decline and one has to start young to win the big prizes.
Defining Politics Universal and involves harmonising of positions and conciliation. Essence is a process seeking to mange or resolve conflict, usually relating to the interactions of government of the state and its people. Force may be a background factor but when too prominent, politics becomes pure conflict or war. Politicians therefore provide an essential service to mankind and we ought to be grateful rather than cynically dismissive though some scepticism is merited.
Micro Politics Small situations illustrate political situations where a number of actors seek conflicting goals (interests) and devise strategies to achieve them. This involves getting other people to behave in desired fashions (power); the determination to achieve an end (political will); the persuasion of other actors (influence); and the correct strategy (manipulation).
Macro Politics Familiar situations like Cabinet crises, industrial conflict or party political battles display the same
processes and features: authority (more so when government is involved); process etc.
Critical Political Questions 1. 2. 3. 4.
Who is included and excluded from the decisions? What matters provide the focus of the process? What do actors seek to achieve? What are the means and resources actors use to achieve their ends?
Politics, Government and the State State 1. 2.
More than merely the government: embodies all the institutions including the police, courts and armed forces. Territory key feature: defined territory over which state has unchallenged or 'sovereign' power. Territorial waters, the sea bed – 200miles – and airspace all port of the state. External challenge can occur and internal as in 1916 when a military rising challenged British control over Ireland. Depends on legitimacy: acceptance of government rule by its citizens. Weber identified three types of legitimacy: traditional (e.g. monarchy), charismatic (e.g. likes of Hitler) and rational-legal (agreed rules need to be observed).
Power Ability of getting people to do what one wants and what they otherwise would not have done. Compulsion often provides the basis of political power. Bachrach and Baratz emphasised the importance of decisions not taken by governments: marginalise it and ignore e.g. problem of cars in cities as motor industry is so vital and powerful. Marx argued that some people obeyed the ruling elite because they had been induced to do so by permeation of its values.
Authority When people accept the right of politicians to give orders and make laws.
Approaching the Study of Politics Political science big area of study in UK and USA though only emerged in early 20th century; before that it comprised specialists in history, law, philosophy, economics, sociology etc.
Institutional Focus on central government institutions; parliament, civil service, Cabinet. Legal structure reflects practice and important in itself. Often criticised as too static.
Policy Cycle 'Inputs' to the political system draw upon 'resources' (people, funds) and produce 'output' and 'implementation' which 'feeds back' into system.
Socio-political Focuses on links connecting government to wider society and seeks to find out those sections which consistently exercise power over it.
Themes and Issues in British Politics Democracy and Responsibility British government meant to be responsive to wishes of its people but there is much debate as to how much this is the case. Elections and legislature are supposed to deliver this underpinned by freedom of speech, assembly and publication. In addition government can be brought to courts if it exceeds its powers. Media provides means of communication between people and government. Adequacy of all these things is subject of debate and argument. Some assert a 'secret state' outside the control of the people and the law.
Efficiency and Effectiveness Traditionally Britain had good record with civil service selected and promoted on merit but recently all aspects have been criticised e.g. that the 'generalist' senior civil servants are cut off and inappropriate; that ministers have insufficient experience of business. Policy failures highlight the issues: Concorde, weapon development failures, building disasters.
Size and Scope of Government Growth of public sector led to questions about the efficiency of big government as it lacks the disciplines and incentives of the private sector e.g. competition and delivery of excellence. Also big public sector requires high taxation which citizens resent especially as its own expectations re welfare and environment increase. Critics of Big government have been successful in reducing size of government and privatising large sections of public sector in 1980–2000.
Impact of Government Advocates of public sector say redistribution is necessary to help poor but critics say services intended for the poor e.g. welfare – often end up benefiting the rich more e.g. Higher Education, opera.
Chapter 2: Globalisation Introduction Britain was a global power in the 18th and 19th centuries through her empire but since the last war has been only a medium ranking one. Moreover, the changing economic climate has made the country more sensitive to global forces and trends. Government has adopted a number of strategies to cope with the challenges of globalisation.
What is Globalisation? Shorthand for processes which make the world more interdependent and interconnected; directly affecting the ability of nation states to determine their fates. Money, goods, technologies, images, communications and people are moving across frontiers at accelerating rates; distance is no longer a barrier to interaction. The EU is the immediate focus of concern of the process but it is wider and deeper than mere regional events.
A Multi-dimensional process For example: products available worldwide like MacDonalds and Sony Playstations affect the lives of everyone and similarly cheap air travel makes the whole world accessible to everyone.
History 18th century empires were a patchwork; some global and others regional. Britain's was global and led the call for free trade. World organisations also grew in this period and communications: from 1840s, telegraphy; 1865–1910 35 world organisations formed e.g. International (I) Postal Union (1874), I Weights and Measures (1875) and I Labour Office (1901). In 1930 George 5th made the first international radio broadcast to 242 nations. After the war we've had the UN, Warsaw Pact and NATO. EU is an economic union with a (not wholly supported) political mission. Virtually every state belongs to overlapping security, economic and diplomatic organisations. In recent years the intensity of the process has accelerated, producing 'globalisation'.
World Economy Foreign Exchange Foreign exchange markets now handle $1.3 bn each day, many times the combined reserves of all rich nations. London is the centre of this movement, a status it reclaimed after years of decline.
Tourism This is another huge area: 500mn in 1997 compared with 70 mn in 1960. Trade 80% of finished goods is between the countries of the OECD.
Multinationals (MNC) These dominate the world economy: one third of output and 80% of trade. They have allegiance to no-one except profit; based more pluralistically now than before when USA was their main location.
Market Forces Neo liberalism has triumphed with most countries privatising, cutting public expenditure and deregulating. Many countries have ceased to protect employment with welfare and have opened their economies to competition to improve performance in the global marketplace. However, many leading nations still spend 30–40% of their GDP on public services.
Production Systems Smaller more flexible systems have emerged via globalisation: computer based design, rapid production cycles and more part-time working plus deunionisation of workforce. Rapid investment movements mean industries can upsticks and move to more favourable climes so all these innovations are reinforced by the need to keep investment and its related employment. Britain has been the recipient of much investment from Japan and USA since the Single European Act in 1986 completed the creation of a Single European Market. Britain's position in the EU has made it an attractive destination for investment along with a skilled workforce and flexible employment laws limiting the power of unions. New Labour has done little or nothing to change this. Free trade and open markets rule in the British and world economies.
Technological Change Communication technology has boomed with computers, mobile phones and the Internet, which now has 200 million users. These developments reinforce the innovations described above.
Consumerism Media giants now produce products for the world with tailoring for individual markets. Consumers tend not to discriminate on basis of origin.
Spread of Democracy Human rights and democracy now are exported to the world, and have been influential in bringing down tyrannical regimes as in Eastern Europe. Imperial powers have decolonised and international migration has begun to challenge the idea of national citizenship. Humanitarian considerations have become politically very important; Blair has even outlined a philosophy in which intervention in another country's affairs can be justified. Regionalisation has received a fillip from devolution policies of Blair as well as the EU.
Power Blocks After the last war, a bipolar world of two big blocks emerged: US led capitalist west; and USSR led communist east. After the end of the Cold War a multi-polar pattern emerged with regional and international bodies. Britain, New Labour and especially the Conservatives are still unsure about how far to involve itself with the EU, especially EMU.
Britain and the World Britain as Hegemon 1750 Britain produced 1.9% of manufacturing output; by 1880 this figure was 22.9 with USA on 14.7. In 1850 we produced 53% of world iron and half of its coal and was responsible for 40% of the world's trade in manufactures. One third of merchant ships sailed the British flag. Britain invested heavily in peace to encourage trade, cause which it championed. However the country did not have a large standing army or a huge fleet. We stayed out of most continental conflicts and indulged only in occasional gunboat diplomacy, the Crimea adventure being perceived as a costly failure. Foundations of British power in 19th century were:
1. naval power 2. expanding colonial empire across the globe 3. financial power; vast sums were invested abroad- £75 mn a year on average. However competitors eventually became industrialised and adopted the inventions initiated by the British to help them close the gap.
Post hegemony, 1900–45 Economic growth was only 1.5% pa 1874–94, lower than USA and Germany; home market was flooded with low cost imports while British goods faced high tariffs abroad re USA and Europe. UK trade share fell from 23.2% in 1880 to 14.1 in 1914; during this time free trade began to give way in Conservatives to protectionism within the empire. However UK still strong: 60% of all new ships; 33% warships; 43% of foreign investment with $19.5bn invested overseas. After the 1914–18 war USA overtook Europe in term of industrial output. Wall St crash illustrated the fragility of the new order- followed by the Depression too. Protectionism took over by the thirties: yen, sterling dollar and gold. Fascism growing in Europe and opposition to British rule in India through Gandhi. Twenty year truce over Germany exploded into another war in 1939 with USA staying out of it. UK defence spending grew from 5.5 to 12.5% 1937–39 before joining the war against Hitler.
Stable Bipolarity and Unstable Multipolarity 1945–89 US involvement in the war shattered the old balance of power and left US-USSR divide post-war. IMF and GATT reflected dominant interests of USA and free trade plus liberal economics. USSR did similar things behind its Iron Curtain though spent too much of its wealth on defence. UK now a medium size power, but still with an empire and nuclear weapons. Also, now no longer so dominant economically, and overseas problems were a drain.
Commonwealth This was formed to embrace decolonisation, which dismantled the empire 1945–70. Suez withdrawal in 1956 dramatically indicated UK weakness and dependence on USA strength. However, whilst UK was solidly pro US some Commonwealth countries stated they were 'nonaligned'. UK entry into EC in 1972 also led some countries in CW to redirect their trade elsewhere. Relations with the CW were not always good and UK often portrayed as supporting racist South Africa or Rhodesia.
'Special Relationship' with USA UK reckoned friendship with USA was best way of exerting influence, based on common culture and wartime comradeship. Supported the US version of the world order. US was less polite re UK and left us high and dry in 1946 over the sudden ending of economic aid as well as Suez. On other hand US has supplied nuclear weapons to UK and received support in its role as world policeman. Thatcher keen to befriend Reagan and Bush and received support over the Falklands War as pay off. UK big supporter of US in Gulf War 1990 and big allies during Bosnia/Kosovo conflicts.
European Connection UK reluctant to embroil itself in Europe after war but economic and diplomatic reasons led to applications in 1961 and 1967 and finally, successfully in 1972. Even then there were opposing voices from right who feared an ending of identity and left who feared absorption in a capitalist club. Thatcher became an opponent of federalism and the Conservatives split damagingly over the issue. Labour favoured withdrawal until 1987, then exploited Conservative splits by being pro EC. Major managed to fix an opt out of the single currency and the 'social charter' in 1992 Blair is more pro EU but favours the Conservative position on employment and neoliberal economics; he cannot either decide over the single currency.
Sensitivity to Globalisation
This is a function of the strength of individual states and other forces like cultural legacies. Welfare State: designed to cushion society from the vagaries of market forces. However, Keynesian economics, associated with such policies were believed to cause inflation and the request for a loan from the IMF in 1976, which carried an instruction to cut public spending. Raising taxes also became suspect as it scared away capital. Since then governments have embraced the markets: cut taxes, cut spending, made labour markets flexible, reduced public sector. Thatcher exhorted the country to make itself fit for the global marketplace but welfare was only limited to minimum 'rollback'. Cost was deepening inequality, especially child poverty and social division. New Labour has not reversed Conservative neoliberalism but has emphasised the skills needed to flourish in global marketplace. Old Labour opponents argue unions should receive back the rights taken from them but Blair is adamant in retaining old controls over unions and keeping employment 'flexible'.
Global Finance In 1944, big countries met at Bretton Woods to agree a new world order based on free movement of goods and fixed rates of exchange with the dollar. By the 1970s UK and USA adopted floating exchange rates. UK borrowed to finance social spending and devalued to keep goods competitive with low interest rates. Eventually inflation and loss of foreign reserves forced UK resort to IMF. From then on governments had to be prudent and control spending to prevent global forces damaging the economy. 1979 Thatcher abolished exchange controls to encourage investment but could not prevent inflation returning and the exchange rate becoming too high. ERM was reckoned to be antidote in 1990 – an agreement to keep the value of £ stable in relation to the Dmark within a 6% fluctuation range. However soon the £ lost the support of the markets and speculators forced UK out of ERM on Black Wednesday 16th Sept 1992. Result was an extension of the band to 15%. Since then the government has kept interest rates at a level to control inflation. However UK has had a more favourable position in the economic cycle than EU countries. Bank of England authority over interest rates also strengthened inflation safeguards.
EMU Maastricht committed signatories to single currency except for opt-outs UK, Denmark, Greece and Sweden. European Central bank set up in 1999 and notes to be introduced by 2002 but Euro has been a fact since Jan 1999. UK says will join when time is right and its '5 tests' are met: is it good for jobs, trade, investment and industry. Promises to hold a referendum on entry but public is mostly against the idea in 2000. Supporters say staying out will marginalise UK in EU but opponents say the dangers are too great and we should stay outside. Others are convinced the Euro is the precursor to full union in a superstate which would deny UK any say in determining its own destiny and would lose the British sense of identity.
Chapter 3: The Social and Economic Contexts Britain in a Global Setting Small (244 thousand square km); densely populated-240 per sq km compared with average of 115 in EU.); only 2% employed on land; rich-one of top ten richest economies; life expectancy is 75 for men and 80 for women – in Africa they are 52 and 55 respectively; it is a free enterprise, capitalist economy.
A Multi-national State Five different national groupings: Welsh, Scottish, English, Irish and Northern Ireland Protestant or 'Ulster'.
Immigration In 1950s and 1960s, New Commonwealth immigrants settled in their thousands, Black Britons but retaining links with their homelands. This makes national identity a complex issue in Britain.
Regions South east much richer than the others and more like rich regions in EU with high educational levels and earnings; north and Northern Ireland poorest in UK and EU. However, big differences exist within regions as well as between them. North-south divide, say some, is less important than these divides within.
Urban Problems and the City 1. 2.
Long term shift out of cities to suburbs Cities suffering economic and social crises as old industries disappear and middle classes replaced by immigrants.
Work and Employment 1. 2. 3. 4.
Most people sell their labour: over 70% full-time with 22% 'inactive'. Most sell labour to private firms: cuts in public sector and privatisation have reinforced this in recent decades. Women important in workforce: now male and female numbers approx same at 10mn though disproportionately: part-time; in service sector; and low paid low status. Dichotomies: private/public; manual/non-manual; service/manufacturing; part and full time.
Unemployment and Part-Time Work 'Full employment' has been spoken of since 1945 and whilst this was never the precise case in 1975 only 3% were unemployed. This was probably the minimum as a number of the workforce are always unemployable. Since then, numbers in the millions have been commonplace, especially in the early 1980s and especially in areas of depressed local economy; ethnic minorities and those with few qualifications. Fulltime jobs have been replaced by part-time ones: qualified FT 'core' and shifting PT, often female 'periphery' employees. Useful for employers to respond flexibly to changing market conditions.
Wealth, Property and Social Structure Inequality: some say it is good as provides incentives for people to work harder and take risks. Rich also support arts and voluntary organisations. Others say this is undemocratic as it gives wealth and power to only a few. However no agreement as to how wealth can be measured: include houses? pensions? However
wealth is unequally distributed on most calculations with a rich minority and a poor majority. Redistribution does occur but it is slow and uneven.
Social Environment: continuity and change Blondel observed that Britain, compared with other European countries exhibited fewer lines of division like religion, race and territory. The big division was class: manual and 'white collar' middle classes. This division less important because of: 1. decline in numbers of working class and their division between FT and PT; in addition more unemployment in this unskilled zone; 2. new kinds of social identification: ethnic minorities now 5.5% in UK; and regional like Celtic nationalities. Women also have new identities reinforced by wealth and independence: now not willing to accept traditional roles and the rise of single parent families is just one of the consequences.
Underclass Charles Murray, US sociologist distinguishes between the hardworking and the 'feckless' poor, perceiving the latter group to have increased enormously in 1960s and 1970s. Visiting UK he reckoned a similar process was in train caused by illegitimacy ('the best predictor of an underclass in the making') causing 26% of new births to be to single parents. Unsocialized children consequently run wild- attracted by rebellious behaviour and lacking good male role models involving work and family. He perceived a dichotomy of New Victorians – educated professionals in middle class ghettos – and the New Rabble unskilled single parents living in sink estates. Murray's analysis has been rubbished by many social scientists who point out social mobility takes half of the so-called underclass out of this category each generation and that half of the illegitimate children are to stable relationship couples. However being at the bottom of the social heap affects health, happiness and prospects enormously and Ralf Dahrendorf sees the underclass as the biggest 'challenge to civilised existence in Britain.'
Economic Structure: Public and Private Government as Owner Crown has always owned large amounts of property, and post office was publically owned in 19th century. Government owns coal and oil and gas in modern day. But most forms of public ownership caused by nationalisation after 1945 by Labour government when 20% of the economy – public utilities mainly (gas, electricity, and broadcasting) – was brought under public control. Mrs Thatcher reversed this tendency to absorb functions and initiated privatisation of 40% of what was in public hands in 1980.
Government as Partner Local regeneration has been effected through partnerships between local authorities and development corporations e.g. London Docklands. Private Finance Initiative retains the partnership connection under New Labour to share investment costs of new initiatives like hospitals.
Government as Regulator Rules set for conduct of certain functions. a) Sets framework for criminal and civil law; b) Workplace relations governed by rules set by government; c) Private sector regulations affecting such things as consumer protection, health and safety and pollution. Some professions regulate themselves with government approval e.g. the law.
Government as Licensee Government has used this device for years, but most common one currently is licenses to companies for exploring for oil. Licenses also given to companies to provide broadcasting services for particular franchises. Competitive bidding often used as means to this end.
Government as Customer Buys buildings for education, defence, etc. pays personnel for services i.e. teachers; equipment bought to provide services. Defence materiel bought in marketplace; in this instance it is the only customer in the domestic market making the relationship very close between customer and provider.
Government as Supplier Until recently: housing (council houses); transport (rail services) energy (coal, gas, electricity); education (schools, universities). Role has shrunk recently but 'contract state' relationship has taken place.
Economic Structure: balance of sectors Very important, as industries determine type of workers which feed into social structure and votes for different parties. Industrial revolution saw a shift from agriculture to industry; initially primary sector and then secondary sector goods. Then came rise of service sector, employing 70% by 1996.
Structure of Ownership Important changes as follows. 1. Separation of ownership from managerial control; specialised functions like personnel, finance, sales etc. 2. Changing structure of legal ownership; shares owned by big institutions like insurance companies. Sometimes they step in to control managements. 3. Size and scope of firms' activities; multinationals specialise production in different countries.
Britain in Context Globalisation Britain at apex of many complex global markets and communication systems.
Europeanisation UK more European society than before and EU bodies have direct impact on British decision making. 57% of exports go to EU in 1996.
Thatcherite Reforms Sustained response to global challenges.
Response to globalisation Weakened some groups e.g. miners but strengthened others e.g. stockbrokers.
EU experience Contributed towards devolution and direct access for these countries to EU resources.
EU interest groups Now centre of influence is Brussels and not just London.
EU involvement Has impacted hugely on parties all of whom feel passionately about the subject.
Chapter 4: Liberal Tradition What is Ideology? Consensus on welfare state and mixed economy emerged after 1945 and both parties presided over nationalisation etc. However, relative economic decline from the early 1960s fed discontents and ideological differences re-emerged, reaching a crescendo in early 1980s when Thatcherism triumphed over the post-war consensus. Ideology is like 'applied philosophy' linking philosophical ideas to the real political world. Most people are ignorant of ideology but are influenced to some degree, and during election campaigns receive a high powered education in party political thinking, and at times some messages do get across and swing elections as in 1945, 1979 and 1997.
Classifying Ideologies Left-Right Continuum Originated in French assembly 1789 when popular movements sat to the left of the monarch. Right-wingers stress freedom and limited government; left stress equality as the pre-requisite of freedom as well as the collective interests of society being superior to mere individual needs. 'Centrists' support various combinations of these two positions. Economic implications put support for unfettered free enterprise on right; collective ownership and government intervention on left. Anthony Giddens criticises the continuum pointing out that terms change over time e.g. 19th century Liberal economics became 20th century Conservative economics. He claims most people now see most important questions – environment, work etc as not relevant to left-right dichotomy.
Tough-Tender axes Some suggest this classification neglects political means, and Eyseneck proposed a bisecting 'tough and tender' axis to locate 'tough leftists' as communists and 'tough rightists' as fascists. A status quorevolutionary axis can also provide useful classifications.
Parties and left-right continuum For much of the post-war period main divisions were within rather than between parties e.g. early 1980s there were the 'dries' and 'wets' in the Conservatives; the 'left' and 'centre-right in Labour. Eventually, in 1981 the divisions in Labour were so bitter the right broke off to form the Social Democratic Party. The SDP in turn merged with the Liberals to form the Lib-Dems in 1987.
Liberal Tradition 'Liberal' was once a pejorative term like 'Tory' (which used to mean Irish outlaw) but was adopted proudly by its adherents. Liberal now means tolerant, generous and rational but in USA it was linked with being weak and 'un-American' so has become discredited over there. Small 'l' liberal originates with thinkers like: Descartes who helped pull philosophy out of feudalism and assert the idea of the individual and relativism: things are different for each person.
Philosophical Liberalism Rationality: John Locke accepted religious certainties and logic but saw different opinions as natural products of differing lives. Also respected scientific proof as evidence of truth rather than mere assertion.
Toleration: Locke also responded to religious and civil conflicts by favouring compromise and a less dogmatic approach. Natural Rights and the Consent of the Governed: 'Contract' theorists like Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, who believed man once existed outside society, implied citizens had rights to good government which justified them removing the provider of poor government. Individual Liberty: Allied to the notion of rights was the idea that everyone had a right to liberty: freedom from arbitrary arrest, equality before the law, freedom of thought and speech etc. Constitutional Checks and Balances: Locke argued functions of government should be separated to prevent any one becoming dominant and enable the community to remove the legislature. Limited Government: Power could also be contained by limiting the power of government to the bare minimum. Representation: If legislature to be removed then it should be representative. Some argued it was already but doctrine of rights implied universalism. Eccleshall suggests liberalism suited emergent capitalism with its dynamic middle class. Also favoured in fledgling USA and provide the 'procedural values' of democracy. Classical Liberalism: involved Adam Smith, Bentham James and JS Mill. Liberal Party emerged as mix of Whigs and Manchester Radicals, Cobden and Bright. Basic unit of Society: independent, rational self-governing citizen. Human Nature: Quite optimistic view though recognised the strength of selfishness; they believed in the potential conversion into the liberal ideal, especially through participation in economy and political system. Freedom: Mill firm on need for liberty and thought it should extend to point where the liberty of others was affected. Utilitarianism: Bentham argued humans disposed to pleasure and repelled by pain so government should seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Simplistic philosophy but very influential on legislators. Minimal Government: Bentham's ideas implied some intervention in economy but some liberals wedded to strict laissez faire economics with no interference in market whatsoever. Herbert Spencer argued fools should reap the rewards of their foolishness and not be protected by government from poverty etc. Representative Government: Bentham dismissed natural rights but saw representative government as the most effective safeguard for citizens against tyrannical rulers. Mill favoured universal franchise though with some limitations. JS Mill favoured votes for women but wanted a literacy test introduced. Laissez Faire Economics: Smith believed business should be allowed to serve needs in the market and employ workers, take profit and invest in the future. Competition would keep prices down and the 'hidden hand' of the market would bring advantages to all. Peace through trade: some Liberals believed trade was essentially peaceful and should dominate world relations instead of war and diplomacy, the pastimes of the aristocracy.
New Liberalism Some argued capitalism was so divisive government should step in to alleviate extremes providing 'positive' freedom to be equal and prosper. State and Welfare: TH Green called for tax on inherited wealth. Marshall argued for redistribution of wealth and LT Hobhouse saw state as 'overparent' to society. He wanted a minimum standard of living via pensions and health insurance. Beveridge took arguments much further in 1942 with historic wartime report. Mixed Economy: Hobsonian and Keynesian Economics: Hobson argued the creation of surpluses capitalism could not spend created imperialism though overseas investment; he urged taxation to give poor more money to spend and stimulate employment. Keynes said government should direct investment to kick-start a depressed economy as in 1930s; increased consumption would solve slump problems. He did not want to get rid of economic incentives however. Internationalism: Liberal theorists wanted international action to stop the war, which ravaged the 20th century. League of Nations was an initial product of their ideas via the agency of Woodrow Wilson US president who pushed the idea. Further development of Democratic Government: Liberals a making government more democratic through extending the franchise and making House of C stronger. Lloyd George tamed Lords in 1911 to power of veto only. Labour took over as main opposition in 1920s and Liberals favoured reform of voting
to improve their position. Liberals through Beveridge and Keynes transformed 20th century politics and ironically Thatcher rediscovered economic ideas of 19th century liberals. Fukuyama: US thinker who claimed 'history is dead' in that liberal democracy plus capitalism had triumphed over communism; future likely to be uneventful and boring. Unlikely prediction as already moves to combat international capitalism in form of World Trade Organisation and left has revived in many parts of the world.
Chapter 5: Key Concepts What is a Concept? Expressed by a word or phrase its something more than a noun or a name in that it embodies an 'idea' about something: e.g. the concept of 'chair' describes the idea of one comprising a horizontal surface together with supporting structures to allow someone to sit on it. Concepts help us to make sense of the world and to cope with it though meaning may not be precise and may very from one person to another. In this sense they are a bit like camera lenses which we place in front of our perception to help focus and interpret.
Human Nature 1.
Voltaire said government was necessary as 'men have passions'; without them there would be 'no need for government'. Human Nature therefore is central to the study of politics as well as speculation about its true form. Most political philosophies depend on a model of mankind; 'such models are sometimes hidden' said Martin Hollis, 'but never absent.' Hobbes believed men to be selfish and predatory making life without government 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.' He argued for a sovereign power or 'Leviathan' to keep order and quell inherent civil war of 'all against all'. Rousseau was less pessimistic, arguing it was the effects of society which caused mankind to be unpleasant. Marx took this further believing that because 'environment determines consciousness', mankind was capable of a just and equal society once the competitive brutalities of capitalism had been replaced by a classless society. Experience has not supported this view as the revolution in Russia ended in the tyranny of Stalin and millions of related deaths. Pessimists have had the best of the argument so far it would seem but the debate continues. Darwin argued that it is the form most suited to its environment which survives and some took this up, asserting capitalism was the product of social evolution (Herbert Spencer) Freud introduced a whole new dimension of instinctual drives, dominated by seeking of pleasure, separate from social existence based on what Plant calls 'the reality principle'. He suggested men sublimate their drives into socially useful activities like work and achievement. Fromm and Marcuse argued the 'repression' of drives was not good, creating people who are in a sense mentally ill. Marcuse distinguished between 'basic repression' which was necessary for proper functioning of society and 'surplus repression' which was based on class domination and which required a revolution to remove it. Racists argue some races are inferior; radical feminists that men dominate women through the fear of rape.
'Freedom from' or 'negative' freedom means freedom from coercion or other kinds of oppression and such a condition provides the condition for the 'good life' to be led by the resourceful person. This is the kind of freedom the laissez faire economists insist is the pre-requisite for economic success. They opposed measures such as health regulation in factories as infringements of the owners and workers' best interests. TH Green spoke of 'positive freedom'; anyone prevented from realising their potential was unfree. This huge area was now opened up for socialists who argued the economic system made workers unfree. However Friedrich Hayek took the former line, saying attempts to introduce positive freedom – through for example redistribution-involved an imposition upon employers and employees alike and constituted the 'road to servitude'. Keith Joseph added 'poverty is not unfreedom'. R H Tawney tended to the Green line perceiving that laissez faire freedom is the 'freedom of the pike is death to
3. 4. 5. 6.
the minnows.' Fascist regimes claimed people were not free unless obeying the will of a national leader. Democracies say we are not free unless we can remove the government through free elections. Anarchists say there is no need of authority and all should enjoy complete freedom. This is criticised as excessive licence by anti-social elements. Mill said all should have freedom to the extent it does not impinge on the freedom of others. Modern libertarians say even taking of heroin should be allowed if this is what someone wishes to do.
Democracy Many oppressive regimes claim to be 'democratic' as well as 'free'. 1. Rousseau saw it as the direct expression of the 'general will' of a small community; otherwise people were not obeying their 'true' natures and should be 'forced to be free'. Russell saw this as the thin end of the totalitarian wedge. Direct democracy is now technically possible but it would slow things down unacceptably and allow popular but illiberal views to dominate. Representative democracy enables extreme views to be filtered out in favour of those based on research and reflection. 2. Indirect democracy is the one compatible with the scale of modern societies and maybe is the worst except for all the others as Churchill observed: its failings include: a) ignorant electorates prey to unscrupulous politicians b) politicians can be very bad people with no desire to serve the public interest. c) voting is only occasional and between elections the majority can be tyrannical. d) Michels noted that in all mass organisations an 'oligarchy' came to rule. e) public do not understand the complexities of some decisions e.g. single currency. f) media manipulation is such that we can never be sure of the truth.
Equality Of Opportunity: Even South African whites now agree this is desirable. Of Outcome: Some on left feel all inequalities should be remedied by government, that slower people in race should be helped to avoid being 'losers'. Right argue this is self-defeating as lazy and incompetent will be protected. After the war most felt inequality should be reduced but Mrs Thatcher asserted the right of people to be 'unequal'; i.e. superior. Government should not interfere with the 'natural' order of things. Left say it's all to do with what you are born with: slum kid faces mountains of difficulties while rich kids face only choices of how to fulfil themselves and do well. They argue for help for weak, even 'affirmative action' in the form of quotas or similar as used in some USA university entrance procedures. Right say people need incentives and that these- even if they are based on greed- fuel economy the growth of which serves everyone. In USA this is called the 'American Dream' of great or extraordinary effort being rewarded by great financial rewards. Right say equality 'levelling' destroys excellence and imposes tyranny on society. Social Justice: Plant uses example of 100 oranges and 100 people. If all have helped produce them then one each seems fair but what if one has special needs then maybe should get more? This is the kind of debate one has over this concept. Marx: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.' At heart of this approach is that huge accumulations of money are inherently wrong and should be redistributed. On other hand even those on left agree some differential of rewards is necessary to provide economic incentives so how much redistribution is needed? Rawls and 'needs': Theory of Justice argued if we were planning society we would feel vulnerable and seek to protect ourselves from the strong and the clever. He says we should allow the greatest degree of freedom commensurate with incentives and that inequalities only justifiable if they work to the advantage of most disadvantaged in society. Rational people therefore would choose a society in which the position of the worst off is best protected: market economy in which wealth is redistributed via tax to point where it becomes a disincentive to economic activity. 'Rights Based' approaches: i.e. if someone has made something they have a right to own it; similarly if someone has bought something. Nozick argues wealth is justified if acquired legitimately; if not this should be 'rectified'. Rejects view that inequality is morally wrong. Transfers of money should be on basis of
charity. However the 'rectification' principle might imply the return of huge amounts to countries which have been exploited. Spencer and Social Darwinism: 'If we protect people from the consequences of their own folly we will people the world with fools.'
Rights Dispute as to how they emerged and are justified. Social Contract theorists suggested citizens have a right based on a notional agreement to obey good government and not bad; it is a 'deal' between governed and government. Before religious and feudal ideas prevailed e.g. divine right of kings. American declaration of Independence summed up the notion very well as 'self evident' that men 'created equal' with 'inalienable rights'. Legal rights can be enforced in the courts. In the USA such rights are embodied in the constitution and are easier to defend. International organisations like the UN have indicated to the world who is transgressing. Right stress negative rights- to be left alone, not to be imprisoned; left stress positive rights like right to work and to education. Some thinkers claim animals have rights too and that they should not be killed for food or used in experiments.
The Market At heart of 'free market' model in which goods offered for sale by producers with consumers having the choice to buy at the prices offered. Producers make a profit and those offering best quality and price will probably do well; those who don't will fail. 'Supply and demand' is the fundamental dynamic of the market and Adam Smith believed it should be left to work its 'magic' unfettered by government which should merely create the conditions for the market to operate in: low inflation, defend country and provide safe environment for business to flourish in. 1. market works on basis of what mankind is- selfish maybe but productive in fulfilment of this drive. 2. everyone has a chance to succeed in it. 3. anyone can influence the market and hence society through making choices in the market. 4. market is egalitarian and non-racist; only hard work and talent matter.
Critics point out though: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
growth often followed by slump and unemployment huge differences in wealth created and these tend to continue through generations sometimes causing social unrest. selfishness not a good value to instil into society lack of regulation can cause pollution. governments have to provide some services e.g. lighthouses. duplication caused by too many producers. market can serve merely those with money i.e. those with money to afford luxuries.
Planning Planning is offered by left and others as antidote to unplanned market; distributes scarce resources fairly and efficiently. Experience of USSR however has damaged respectability of approach as so much went wrong in this case. Gosplan was Stalin's centralised planning system and succeeded in laying the foundations of heavy industry and helped see off Hitler 1939–45. After the war some thought USSR was the shape of things to come but by 1980s obvious it was not.
Advantages 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
enabled Britain to organise war effort which defeated Germany environmental planning since war has been a success. Scandinavia and Holland have been successful with economic planning. EU based on careful planning. not inevitable planning will cause authoritarian government.
planning makes government accountable to people. planned activity more likely to be democratic with participation
Disadvantages 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
impossible to know consumer demands for whole nation. many goods only available in USSR via black market. shop assistants become powerful people in planned economies. planned economies tend to be sluggish and fearful of new things planning does not inspire workers to work harder as nationalisation in UK proved. bureaucrats emerge as too powerful. Hayek says government imposes planning on citizens who do not want it.
Chapter 6: Political Ideas: the Major Parties Conservatives Key Elements Conservatism tends to be anti ideology: more of an 'attitude' says Lord Hailsham. But certain key tenets can be identified: 1. purpose of politics social and political harmony: eschew beliefs in favour of pragmatism and compromise. 2. human nature imperfect: Conservatives tend to believe in 'original sin'; few care about others outside close family; most will take rather than give; easy to corrupt. Strong government therefore necessary. 3. rule of law basis of all freedom: law limits freedom but necessarily as it provides the context of lawful civilised behaviour. Precondition of liberty. 4. social institutions create sense of society and nation: provide glue to society; living together is art; 'family' and 'nation' at centre of learning process. 5. foreign policy pursuit of state interests in anarchic world: judicious defence of national interests best direction for any state. 6. liberty highest political end: we need it to develop our potential; Mill correct to say anything goes as long as does not hurt others. 7. checks and balances: power needs to be checked to avoid abuse: diffusion through society good idea says Hailsham; also that alternating power good for society. 8. property: useful education for citizen showing value of stability. 9. equality of opportunity but not result: unequal distribution of wealth reflects society and necessary for economy to work-through incentives. 10. one nation: alliance between rich and poor basis of Disreali's appeal to electorate and has kept party as party of government since 19th century. 11. rule by elite: ability to rule has to be learnt and best schools are private plus Oxbridge. 12. political change: develops organically; sudden change mostly bad especially revolutions. Change must be gradual and slow.
Impact of Thatcherism Pragmatic Conservatism created post-war consensus of Macmillan but Thatcher drove coach and horses through it when she believed economy needed a revolution in 1980s through rolling back of state. 1. monetarism: Friedman and Joseph advocated controlling of money supply through interest rates to hold down inflation. 2. freedom: economic freedom basis for all freedom and socialism was 'road to servitude' as Hayek maintained. 3. market forces: if left to themselves, as Smith advocated, will create prosperity for all. 4. state intervention bad for economy: look at command economies of communist world said Mrs T. 5. unions: had to be confronted and tamed. 6. welfare: too expensive and creates 'dependency culture'. 7. patriotism: passionate pro English and USA rather than EU. Thatcherism in reality classical liberalism. Battle in party over its soul in early 1980s, which Mrs T won over one nation 'wets'.
Major Years More conciliatory and consensual but basically followed Mrs T's direction with no battle between 'wets'
and 'dries' and privatisation extending beyond even what she would have considered e.g. Railways. Major replaced 'heroic' version of Thatcherism with a managerial one. Added a moral dimension of 'back to basics' and this came unstuck as it was applied to the family and press had field day exposing immorality of Tory MPs. Major forced to be wary of EU as result of Thatcherite Eurosceptics in party. Major appeared to be weak and indecisive and 'not up to job' as Kenneth Clarke himself stated of his first impression.
Hague's New Start Hague chosen over Clarke as he was a sceptic on EU. Began by talking of a 'compassionate Conservatism' but this soon replaced by a more muscular form as he found populist themes more effective in checking the Blair juggernaut. Thatcher encouraged all this and seemed as dominant at the turn of the century as in earlier decades.
Labour Party and Socialism Socialism: critique of capitalism and an alternative. Focused on economics but was a formula for life. It pointed out that wealth was created by workers but consumed by people who made nothing: aristocrats, bankers, bishops etc. Workers themselves get only a pittance for their efforts.
Critique of Capitalism 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
workers 'exploited' by factory owners and other capitalists. capitalists lived in luxury: proletariat in poverty. basic values of capitalism permeate society via its institutions. workers who believe this arrangement is equitable victims of the above 'false consciousness'. capitalist championing of 'individualism' and 'freedom' merely cloaks for exploitation. urbanisation separated workers from support of their communities. booms and slumps hit poorest most.
Principles of socialism 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
human nature basically good; selfish capitalism distorts it. superior environment will create superior person. workers create wealth. everyone has right of an equal chance in life. equality pre-requisite of true freedom. collectivism superior to selfish individualism.
Labour Party Labour in Power: Corporate socialism: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Keynesian economics: manage economy, even out slumps. plan economy: worked in war and thought would in peace too. nationalisation: industries under public control via board accountable to parliament. welfare state: NHS in 1948 and expanded universal services mixed economy: big parts left in private hands socialist foreign policy: same as traditional one once Labour tried to come to terms with real world.
Revisionism Right wing intellectuals like Healey, Gaitskell, Jenkins and Dalton began to elaborate a new version of socialism. The most influential, Tony Crosland, (Future of Socialism) suggested revolution was no longer needed; social polarisation was not happening as Marx had predicted and ownership of the economy now did not matter as managers directed them. Nationalisation moreover, was not too effective. He said the drive for equality was the most important objective and this could be achieved through reforming education and redistributing wealth through taxation. These revised aims provided Labour with its programme for 30 years but in the 1970s economic growth stopped and the capacity of the government to lead any move to equality was frustrated. Left of Labour Party dismissed the new formulation: Bevan and Foot declared the old idea of socialism was still valid and Tony Benn in the 1970s led an alternative approach embodying participatory democracy at all levels in national life. Unions supported this view and strengthened the left which set about attacking the rightwing Labour Cabinet first under Wilson and then Callaghan. In 1979 Mrs Thatcher won the election and Labour collapsed into internal feuding with the left temporarily winning the battle.
Social Democratic Party Rightwing elements, including Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers set up the new party in 1981 in the face of the left's victory at the Wembley special conference in the January of that year. Some 20 MPs joined them and soon an Alliance was forged with the Liberals. For a while polls put the new party in the lead but come the election in 1983 it proved illusory; whilst polling a creditable 26% of the vote the Alliance gained few seats. In 1987 the percentage was only 22% and the Alliance's day in the political sun was over, defeated by the FPTP voting system, its lack of solid roots in the country, the fickleness of the media and divisions fermented by the ambitions of David Owen to run his own show.
From Foot to Blair Foot, lost the 1983 election disastrously and Kinnock, his successor, reduced the gap but lost in 1987 too. He tries to swing Labour to the centre to win votes in the new rightward inclining political culture but had not moved far enough by 1992 when he lost yet again. John Smith took over in 1992 but died suddenly two years later when Tony Blair became leader. Now the movement to the centre-right became a rush. Blair attacked full employment, union power, liberal penal policy and Clause Four, which committed the party to nationalisation. The latter was replaced in March 1995 by a new one embodying support for a 'dynamic economy' serving the public interest and a 'just society'. Blair was keen to avoid spending commitments, as they required high taxes. Eventually Labour entered the 1997 election pledged to keep spending at planned Tory levels for two years in order to assuage the doubts of the middle classes whose votes Blair needed to augment the diminishing constituency of the traditional working classes. New Labour effectively embraced the economic policies of Thatcher complete with acceptance of privatisation. Labour emerged from the election landslide with few traditional policies left and a commitment to constitutional reform as its main radical drive. In power New Labour has spoken much about the so-called 'Third Way' but this has remained a shady nebulous concept, indistinct to friends and enemies alike.
Third Way (product of Tony Giddens, New Labour guru) Class: aims to create a cohesive community stressing 'civic obligation' and 'citizenship'. State Intervention: keep to macro-economic level of EU to assist coping with globalisation. Welfare: 'individual initiatives' necessary to enable welfare state to survive into next phase. Privatisation: here to stay. Nation: seek to rebrand the nation to down grade militarism and talk up the multicultural nature of life in modern Britain.
Liberal Democrats 'New Liberalism' sustained from early century to early 1980s when joined with SDP. Merged with what was left of SDP after 1987 and led by Paddy Ashdown for 10 years, currently Charles Kennedy. Manifesto urged more power for the consumer, worker shareholdings plus reform of the voting system. Ashdown promoted 'constructive opposition' with Blair sharing a Cabinet committee on constitutional reform. Kennedy rejected a swing to the left of New Labour and has been slightly less in favour of closeness to the government than his predecessor. Blair wants to make the present century the preserve of the centre left so the future of Lib Dems may depend on how far he thinks he needs to cooperate in order to achieve this. The Jenkins Report on reforming the voting system has been shelved for the time being but may be dusted down if needed.
Chapter 7: Political ideas: Themes and Fringes Feminism 1. 2.
5. 6. 7.
Thinkers: Women were not included by the great thinkers like Locke. Rousseau was more attentive and Mary Wolstencraft wrote at end of 18th century Vindication of the Rights of Women. Unequal role: they were expected to perform purely domestic roles and rearing children. They mostly would have accepted this role for themselves but had consolation of the influence they could thereby exercise. They had no right of divorce or property and husbands could beat them as well as rape them with impunity. Men could use prostitutes while preaching fidelity for their wives. Women had the 'consolation' of the notion of romantic love. Relationship was unequal indeed. Socialists: Engels supported the rights of women and socialists tended to claim their revolution would give whole rafts of rights to women. The priority in 19th century was the vote. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst led the drive for votes; in 1918 they won but only if over 30 and possessed of certain property. Eventually got the equal vote in 1928. World wars gave women an enhanced role to play and strengthened their claims. Simone de Beavoir's Second Sex (1952) had a big influence. 'Second wave': began with Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique (1963) said nominally equal rights was not enough if not in practice. Germaine Greer's Female Eunuch (1971) and Kate Millet's Sexual Politics (1969) pointed out the inequalities in work and family life. Greer said women repressed sexually by absorbing male ideas ('patriarchy') on female sexuality as soft and yielding. Lesbianism also asserted as a legitimate relationship. Women either soft caring mother figures or whores and temptresses. Millet claimed the 'personal is the political'. Radical feminists: male nature was seen as the problem. Shulasmith Firestone saw oppression through biological role and urged a sexual revolution. She reckoned childcare could be provided communally and thereby women could be freed. Susan Brownmiller focused on violence used by men and fear of rape. Dworkin and Spender argued the moral superiority of women. Modern feminism displays a milder tone re Greer and Friedan who have both written approvingly of domesticity and child rearing. New Right in USA have sought to reinforce old values to help hold society together. Lovenduski and Randall see feminist ideas as being accepted but they mourn the loss of new activists and the squabbling in the movement. In 1997 women MPs increased from 62 to 120 though some question the efficacy of 'Blair's babes'.
Assumes world is divided naturally into national communities which all have the right to independence and self-government. 'Territory' is potent and emotional. Argentina tried to 'reclaim' the Falklands in 1982 but it backfired and it was UK which exhibited national indignation plus military will to defend/reacquire. States have sense of shared history and characteristics/culture but most have minorities within them. Patriotism expressed in Shakespearean times but royal houses shared around their heads of state. French Revolution crucible of modern nationalism with its notion that people could reject government if not good. Von Herder in Germany added idea that culture should be proud and singular and not imitative as was the fashion, of France. 19th century some nations evinced the will to unite like Germany and Italy whilst Austro-Hungarian empire began to fracture in face of nationalism. Imperialism: 'super nationalism' emerged with nations of Europe competing to own overseas lands;
UK, Germany and France to the fore. In 1914 socialists swore they would not fight but nationalism proved stronger and they mostly supported the war with British Labour joining the coalition government eventually. Versailles 1918: new states invented like Czechoslovakia/Poland. Colonial possessions beginning to speak up and demand independence NB India. Germany gave birth to Nazism, murderous racist doctrine which plunged Europe into war 20 yrs later. India independence given in 1947 and colonies disappeared quickly. Internationalism: UN, NATO, OECD and others gave impetus to internationalism; EEC new example of union through economic cooperation. Nationalism still powerful however as end of communism showed and war in Yugoslavia and former bits of USSR revealed. English try to say they're not nationalistic but sport and other situations show this not to be the case; especially defensive kind of the species re EU. Ireland: Act of Union 1800 was imposed on the country and by 1922 it had won independence except for Ulster in north. Stormont parliament was fixed to give Protestants dominance and in late 1960s Catholics protested in Belfast stimulating riots and killings which army had to be sent in to control. IRA led campaign of terror in 1970s and 1980s and then peace process began with George Mitchell involved from USA and Blair to fore. Result was apparent peace in 2000 once disarmament by IRA as issue was handled. Now the devolved executive is again in operation. Scotland: 1707 Act of Union more negotiated and country retained much of its legal and educational systems. 1934 SNP formed and it won a seat in 1967 plus handfuls more in 1974. During 1980s lack of Conservative strength fuelled SNP and after 1997 and the referendum assembly was elected with Dewar as First minister. Wales: nationalism more cultural and language based but spark never went out despite union with England in 16th century. Plaid Cymru strong in Welsh speaking areas; after 1997 assembly elected and after failure of Blair's placeman Alan Michael, Rhodri Morgan became First Minister. England: EU key issue and Cons have tried, with some success to exploit scepticism about EU and resentment at its growing influence. Cons had a deep split in 1990s but sceptics won. Internationalism: Liberals always keen on this and it has evinced growing support as need for controls has increased.
Green Thinking Reject 'industrialism' (Porritt) of main parties which support economic growth and point out that it cannot continue unchecked with finite resources.
Principles: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
world approach: finite resources respect rights of new generations sufficiency: don't need so much above the level we consume to survive. conserve economy: should not squander on 'more' when we should accept 'enough' care and share: share what we have on basis of fairness. self-reliance: regions should grow their own food decentralise and democratise: smaller units of production, coops and local power. Int integration at same time. Other parties have stolen Green policies as much as they think is electorally useful but radical version of their ideology is probably still not politically practical.
Political Fringe Far Left
Marx Lenin and Stalin: Marx godfather of most on far left. He foresaw a polarisation of bourgeoisie and proletariat until a revolution would sweep away the property based capitalist society. It was the duty of enlightened workers to assist this process though it was in any case inevitable. Russia proved the analysis was wrong in its case and it led to the enthronement of a secret police supported regime under Lenin and then Stalin. Trotsky, advocate of revolution world-wide, was out manoeuvred by Stalin, exiled and then killed. Stalin a paranoid tyrant and killed millions in purges. Overseas parties used to support the interests of USSR, including the Communist Party of Great Britain. However the Gorbachev revolution ended the life of CPBB and it became a leftish fringe party – The Democratic Left – like many others. Trotskyism: Ted Grant, a South African, set up the Militant League in the 1930s. With Opeter Taafe set up Militant in Liverpool calling itself a 'Tendency' to avoid Labour Party rules banning parties within a party. Two MPs were elected from this group – Dave Nellist and Terry Fields – and it came to control Liverpool in the early 1980s. Leadership led a campaign against them and their influence declined. Socialist Labour Party: founded by Arthur Scargill in 1996 on old-fashioned socialist programme. Has not done well in elections fought. Workers Revolutionary Party: Trotskyist, led by Gerry Healy and supported by Redgraves, Vanessa and Corin. Socialist Workers Party: Tony Cliff founded this Trotskyist set-up; Paul Foot a leading member. Socialist League: Ken Coates was main influence of what was once the International Marxist Group involving Tariq Ali. Influenced by Marcuse.
Far Right Fascism: developed by Mussolini in 1920s and refined by Hitler into Nazism: 1. xenophobic nationalism 2. racism 3. one party 4. one supreme leader 5. acceptance of violence and warfare 6. desire to wipe out 'inferior' races Oswald Mosley: originally Labour then set up New Party and then British Union Fascists in 1930s. Original Keynesian ideas overtaken by attempt to imitate Hitler and gain power for himself to lead nation and resist 'alien influences' i.e. Jews. Holocaust horrified British but fascist ideas still linger and hold some attractions for the young with taste for racism and violence. National Front: 1967, combined a number of rightwing factions; contemptuous of democracy and sought to recruit from football hooligans. Combat 18 a virulent version of extremists named after position of Hitler's initials in the alphabet.
Chapter 8: Elections Competitive elections are at the heart of the democratic process. There must be choice between parties and the opportunity to participate in the process. Elections in Britain matter: 1. They are the most general form of political participation. 2. Elections determine the composition of the Commons. 3. They peacefully resolve the questions of 'who governs', i.e. which party forms the government. 4. They give legitimacy to the government and so ensure that the people obey the laws passed by Parliament.
What are Elections? Elections are the means whereby people choose representatives to hold office and carry out various functions. There is a distinction between direct democracy, in which the people themselves rule, and indirect or representative democracy, in which the people elect others to rule on their behalf. Rulers can emerge through other means: heredity, force or appointment. But in the modern world elections are the symbol of legitimate and representative government. Competitive elections in Britain began in the 18th century. The franchise (the right to vote) grew through Reform Acts: 1832, 1867, 1884, 1918, 1928, 1969. General elections in Britain are called either when Parliament has run its full five years (although that can be extended) or by the Monarch on the 'advice' of the Prime Minister. The government is expected to resign and recommend a dissolution if it is defeated on a major issue or loses a Vote of No Confidence in the Commons (e.g. 1979). British voters can also vote in elections for the European Parliament (every five years – note low turnout). Voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also vote for regional assemblies and in London for the mayor and assembly. Also, there are referendums called by the government.
Who Votes? The franchise Voters must be: • on the electoral register of the constituency in which they live • over 18 • a British citizen or a Commonwealth citizen • a citizen of the Irish Republic if resident for three months in UK Some are excluded from the franchise: • aliens • peers (law being changed) • inmates of mental hospitals • felons There is a problem with low turnout in parliamentary, European and local elections. Low turnouts undermine politicians' claims of a mandate. Voter turnout is related to: • socio-economic factors such as social class, education, age • level of interest in politics • identification with a party • sense of political efficacy Suggestions for reversing the decline in turnout include holding elections on Sundays or public holidays,
voting in supermarkets etc., and the introduction of PR.
Opinion Polls • • • •
are used to report on the state of public opinion there are various types e.g. quota or probability claim to be able to predict parties' share of the votes to within 3 per cent margin of error have a good record in predicting winners of post-war elections, except for the 'upset' elections of 1970, February 1974 and 1992 • in 1997 all the polls predicted Labour victory and most within 3% margin, but most overstated Labour share of the vote. While it is unfortunate that so much attention is paid to polls, they remain the best guide to electoral opinion.
Constituency Boundaries Independent and permanent Boundary Commissions for each of the four parts of the UK draw up constituency boundaries. The task: • to draw up constituencies of approximately equal sized electorates • to make period reviews of existing boundaries • to take account of geographical features, local government boundaries and 'local ties' • to make recommendations to Parliament Many inequalities persist, especially over-representation of Wales and Scotland.
The Electoral System An electoral system is a set of rules governing the conduct of elections. Electoral systems aim to: • produce a legislature that is broadly representative of the political wishes of voters • produce a government that is representative of the majority of voters • produce strong and stable government. These aims are not necessarily compatible. There are broadly two types of electoral systems: • Proportional systems which aim to establish a close relationship between the distribution of votes and the allocation of seats. These can be subdivided into party list and transferable vote systems. • First-past-the-post (fptp) systems in which the candidate with a plurality of votes wins the seat. PR systems are found largely in Europe and fptp systems in Anglo-American countries. The two systems broadly correspond to multi-party versus two party systems. The two types seem to reflect national outlooks about government and politics: • PR systems are often adopted in divided societies as a reassurance to minorities and to ensure that the legislature is broadly representative of society. • Plurality systems are said to provide a more stable government and allow the voters to hold the party in government responsible for its record at the next election. Until recently there was much satisfaction with the British system: • Familiarity and clarity • Belief that the British system was superior to that of many Western European countries • Britain avoided political extremism and maintained political stability • Accountable government • Effective choice between two parties • Opposition by both major parties to PR
However, in recent years that complacency has largely disappeared. Demands for 'modernisation' of the constitution generally and the electoral system in particular has grown. There has been criticism of the 'adversarial' party system for poor policies, especially the decline in economic performance, although it is hard to establish cause and effect. Northern Ireland is a case study in the shortcomings of fptp in a divided country.
Criticisms of fptp: • •
The system does not invariably produce secure majorities for one party. Because the system is disproportionate, the Commons and the government do not fairly represent electoral opinion. • The system penalises parties like the Liberal Democrats whose support is widely distributed both geographically and in class terms. The nationalist parties whose support is concentrated are not so handicapped. • Fptp encourages an adversarial party system which is blamed for policy reversals on a change of government. • Because the large parties are regionally based (north/south, urban/rural) they become less national in character. The 1997 election was extremely disproportionate (Labour 44 per cent of the vote, 65 per cent of seats): • Tactical voting by Labour and Liberal Democrat voters to oust Conservatives • Low turnout in safe Labour seats compared with Conservative seats • Labour's vote distributed more efficiently across country compared to Conservatives' • Regional disproportionality • Electoral system now heavily biased against Conservatives
Criticisms of PR: • • • • • • •
Likely to produce coalition or minority government If a coalition government, it is difficult for voters to assign responsibility for the government's record Coalition governments are formed by post-election bargaining 'in smoke filled rooms behind closed doors' It is likely that members of an ousted coalition would become members of new one Coalitions are likely to be unstable and lack coherence If a party list systems is used, then the link between an MP and his constituency would be broken The bargaining power of small parties would be increased – the 'pivotal' party argument (German FDP)
Prospects of electoral reform Though the public is less concerned with electoral reform than are political scientists, politicians and other commentators, interest has been growing in recent years. After several general election defeats, some Labour politicians became interested in reform and Neil Kinnock set up the Plant Commission. However, John Smith and then Tony Blair rejected the suggestion of the supplementary vote, which would have been a minor change from fptp. A joint Labour/Liberal Democrat commission on electoral reform, headed by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, reported in October 1998. It advocated: • A system of AVPLUS, a mixture of the Alternative Vote and a top-up system to achieve greater proportionality • 80 to 85 percent of MPs would be elected by AV (which means a candidate needs over 50 per cent of the vote to be elected) • The remainder would be elected from open party lists so that electors could vote for a party or a candidate • A referendum should be held before any change takes place A debate in the Commons showed the Conservatives to be opposed, the Liberal Democrats enthusiastic and Labour (including government ministers) divided. So far the Blair government has not committed itself to any change to the electoral system. The prospects for PR would be improved if there were to be a series of deadlocked Parliaments and the formation of coalition governments.
The Labour government has introduced PR systems for elections to the European Parliament, the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the London mayor and assembly.
The Electoral Process Nomination For election to the House of Commons it is necessary to be nominated by a major political party. Each constituency party nominates a candidate who must either be on a list maintained by the party nationally or if not on the list must be approved by the party headquarters. This power has been used in the Labour Party to bar candidates thought unsuitable by the leadership. In an attempt to get more women candidates, the Labour Party adopted all-women short-lists, which were later ruled illegal. The Conservative and Liberal Democratic MPs are still largely male. To be nominated, a parliamentary candidate must: • Be eligible to vote • Be nominated by ten electors from the constituency • Deposit £500 with the returning officer which is forfeited if he/she fails to gain 5% of the vote Sitting MPs are normally re-selected by their constituency parties. As part of the attempt by the Left to gain control of the Labour Party in the late 1970s/early 1980s, party rules were changed to force all Labour MPs to face mandatory reselection during the lifetime of a Parliament. A number of MPs were deselected (some of whom left for the SDP). However, the rule change did not help the Left and was reversed, and a ballot on the future of a sitting Labour MP will only be held if the constituency party demands one. Although reselection battles have traditionally been less common in the Conservative Party, some opponents of Mrs Thatcher were challenged after her fall.
Expenditure Elections are expensive. The cost to the taxpayer of holding the 1997 election was over £52 million and the annual cost of maintaining the electoral register is £50 million. The expenditure of individual candidates is strictly limited, around £6000-£7000. Most of this goes on printing leaflets and addresses. Candidates are allowed free hire of halls for meetings and free post. By contrast, there is no limit on the amount parties can spend nationally and parties spend millions on advertising, opinion polling, tours by the leaders and so on. The major parties are heavily dependent on business, wealthy individuals or the unions and there is suspicion that this buys influence. There are three reasons why finance has become so crucial: 1. As voters have ceased to feel closely identified with the parties, membership has fallen and so subscriptions and donations by individual members has declined. 2 The modern media is very expensive to use. 3. Parties are required to campaign almost non-stop because of the increase in the number of elections. The Conservatives have traditionally relied on business for their income, although this source declined during the Major government. The party also receives donations from abroad, some of it highly dubious. The trade unions provided much of the Labour Party's funds but in recent years have attracted support from business and rich individuals, some in controversial circumstances. Both parties have been attacked for their fund raising, especially for giving honours in return for cash. The Liberal Democrats receive most of their income from individual members and are the poor relations of British politics.
Remedies There have been several enquiries into party funding, with some suggesting the state provision of money to the political parties, but little action was taken by governments. However, allegations of 'sleaze' against both parties led the Committee on Standards in Public Life under Lord Neill to make a number of recommendations: • Donations over £5000 nationally and £1000 locally should be declared • Foreign donations should be banned • Company shareholders to be balloted over corporate donations as union members already are
'Blind trusts', in which funds are provided to recipients who do not know the identity of donors, should be ended • There should be tax relief for donations up to £500 • There should be an increase in the amount of money provided by the state to opposition parties • Party spending at general elections should be limited to £20 million • Political parties should be required to submit audited accounts to the Neill Committee • An Electoral Commission should be established to ensure the probity of the electoral process The government is currently legislating to implement most of the Neill recommendations.
Campaigns Although at the constituency level the parties use traditional techniques such as canvassing and issuing electoral addresses to the voters, most electioneering goes on at the national level and particularly through the medium of television. Campaigning by the party leaders aims to obtain the maximum television coverage possible, as in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was shown cuddling a new born calf. Increasingly, techniques imported from America such as the use of opinion polls, 'spin doctors' and focus groups, are used in British elections. It is unclear what effect campaigning has on the result of a general election. For many voters, the choice of who to vote for has already been decided long before the actual election. In both 1987 and 1992 the Labour campaign was thought superior to that of the Conservatives, yet Labour lost both elections. In 1997 the Labour campaign was highly professional (the 'Mandelson' effect), yet the average Labour lead in the polls fell from 22 per cent in the first week to 13 per cent on polling day and the party's share of the vote in its target seats rose by less than in the non-targeted areas.
Referendums Referendums used to be disliked by British politicians. They ran counter to the idea of a sovereign Parliament, disciplined and programmatic parties and strong government. In addition, they were associated with dictatorships. The first British referendum was called by Labour PM Harold Wilson in 1975 over continued membership of the EEC, a controversial decision that was caused by Labour Party divisions. Since 1997, referendums have been held on number of matters: • Scottish and Welsh devolution • The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland • The election of a mayor and assembly for London So far, referendums have dealt with constitutional matters. Further referendums are promised (probably after the next elections) on membership of the European single currency and electoral reform. There is a need to develop clear rules on referendums, and several ideas have been suggested by the Neill Committee. There are several reasons why referendums have become more common: 1. Polls indicate that a large majority of voters favour referendums if the issue is sufficiently important. 2. The authority of elected politicians has declined, so a referendum is a way of invoking the authority of the people. 3. They can be useful when there is a difficult problem on which delay is thought advisable. 4. They can unify a divided party. However, referendums can also be a device used by politicians to evade their responsibility for taking decisions. The issue may be too complex for voters to decide, and the campaign may be dominated by the side best financed or who can use emotive, simplistic arguments.
Chapter 9: Voting Behaviour Explanations of Voting Behaviour 1945–70: easy to explain British voting behaviour: • • • •
Strong correlation between class and vote: the majority of the working class voted Labour and most middle class voted Conservative. About 90 per cent voted Labour or Conservative in general elections. Over 80 per cent identified with their party. Psephologists believed most British people voted according to class.
By 1980s: era of partisan dealignment: • Party loyalties had waned • Issues had become more important • Voting automatically for party of one's class had declined • Voting on basis of issues • Voter volatility Sarlvik and Crewe distinguished between: • Salience – the extent to which people were aware of an issue, and • Party preferred on that issue Conservative emphasis on taxes, law and order and trade union reform – seen as important factors in 1979 election victory. But in 1983 and 1987 Labour led Conservatives on three of the most salient issues: unemployment, health and education, yet lost election. Though surveys showed most voters were prepared to pay higher taxes for better public services, 48 per cent thought they would be personally worse off under Labour and only 30 per cent better off. Voting affected by: • Belief about which party would deliver personal prosperity • Image of the 'competence' or trustworthiness of the party and the party leader. For much of post-war period (a period of electoral stability), the two party system rested on: • Social class • Partisanship • The electoral system However, some qualifications: • Between a quarter and a third of the working class voted Conservative • Gradual change in the class composition of the electorate with fall in number employed in manufacturing and rise in service and white-collar occupations Thus: 'partisan dealignment' – tendency of voters not to support party identified with their class.
Decline of two-party, two-class model: •
Partisanship has declined (1964–1987 proportion identifying with Conservatives and Labour fell from 81 per cent to 70 per cent, strong identifiers from 38 per cent to 25 per cent and to 16 per cent by 1997). Thus, greater volatility of electorate. Decline in significance of social class from 1960s (1970–1992 fall in Labour's share of working class vote and Conservatives' share of middle class, growth in Labour and Liberal Democrat support among public sector middle class). Shift in the class basis of electorate (40 per cent middle class, 60 per cent working class now reversed, Labour gaining diminishing share of declining working class). Social changes (related to Thatcher reforms) have weakened class basis of party system (sale of
council houses, increase in white-collar jobs and decline in manufacturing, decline in number of trade unionists). Britain increasingly middle class. Two-party, two-class model replaced by three-party, less class-based voting. Election campaigns may have greater effect on voting.
1997 election: • •
Labour gained as much middle-class support as Conservatives (first time ever) Nearly 2 million 1992 Conservatives switched to Labour
Social class There is controversy about how to define and measure social class: • Most commonly accepted is the six-category (A-E) scheme of the British Market Research Society, which relies on occupation combined with lifestyle and incomes (40 per cent middle class and 60 per cent working class). • Another (used by Heath et al) focuses more on the conditions in which income is eared and degree of autonomy at work. Uses a different differentiation of work force and reduces working class to one third. Also – controversy about relationship between social class and voting: • Crewe – class dealignment theory – not only has working class shrunk but Labour's share has also fallen. • Heath et al – class voting has not declined once the centre vote has been omitted.
Party support Conservative The Conservatives have been the dominant party in 20th century – based on: • The electoral system • The divided opposition • Voters' distrust of Labour's economic competence • Until 1997, support from bulk of the press • Support from powerful groups: the City, the farmers 1980s (and 1950s) Conservatives were identified with economic prosperity (in spite of presiding over return of mass unemployment, increasing levels of homelessness and inequality). Conservatives outscored Labour on question of competence in economic management, a crucial factor in 1992 election. But after 1992 ('Black Wednesday) the Conservatives lost their reputation and much press support, and still has a major job to restore its reputation.
Labour During 1970s and 1980s, Labour's future became less secure: • Its share of the vote was below 40 per cent in all elections 1970–1992 • 1983 share of the vote (27.6 per cent) lowest since 1918 • Only modest recovery 1987 and 1992 • Increasingly it seemed that Labour would require a remarkable combination of favourable circumstances to win a general election Optimists claimed that Labour lost because of the particular circumstances of each election: • 1979 – public hostility to Labour government and the unions – 'Winter of Discontent' • 1983 – party divisions, emergence of the SDP, Michael Foot's leadership • 1987 – apparent success of Conservative economic policy But – loss of 1992 election harder to explain: • Tory mismanagement of the economy • Lacklustre Tory election campaign • Government had been in power 13 years
Fundamental changes seem to explain Labour failures: 1. Demographic Traditional social bases of Labour vote had been weakened a) Faster growth of the population in the south than in the north b) Spread of home ownership and decline of council housing c) Contraction of the public sector (privatisation) d) Decline of heavy manufacturing e) Decline of trade union membership f) Traditional ('old') working class – a steadily diminishing sector of the electorate. g) 'New' working class – until 1997 steadily deserting Labour. 2. Attitudinal Surveys showed a lack of enthusiasm for voting Labour: a) Voters felt they had more chance of 'getting on' under the Conservatives b) Labour associated with 'equalising down' Successive Labour leaders (Kinnock, Smith, Blair) determined to appeal to affluent middle class and working class if it was to stand a chance of regaining power.
Third party voting The fall in support for Labour and the Conservatives and the increase in support for the Liberal Democrats has not been translated into seats (effect of fptp). Tactical voting and concentration on target seats helped Liberal Democrats to gain more seats (with smaller share of the vote) in 1997. Several other parties represented in the Commons: • Scottish National Party • Plaid Cymru • 5 parties from Northern Ireland The most formidable threat to the predominance of Labour and the Conservatives was the emergence of the Social Democratic Party in 1981, a breakaway from the Labour Party, and its alliance with the Liberals. But it soon lost momentum and merged with the Liberals in 1987 to form the Liberal Democrats.
The 1997 General Election 1997 was a disaster for the Conservatives: • It lost a quarter of its 1992 vote • Number of MPs lowest since 1906 • 13 per cent behind Labour • No Conservative MPs from Wales or Scotland • Some of its strongest seats lost • Virtually restricted to the English shires and suburbs • Electorally and organisationally in a state of crisis Most opposition parties benefited from Conservative collapse: • Labour majority of 179 biggest ever • Labour's number of seats (418) biggest ever • 10 per cent swing (Conservative-Labour) largest in any election since 1945 • Liberal Democrats number of seats (46) largest for any third party since 1929 • SNP doubled its share of the seats in Scotland The result was a verdict on the Conservatives: • 'Black Wednesday' destroyed their reputation for economic competence • Tax increases • Sleaze • Mishandling of BSE crisis • Party divisions, especially over Europe • John Major seen as weak leader • Loss of support from traditional Conservative newspapers Despite the economic recovery, voters did not give the credit to the Conservatives.
At the same time, Labour had changed (New Labour): Acceptance of much of the Thatcherite agenda, especially economic management, relations with the unions • Party reforms to reduce the power of the Left • Blair seen as 'strong' leader •
Was 1997 a critical election? There are various types of election: Maintaining – voters reassert party loyalties and vote along traditional lines. Deviating – the traditional minority party wins but the change proves of short duration Critical – in which new issues and events trigger a realignment – new bases of support for a political party, the rise of a new party or a new balance between the political parties.
What was significant about the 1997 general election? 1.
2. 3. 4.
7. 8. 9. 10.
Convergence of policy between Labour and the Conservatives a) Blair has moved Labour to the centre ground b) Labour acceptance of much of the Thatcherite agenda 'Presidential' nature of the campaign, especially Labour's Strength of third party support (75 'other' MPs) Professionalism of the campaign a) Spin doctors b) Media management c) Use of electronic media to contact voters d) Encouragement of tactical voting e) Labour seen as more professional than the Conservatives The link between the state of the economy and voting went into reverse. a) Post-war elections seemed to indicate that the government got the credit for good economic indicators (the 'feel-good' factor) e.g. 1983, 1987, 1992 b) In 1997, the economy was recovering from a recession, but the Conservatives were not rewarded ('Black Wednesday') c) Labour (New Labour) had lost its 'tax and spend' image and was seen as the party of economic prudence and competence Although events before the election probably accounted for the result, the campaign itself went badly for the Conservatives: a) Defection of Conservative newspapers to Labour b) Conservative 'sleaze' c) Conservative divisions over Europe Turnout (71.4 per cent) lowest since 1935 Labour made gains among all social groups and across the country To some extent, the north (Labour) and south (Conservative) division was ended as Labour made gains in the south Only time will tell if 1997 was a turning point, with Labour replacing the Conservatives as the dominant party.
The Liberal Democrat dilemma New Labour under Blair has squeezed the centre ground from the Liberal Democrats. Under Ashdown the LibDems sought to cooperate with Labour in return for discussions on electoral reform. The danger for the LibDems is that they will be squeezed between the two big parties. Only if there is a series of close elections (and 'hung' Parliaments) will pressure grow for electoral reform and an enhanced role for the Centre. It is not clear how voters would react to a change of this kind.
Chapter 10: Mass Media and Political Communication Introduction 'Media is the Message': Canadian Marshall McLuhan coined this phrase to sum up the primacy of the media in modern culture. 20mn watch TV news bulletins and a big slice of that is political information but we are unsure as to precisely how the media impacts on society though we know it is profound. History of Political Communication: started as word of mouth and then became influenced by print media after invention of presses. In 19th centry press became a factor in politics and more so after papers became much cheaper at end of century. Microphone enabled addresses to big audiences and then radio widened the audience to millions. TV vital in USA after war but took longer to be accepted in UK. Press: Broadsheets cater for educated middle class and tabloids working class for the most part. Traditionally pro Tory but an exodus occurred after 92 as Blair seen as better bet and the ratio changed from 6.7 to 4.4 in 45 to 8.5 to 4.4 in 97 (dailies). Reason was mostly disillusion at Major's poor showing; Sun defection was most important one in March 97 just before the election. Tabloids: Newspapers generally in decline 80–90 with readership falling from 17 to 15mn 90–98 (Suns) and 15–13mn (Dailies). Tabs have tries everything from bimbos to bingo but scandals are the surefire way to sell papers and so they have moved into private lives of celebs and politicians. Alastair Campbell the PM's Press Secretary is tabloid journalist and that's probably why Blair asked him to do the job he does. Broadcasting: Hitler was first to really exploit its potential but Churchill and Roosevelt came close seconds, especially during the last war. 1952 'Checkers' speech by Nixon and televising of 53 Coronation alerted British politicians to the potential of TV; by 1959 it constituted a major part of election campaigns. BBC founded 1926 with mission to 'educate, inform and entertain' under its first DG John Reith. BBC2 came in 64; Channel 4 in 82 and Channel 5 in 97. Sky arrived in 89, making a profit by 93. PM appoints the chairmen of BBC and independent television and government sets the framework in which broadcasters operate.
Influence of Media on Political Process Form of political communication: interviewers have become political players in own right. Speeches used to be long and windy; now soundbites rule with 8 seconds being average length in USA during Presidential elections. Mastery of addressing audience on TV now key for any politician. Image: One study says the impact we make on TV is 55% how we speak; 38% how we look; only 7% what we say. So image is key and we see Wilson with his pipe and Mrs T being advised by media guru Gordon Reece. Mandelson Labour's guru and equally attentive to detail. Lack of looks could disbar someone from high office; doubtful if Lincoln would prosper now and Robin Cook thought to be too like a garden gnome to be leader of his party. Public more tolerant perhaps of moral peccadilloes if Clinton's experience is anything to go by. Institutions: a) Local parties less important now as media reaches so many more so quickly. b) Commons no longer first to hear important news as news conferences now used instead; even MPs prefer to give interviews on College Green outside House than speak within it. Leaders: Attlee and Churchill useless on box but Eden, Macmillan, Wilson, Callaghan and the rest have been either naturally good or like Mrs T have learned how to be good. Foot was hopeless but Kinnock, thought to be much better was too prolix to impress many. Personnel: media people and politicians are somewhat similar and they seem to cross the divide between their professions with ease e.g. Austin Mitchell, Kilroy Silk, Tony Benn etc. Reagan the great master at conveying messages and it overshadowed his failings.
Spin Doctors Role is to influence media to accept intended version of political messages or change unwanted news perceptions. Kenneth Baker scored a coup in 1991 when shifted focus of local elections to two 'flagship' boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster. When they won with low poll tax rates Baker declared a wholly undeserved and false 'victory'. Mandelson: (grandson of Labour Home Secretary Herbert Morrison) started as Minister Without Portfolio, specialising on government presentation, then went to DTI. Then the scandal surrounding his undeclared loan from Geoffrey Robinson- whose finances his own dept was investigating- led to his resignation. He came back after 10 months as Northern Ireland Secretary. Clearly his closeness to Blair in helping to win various contests won him an early recall to the front rank of government. Alastair Campbell: early career as hard-drinking tabloid hack but has become supreme journalist in the country since moving to handle Blair's press office. He has since rivalled Bernard Ingham for his no nonsense handling of press conferences. He provides Blair with most of the words he speaks including the phrase 'People's Princess' in wake of Diana's death in 1998. Campbell was summoned by Public Administration Select Committee and defended himself with winning vigour. Charlie Whelan: Chancellor Brown's press spokesman was fiercely loyal and reputed to advance his bosses claim's for the leadership via unofficial briefings. This process stimulated reactions and a kind of 'briefings wars' developed. It was rumoured he was the source of the leak about Mandelson's loan and eventually had to resign in the face of his apparent guilt.
Government use of media Conservative government became one of the biggest single advertisers in the country. Critics alleged it was used to 'sell' unpopular policies like privatisation. Televising parliament: 1966 attempt failed easily but subsequent votes narrowed the failure gap until in the 1980s only Mrs T's opposition stood in the way. Even that went in 1989 and cameras allowed in for limited coverage e.g. no reaction shots and no demos in the Chamber. 1990 made permanent.
TV and Elections: 1.
well made party political broadcasts like the ones on Kinnock in 1992 and Major in 1997 had an impact. 2. media managers transformed the conduct into a carefully planned battle of media devices and strategies. 3. meetings not real but artificial rallies for the news bulletins. 4. soundbites rule in election campaigns. Pressure Groups: Big PGs use the media constantly to influence policies and some win great victories like Countryside Alliance marching on Labour Conference in Bournemouth. FOE very clever at manipulating media for its own ends. Voting Behaviour: Denver summarises the theories: 1. selective exposure: people take in only what they want to hear. 2. selective perception: people edit media images to conform to their prejudices. 3. selective retention: they only recall what they want to recall. Reading papers therefore reflect views of reader through purchase and exert only small influence on voting. Others claim this is wrong: 30% of voters change mind during campaign and something must change their minds. Tabloids maybe had big effect in 1992. Difficult to separate influence of media from family, friends work etc but media does set agenda; reinforce attitudes; persuade voters to change minds though no-one knows how much. 1997 Election Campaign: At 6 weeks unusually long and viewers bored by the end. Challenge of Major to 'debate' Blair came to nothing. Blair showed great stamina and nerve in taking the pressure. Much concentration on the Tatton contest where Neil Hamilton was challenged by Martin Bell (Bell won by 11,000 votes in the end). Slickly run Labour campaign seized the agenda and kept it throughout the campaign. Focus Groups: Philip Gould originally from marketing used this technique of 6–8 representative people to debate particular issues making this a 'qualitative' method to supplement quantitative ones like polls. His reports became very influential.
Blair government and media: lots of evidence to show Blair has kept up media control as in opposition though some innovations to strengthen his grip. BBC targeted for alleged Tory bias: N.B. John Humphrys. Strategic Communications Unit set up headed by Campbell and staffed by 6 civil servants. Ministers have to clear speeches before delivery with SCU. Government Information Service 1000 staff. Urged to be proactive in singing government's praises and some left as result. Impact of Media: Seymour-Ure adduces three factors influencing impact: 1. timing of item 2. intensity 3. frequency Ownership of media: Big business no important players in media and cross media ownership vital to companies like Murdoch's. Some owners keen to influence content; Maxwell did and Murdoch does. Press not accountable to public either. Broadcasting more so but still thin controls though they do obey law re being unbiased between parties. News Values; at odds with pluralist system 1. personalities 2. revelations 3. disasters 4. visual back-up. Experience suggests these values actually work when it comes to selling news either on TV or via press. Lobby System: 150 journalists given access to confidential briefings as long as don't say where info came from: strict club rules apply. Critics say this allows government to control agenda and information flow but it does bring out info, which would have otherwise stayed secret. Some papers boycotted lobby but have since rejoined. TV companies vulnerable to pressure: much pressure put on BBC by both parties and some companies in private sector also harried e.g. over Death on the Rock a documentary about the secret service and the IRA. Hussey appointed by Tebbitt to get rid of leftist bias in BBC in 1980s. Bias and Parties: both parties seem to think the media is biased against them: BBC seen as home of 1960s lefties by Cons and stuffed shirts by Labour. Politicians don't like being put on spot by interviewers and complain of bias when it happens. Ideally politicians would like to control the media yet it is vital they do not. TV news tends to reinforce the status quo. News is constructed and to a degree is artificial; some say the construction is biased to mainstream assumptions and middle class interest rather than working class ones. Glasgow University Media Group made thesis over this and though it has been refuted, arguably by some research, it retains some truth. Marxist Theories of Class Dominance: Gramsci and Frankfurt school argued media is merely instrument of ruling elite through permeation of society by ruling class values. Rest of society suffers from 'false consciousness', having been duped by this process. Pluralists claim media holds ring between parties and classes and enables the system to work so that voters get a fair chance to learn about the issues and make a choice. Pluralist analysis probably closest to how it works but there is much debate about it. Each medium has its own contribution to make but each has shortcomings too in terms of helping democracy to work. Language and Politics: tone and use of words is crucial e.g. 'decommissioning' re IRA position and Unionist demands in late 1990s. Precise definitions can resound throughout system. Abuse is part of the language of politics also.
Future developments: 1. 2. 3.
more channels but thinner coverage Internet newspapers interactive democracy now possible but could lead to domination of majorities.
Chapter 11: Pressure Groups Definition: 'to protect and/or advance a shared interest.' But aim to influence policy not to direct it like political parties do. Abolition of Slave Trade-1807- and Repeal of the Corn Laws-1839–46- both early examples of PGs. Since 1945 extension of government activity has caused proliferation of PGs wishing to influence government. Government sought to elicit information, legitimacy and support from PGs.
Types Sectional: economic interests prevail- trade unions, professional bodies and employers organisations. Members limited to those sharing occupation usually. Cause: promote idea not directly related to interests of members e.g. Abolition of Slave Trade, CND, CPAG, SPUC, plus environmental groups like the Ramblers, and Greenpeace. Members can be anyone. Peak: umbrella groups like TUC and CBI Fire Brigade: form in reaction to specific problem and then disappear: Anti Corn Law League, Road Traffic Reduction Campaign. Episodic: only go political when interests affected e.g. scout troops, sports clubs, local hunts. Divisions and alliances: Often PGs seek to influence each other or combine to maximise effectiveness. Often they line up for and against over different issues. e.g. licensing hours supported by brewers but opposed by alcohol addiction groups. Civil Society: the non-political voluntary aspects of society – family, business, church – which provide it with its vigour and internal controls. Also teach compromise, responsibility, democracy and leadership. Ability to form independent bodies is hallmark and precondition of democratic society. One study (Ashford and Timms, 1992) shows 16% in UK belong to religious organisations, 14% unions, 17% sporting bodies and 5% environmental. This compares with only 4.9% who belong to parties. Surveys show decline of faith in governments but increase in single groups and in democracy. PGs and Government: Governments seek information about planned measures from groups; their support can be crucial in 'legitimisation'. PGs seek to influence government at every stage of the policy cycle: initiation, consultation, White and Green papers, drafting of bills, debate of measures throughout legislative process and feedback re implementation. Insider/Outsider Groups: Most PGs seek to be 'insiders' (after Grant) to gain access to ministers and officials. Min of Ag always close to NFU but CND, although close to Labour failed because of superior clout of overall electoral considerations. It remains an 'outsider'. To get 'inside' PGs have to: command much of its potential members; have access to special information re members; have objectives compatible with those of government (unions not liked by Tories); values compatible with public; reputation for responsible behaviour and discretion; possess powerful sanctions. PGs try to avoid too close an association with government however in case a jointly supported policy fails. Methods: run on a gamut from negotiation through strikes and vigorous demonstrations to violence. Some groups like the Ramblers seek to test the law though not break it. Direct Action increasingly respectable: Newbury bypass protestors have won much publicity for their causes and public (and increasingly middle class) sympathy as society grow weary of the relentless 'progress'. Examples include the export of calves from Brightlingsea and the second runway at Manchester airport. Also opposition to GM foods has attracted a group of well-qualified middle class men and women. Terror Tactics: In USA anti abortion groups have shot doctors and the Animal Liberation Front have bombed laboratories where experiments on animals have been made. Reclaim the Streets in June 1999 set off a big demonstration against international capitalism and similar events occurred in the spring of 2000. Internet coordination was used in relation to the riots against the World Trade Conference in 2000 in Seattle, USA. Targets for PG Action: 1. public 2. other PG members 3. parties
parliament ministers and civil servants: 300 executive bodies with power to disburse funds; 1000 advisory committees with 10,000 members; Committees of Enquiry; Royal Commissions; Pre-legislative consultation. 6. EU institutions where 3000 PGs operate with 500 umbrella organisations for the whole of Europe working in relation to: regulations, promotion of key technologies, integration measures, funding and enablement measures. The Commission tends to provide the focus for EU PGs. 7. media (main strategy for most groups) most PGs in constant contact with media. 8. informal contacts- UK has an integrated elite with many educational (especially private schools), social and kinship connections as well as the system of clubs in London. When Robin Butler became Cabinet Secretary he was also proposed for the Athenaeum and other top clubs. Top people also meet at Henley, Glyndebourne and Covent Garden. Factors determining effectiveness: Good organisation; good staff; sufficient funding, good leadership; clear strategy. Help the Aged raised £50mn in 1996; Salvation Army £70mn overseas charities £300mn. Porritt, Field and Daube all good examples of PG leaders; Des Wilson when at Shelter outstanding also. Issue Attention Cycle: Robert Downs believed a cycle exists of alarmed discovery, to decline of progress and need to start all over again.
Economic Interest Groups Business: Multinationals do own lobbying and have resources to do so but most others rely on likes of CBI (15000 members, 35mn budget) and Small Business Association. Institute of Directors more rightwing and opposed to any government intervention as well as being pro Conservative. Aims of Industry also raise cash for Tories. Trade Unions: Helped form the Labour Party and still contribute half of its funding through the one half of TUC affiliated to the party. Helps Labour with voluntary help, membership as well. In exchange tries to influence policies of interest to them: social, employment, industrial relations. Unions very powerful in 1970s and were instrumental in bringing down the 1970–74 Heath government. Also negotiated Social Contract with Labour to keep inflation down and win policy victories for themselves. Thatcher keen to reduce power of unions and miner's strike 1983–4 saw a full-scale battle, which she eventually won to the detriment of union power during the 1980s. Blair keen to keep them at arms length as unions win few votes and too close a link a liability. Blair has demanded the unions 'modernise' and help productivity. Mrs Thatcher also hammered local government as PGs as well as professional groups like opticians, lecturers and lawyers. Tripartism: method of achieving industrial peace through regular contacts and planning. NEDC set up by Macmillan in 1961 as forum of employers, government and unions. Prices and Incomes policies came and went through such bodies but Conservatives not keen on such consensual devices and either ignored them(Thatcher) or abolished them (Major 1993). Professional Lobbying: US politics has several thousand registered lobbyists in Washington but in UK this has only happened recently with ex-politicians setting up consultancies and employing politicians to effect introductions and work on behalf of clients. However, Conservative involvement led to MPs charging for performing normal parliamentary duties. Nolan report cleaned up much of this but even New Labour found it had troubles with ex-aides like Derek Draper running a similar business. The Scottish Executive was also being caught out. Nolan: led to MPs having to disclose earnings; not to table questions or speak on issues in which they had an interest; register any contracts with a new Parliamentary Commissioner. Neil Hamilton was prominent as someone who accepted cash for exerting influence but who denied he had ever received any from Mohammed al Fayed. He fought several legal battles against the Harrods' owner but eventually lost them all, having already lost his Tatton seat to independent Martin Bell in 1997.
PGs and Democracy Support democracy through: providing channels of influence for citizens and minorities; dispersing power downwards; providing functional representation; 'safety valve' function for unheard minorities; continuity between elections; and scrutinising government on behalf of public. Weakens democracy through: allowing rich to exploit wealth and influence; exploitation of secret
informal connections; embodying PGs into government 'corporatism'; not ensuring PGs are themselves democratic; representing only sections of society instead of all of it. Pluralism: Robert Dahl suggested decisions taken in US through group discussion/negotiation. Paul Johnson said same of UK comparing Cabinet ministers to chairmen of arbitration committees. Sam Beer said wartime controls seemed to have survived with bureaucrats of private and public sectors negotiating together. However suggestion all groups were of equal strength was criticised by those who said business controlled the process. Dahl and Lindblom adjusted their theories later to account for the stronger role of government and the varying power of groups. Policy Networks: Jordan Richardson and Rhodes suggested regular advisors represented policy 'communities' whilst looser collections of 'issue networks' or 'outsider groups'. Corporatism: Process whereby the government enters into close relationship with big groups and makes them privy to and agents of government policies. Tripartism was held to be an aspect of this in the 1960s and 1970s. Means of bridging gap between capitalist economy and socialist notions of planning and consultation. 1970s Labour discredited the idea and it was criticised by Thatcher, Benn and Owen. Marxist: Business is held to be the real controller with democracy little more than window dressing. Business will do real stuff while unions marginalised and 'duped' into 'false consciousness' agency role of capitalism. New Right: Thatcher opposed to PGs as they were inherently sectional and not interested in the wider society with its groups like consumers. PGs also short circuit democracy by doing business across the gamut of government. Citizen Campaigning: Des Wilson believes this provides the real opposition to government if done properly: identify objectives, learn the process you are trying to influence, research your cause, mobilise support, use the media, be positive, be professional, be confident, be persevering. Are PGs becoming less effective? Unions certainly and Thatcher kept them at arms length and even avoided seeking consultation with groups, keeping periods unreasonably short to make life difficult or ignoring some groups-unions- completely. However some business groups and think tanks-ASI, IEAfound the Conservatives receptive to their ideas. Also popular movements connected to the environment grew apace in the 1980s and 1990s. Blair and PGs: much rhetoric about involvement but some improved consultation. Some selective listening to unions and poverty lobby. Labour vulnerable to those with muscle like Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and the mass supported Countryside Alliance.
Chapter 12: Political Parties The Role of Political Parties Unlike pressure groups, political parties aim to: • Originate rather than merely influence policy • Address the whole range of government policies • Seek to win control of representative institutions • Reconcile conflicting interests • Provide opportunities for ordinary people to participate in politics • Recruit people into politics at all levels • Allow a degree of democratic control of politicians • Provide choice between competing programmes • Ensure the representation of groups and the national interest • Act as a two-way channel of communication between the government and the public • Ensure that the parties are held accountable for their actions Although like-minded groups of MPs existed in the Commons for centuries, parties in the modern sense only appeared after the Second Reform Act, 1867: • Disciplined • Policy oriented • Formal organisation outside Parliament • Appealing to a large electorate • Two party dominance-based on electoral system
Party competition • • • • • • •
1867–1914 Liberals v. Conservatives Latter part of 19th century around 80 Irish Nationalist MPs 1900 Labour Party founded Britain had a multi-party system at the beginning of 20th century 1918 Irish Nationalists withdrew from British Parliament and the Liberals split 1918–39 Conservatives v. Labour (Conservative dominance) 1945–1997 Labour and Conservatives together gained over 90 per cent of seats (but Conservative dominance) • 1981 emergence of Social Democratic Party (Alliance with Liberals) • 1987 Liberal Democrats Two party system and expectation of one-party majority government – central to British politics, in that: • Government is strong • It can get its legislation through Parliament • The two-party system offers a choice at elections • It structures debate and the conduct of business in the Commons • Britain has responsible government, i.e. that the electorate can hold the government accountable at the next general election
The Conservative Party The party is noted for pragmatism and opportunism and was in power (alone or in coalition) for two-thirds of 20th century. It suffered a shattering defeat in 1945 and was forced to come to terms with the changing circumstances. Key figures such as R. A. Butler and Harold Macmillan ('one-nation' Tories) were important in redefining
party policy and accepting the social democratic consensus (Butskellism): • Greater role for the trade unions • Mixed economy • Colonial independence • Welfare state • High level of public spending • Economic planning Until Margaret Thatcher, Conservative leaders led from the centre-left: 1. They believed that the post-war consensus was the only way to run the country. 2. That this was necessary to maintain working class support. Tensions grew between 'one nation' Conservatism and neo-liberals, who advocated free market solutions and were suspicious of the role of government.
The leader of the party Although the leader does not face the same restraints as his/her Labour counterpart, he/she does not have a free hand: • Has to keep the leadership team reasonably united • Has to maintain morale of party • Has to keep a balance in the Cabinet/Shadow Cabinet • May have to compromise over policy Margaret Thatcher was faced with these problems: • She had to give office to a number of opponents ('wets') • Unable to cut public spending in her first Cabinet • Could not introduce as many market-oriented reforms as she wished • Was forced to take Britain into ERM under pressure from Chancellor Major and Foreign Secretary Hurd • Resignation of Lawson and Howe was very damaging John Major was particularly constrained during the 1992–97 Parliament • Tiny (and disappearing) majority in the Commons • Party divisions over Europe • Authority undermined by attacks in the press, criticisms from his MPs and widespread feeling the party would lose the next election
Election of leader Until 1965 the leader 'emerged' when the party was in office; the monarch (after consultation with advisers) invited a prominent Conservative to form a government. As this involved the monarch in the party's affairs, a system for electing the leader was adopted in 1965. This involved a complex system of ballots among Tory MPs: • 1965 – Ted Heath (the first elected leader) beat Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell • 1975 Margaret Thatcher beat Heath on first ballot and Whitelaw and others on the second ballot • 1989 Margaret Thatcher beat Sir Anthony Meyer on first ballot • 1990 Margaret Thatcher withdrew after inconclusive first ballot, and John Major beat Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd on the second ballot • 1995 John Major beat John Redwood on first ballot • 1997 William Hague won, beating Kenneth Clarke on third ballot
Conservative decline The decline of the Conservative Party in the 1990s has been remarkable. When it won the 1992 election against the odds, its domination seemed assured. It: • Was in power for around two thirds of the 20th century • Attracted votes across the class divide • Outscored Labour in terms of economic competence and the national interest • Won the battle of political ideas – privatisation, low taxation, market economy etc.
However, after 1992, it rapidly declined. It: • Lost its reputation for economic competence after the exit from the ERM • Was deeply divided over many issues, especially Europe • Has no MPs from Scotland or Wales and hardly any in the cities of England • Has suffered a change in party culture, especially the growth of open dissent • Party management is much more difficult than in the past
The impact of Hague When he was elected leader following the resignation of John Major, he inherited a party in disarray: • Membership had sunk to below 200,000 • Average age over sixty • Only a small proportion of members politically active • Party leadership powerless to control dissident MPs (provided they were backed by their constituency associations) • Party conference no longer deferential to leadership Hague set about reforming the party, adopting many of New Labour's ideas: • Creation of a Board to be responsible for the party outside Westminster: a) Abolition of the National Union (the voluntary section of the party) b) Party membership to be merged into one single party c) New Ethics and Integrity Committee to investigate allegations against MPs and others • Selection of parliamentary candidates to be made by all constituency association members • Creation of a new party forum to discuss policy • Creation of a new national party convention • Revised rules for challenging a party leader a) Process begun by motion of no confidence requested by at least 15 per cent of Tory MPs b) If carried, the leader resigns and cannot stand for re-election c) Only Tory MPs can stand for leadership d) Tory MPs ballot until only two candidates left e) Winner decided by postal vote of all party members • Reforms to Central Office (but handicapped by shortage of money) Critics doubt that changes will result in a more democratic party: • The forum and the convention are only advisory • Leader can ballot all members to outflank critics and claim a mandate • This style of leadership is similar to Blair's (plebiscitory) • Harder to challenge a leader because percentage needed has risen from 10 to 15 Under Hague, the party has not yet defined clear policies, although it has become more Eurosceptic (especially on the single currency) than under Major. Hague and others 'apologised' for the party losing touch with voters and Hague has attempted to project a more 'inclusive' appeal. Most members of Major's Cabinet who survived the 1997 election have left the Tory front bench.
Party organisation The 1922 committee This is the organisation of Conservative MPs. It is independent of the leader, elects its own officers and holds regular meetings. Although usually supportive of the leadership, it can be critical and in recent years has been divided between the different wings of the party. Conservative leaders pay close attention to views in the 1922.
Party committees The parliamentary party has a network of specialist committees on policy matters which are often influential when in government.
The National Union of Conservative Associations This was set up in 1867 to co-ordinate local constituency associations. It was the voice of grassroots activists and organised the annual conference. It was wound up in 1998.
Conference Its role is formally advisory but is important as a rally of the grassroots activists. Its importance in policymaking has been dismissed, but Richard Kelly argues that it is important in communicating the 'mood' of the party to the leaders. Pressure from the floor persuaded Mrs Thatcher to introduce the poll tax in one step, a politically disastrous decision. It can be argued that the Labour conference is now more stagemanaged than its Tory counterpart.
Constituency associations These: • Run the party locally • Recruit members • Organise social and fund-raising activities • Canvass (e.g. leafleting, knocking on doors at election time) • Political education/agitation • Choose candidates for local and parliamentary elections • Resist efforts by Central Office to persuade them to choose female or ethnic minority candidates or to deselect candidates accused of 'sleaze' • Seek election victory • Some have a paid agent to provide professional assistance/expertise
Membership: • • • •
Has declined and is ageing Attitudes are largely typical of party voters Discouraged by Conservative losses in local government in the 1990s Few Conservative councillors in the cities and large towns
Central Office • • • •
Comes under the direct control of the party leader who appoints the Chairman and other senior officials Is the link between the parliamentary party and the party in the country Has been attacked by the Charter Movement for lack of democracy Contains the Research Department which has an important role in party policy-making
Party groupings The Conservative Party contains or is associated with a wide range of groupings, from the Bow Group on the left to the Monday Club on the right. The existence of such groups indicate the extent to which the party has become factionalised.
Funding The central organisation: • Receives about one-tenth of its funding from levies on constituency organisations • The balance comes from individual and company donations, some received directly and some from 'front' organisations • Although the party opposes state funding for political parties, it has been in severe financial difficulties for some years: • A fall in contributions from constituency associations and individual members and companies • Heavy expenditure • Heavy reliance on a few wealthy donors (e.g. the party Treasurer Michael Ashcroft)
The Labour Party Its organisation differs from that of the Conservative Party: • Founded in 1900 by the trade unions and socialist societies, it developed as a grassroots organisation outside Parliament • Was in power for only short periods in 20th century • Was in favour of social and economic reform and was divided between gradual reformers and those wanting more fundamental changes • Was originally a federation rather than a unified party and traces of this are still present in its structure • The written constitution (1918) committed it to a socialist programme and provided an alternative source of authority to that of the parliamentary leadership
Power and leadership in the Labour Party The relationship between the parliamentary party (PLP) and the other party organs such as the National Executive Committee (NEC) is complex and shifting. In theory, the Labour Party is a 'bottom-up' party, with power in the hands of the annual conference and with a big role for the unions. Labour's ethos has stressed democracy, egalitarianism and collective decision-making, with a tradition of distrust of the leadership. At times, the party leadership in Parliament has been challenged by the party outside Parliament. Wilson and Callaghan defied the left-wing dominated conference and the unions, but lost the confidence of the party activists. In 1981 conference made a number of changes to policy and organisation (electoral college and mandatory re-selection) to make the party more 'democratic', though critics saw this as a way of increasing the power of left-wing activists (led by Tony Benn). The disastrous 1983 defeat seemed to show the electoral folly of these changes, and Kinnock (followed by John Smith and Tony Blair) began to reverse the swing to the left: • Far left figures (Militant) were expelled from the party • Benn and other left-wingers were marginalised • Constituency parties were brought under central control • Organisational changes aimed to strengthen the authority of the leadership over the rank and file, especially the activists: a) One Member One Voter (OMOV) in party elections b) Changes to the electoral college to reduce the power of the unions c) Ending of mandatory re-selection d) The policy-making role of conference has declined e) Conference is now 'managed' to be more supportive and less critical of the leadership • The party's aims and principles were 'modernised' a) Rewriting of Clause Four to end Labour's commitment to public ownership b) Acceptance of main policies of the Thatcher/Major era, especially commitment to a market economy c) New Labour as a 'catch-all' party, appealing to a wide range of interests across the classes d) Ideology has largely disappeared e) Business is courted by the party and is a significant contributor to party funds f) Several businessmen were recruited into the government in 1997 g) The bonds with the unions are weaker and some Blairites talked of ending the link entirely h) Several traditionally anti-Labour newspapers (Sun, News of the World) supported Labour in 1997 i) Party discipline has been tightened Several factors contributed to the transformation of New Labour • The four successive election defeats showed the extent of social and cultural changes which Labour had to accept if it was to win power again • Many of the Conservative policies were too popular or too firmly entrenched to be changed • The Labour Party had to remove many 'negatives' in its image • Globalisation and changes to the way financial markets operated showed that socialism in one nation was no longer practical
Other Parties Since the 1970s support for 'other' parties has grown, although the electoral system disguises the extent of that support.
The centre parties The main third party after 1918 was the Liberal Party which steadily declined in votes and seats until February 1974 when a recovery began. However first past the post remained a barrier. Its most distinctive policies in recent years have been political decentralisation and constitutional reform. In 1981 a group of right wing Labour MPs broke away to form the Social Democratic Party which formed an alliance with the Liberals. The Alliance polled well in 1983 (25,4 per cent) but gained only 23 seats. After a setback in 1987 most members of both parties voted for a merger, which resulted in the formation of the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown. The rump of the SPD under David Owen struggled on for a while but in 1990 was wound up. At first the Liberal Democrats adopted a policy of equidistance between the two major parties. But Blair took Labour to the centre and so Ashdown moved the party to a broadly pro-Labour stance. As the 1997 election approached there was open co-operation between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, mainly on constitutional issues. There were secret discussions between the two leaders on a possible coalition, although the magnitude of Labour's victory put an end to such talk. After the election a joint Cabinet Committee was establish to consider constitutional and other matters. Tony Blair has often talked of his wish to recreate a centre-left grouping that would end the Conservative domination of British politics. However, that possibility seemed to recede after the retirement of Paddy Ashdown in 1999. His successor, Charles Kennedy is less keen on close ties with Labour. The problem remains of how the Liberal Democrats can assert their distinctiveness from Labour while there is little to distinguish them in terms of policies.
The Greens It began in 1973 as the Ecology Party. Unlike its counterparts in various European countries, the Green Party has had little success in parliamentary elections, in part due to the electoral system. In 1997 its 95 candidates gained an average of 1.4 per cent of the vote.
The Nationalist parties Party politics in Northern Ireland differs from that on the mainland. The parties are split along religious lines. The Protestant/Unionist vote is divided between the Official Unionist Party (David Trimble) and the Democratic Unionists (Rev. Ian Paisley). The Catholic/Nationalist/Republican vote divides between the Social Democratic and Labour Party (John Hume) and Sinn Fein (Gerry Adams). In Scotland (Scottish National Party) and Wales (Plaid Cymru) want independence and see devolution as a staging post only. In the 1997 election six SNP and four PC MPs were elected. In the elections for devolved assemblies the nationalist parties emerged as the main opposition.
The Effect of Parties There is a dispute among academics about the effect of parties. Especially in the 1970s there were suggestions that they were too weak to provide good government. Others argued that they had too much power and that there were no effective constraints. However, the Thatcher years showed that parties can make a difference and could take on and defeat powerful interests such as the unions. During the Conservative hegemony, some commentators feared that Britain was becoming a one-party state like Japan. Many of the changes brought bout 1979–97 have proved irreversible and the Labour government has not made major changes to economic and social policy.
Problems for parties Although Britain is seen as the home of strong parties, there are signs that the parties are in trouble: 1. Declining popular attachment The proportion of the electorate identifying with Labour or the Conservatives has fallen dramatically since the 1960s 2. Falling membership Membership of the Labour and Conservative parties has fallen since the 1950s. Only about 2 per cent of voters are party members, lower than in many other Western states. 3. People have other, non-political interests The decline in party membership has coincided with an increase in the number of members of pressure groups 4. Interest groups are reluctant to associate closely with a political party Although the Labour-union link continues, other groups seek direct access to ministers rather than work through political parties. The media is more independent and politicians such as Blair seeks direct contact with voters. 5. Parties are turning elsewhere for relevant skills Parties turn to think tanks for ideas and to communication specialists (such as 'spin-doctors') for help at elections. Business leaders are used in government.
Chapter 13: Pathways into Politics Democracy and Participation Popular participation in politics has two features: • The most common forms are infrequent and/or sporadic, e.g. Voting in election or signing petitions • Only a tiny minority participate in things that take time and effort Those who participate most tend to: • Have higher than average levels of education • Have higher than average income • Are disproportionately from professional occupations Activists make up about 1.5 per cent (600,000) of the population.
Democracy and Non-participation A problem for democracy is the minority who take no part in politics at all. Evidence about those excluded is difficult to find because they tend not to respond to surveys, but seem to be divided into two groups: • Those who deliberately exclude themselves, perhaps because they have neither the time nor the desire to participate • Those suffer social, economic and cultural exclusion, such as prisoners or the homeless Thus exclusion from labour and housing markets goes with political exclusion, and those excluded are the poorest of the poor. This can lead to frustration which can find expression in riots and other forms of social disorder.
Democracy and Political Recruitment Recruitment into politics is the essence of representative democracy. In Britain the gateway to a political career is through a seat in the House of Commons (although membership of the devolved assemblies is another route). Full-time politicians in Britain today have some common features: • Most MPs are lifelong professional politicians • Most start young in politics • Most attend university • Most are men • Most are white • They must be prepared to accept long and unsociable hours, strains on family life, an insecure occupation and an income which is comparatively low Thus, unlike in previous generations, politics is a full-time profession which is difficult to combine with a serious commitment to another occupation. The process of reaching the top in British politics, i.e. a job in government or on the Opposition front bench, involves an even more rigorous selection process: • Being a candidate of one of the major parties is vital – only one Independent was elected in 1997, the first for many years • Holding a safe seat is important – William Hague became leader of the Conservative Party in 1997 partly because Portillo lost his seat • At any one time, a proportion of the parliamentary party will be ruled out of consideration for office because of incompetence, personal considerations, age (it is rare for anyone over 50 to be given a job for the first time, or incompatibility with the leadership)
• • • •
Social and professional skills (such as speaking ability), connections and patronage are important Luck plays a part – being in the right place at the right time Physical and mental robustness – at the top political life is very stressful Getting to the top of the 'greasy pole' – becoming Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition – is full of chance The path to political leadership is a wearying and exhausting march for which very few are equipped.
Referendums Referendums are an increasingly important aspect of political participation in Britain. So far, they have been held on constitutional issues such as devolution to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and further referendums may occur on electoral reform and entry to the European single currency.
Changing patterns in participation and recruitment Changes in both political participation and recruitment are having contradictory effects, in some ways opening new pathways to politics and in others closing them off.
Factors making democratic participation weaker 1. The effect of the Community Charge ('poll tax') One of the commonest means of evading the tax was not to register to vote. Even though the tax has been repealed, it is probable that around one million voters remain disenfranchised. 2. The decline of trade unionism Activity in union affairs was always a minority concern, but it provided a channel for political participation, especially for manual workers. The union links with the Labour Party enabled workers often with little formal education to acquire the skills such as public speaking, organising a meeting and so forth necessary for entry into political life. The decline of male manual trade unionism is probably the single most damaging social change as far as democratic participation in Britain is concerned.
Factors making democratic participation stronger 1. A decline in the historic cost of running candidates The deposit is now £500; had the original deposit of £150 set in 1918 been adjusted for inflation it would now be £3000. Thus it is much easier to stand as a candidate in parliamentary elections. 2. The accumulation of the 'social capital' on which much participation depends A well-developed network of associations is vital to the health of democracy. The evidence is that the number and range of such groups is growing and is including groups such as ethnic minorities and the sick who were previously excluded from the political process. Three factors are significant: • Long-term social changes such as the growth in formal education and interest in the environment have altered both the capacities and the outlook of the whole population. • Advances in techniques of political organisation and in technology are making it easier to form and maintain groups. • These developments have led to a growth in political entrepreneurship. This is the key means by which the voice of the previously excluded or the silent can be heard.
Changing patterns of recruitment Two features dominate the pattern of political recruitment compared with the past: 1. A considerable narrowing of the social range in recruitment. The domination of the Conservative Party by upper and upper middle class, public school educated men and the Labour Party by working class trade unionists has gone. The typical MP is now a middle-class professional.
2. The rise of the professional politician This is the product of two pressures a) The demands of most professional occupations are now so great that it is virtually impossible to make a long-term success while committed to politics. b) The demands of politics, especially at the parliamentary level, now virtually rule out combining an active role with a profession. Politics is increasingly full-time job. The decline of the working class MP is related to: • The declining influence of manual trade unionism in the Labour Party • Social change, which has brought middle-class meritocrats from working class backgrounds into politics • The rise of politics as full-time profession Professionalism makes an early commitment to politics necessary and the working class trade unionists who entered politics in middle age is much rarer than in the past.
Chapter 14: Devolution Core-Periphery Theory Michael Hechter and Jim Bullpitt argued that the 'core' exploits the 'periphery' so the south-east dominates the areas of Wales, Scotland etc. Steed argues the Civil War was a victory for the 'inner core' over the 'outer periphery'. Eventually, say the theorists the periphery fights back as in case of Ireland etc. Bullpitt says the outer regions are given 'low politics' to run via a 'collaborating elite' while 'high politics' (foreign policy, macro economics) run by the core.
Nationalism Four constituent countries retained their characters despite their absorption. In late 1960s government recognised nationalist strength and set up Kilbrandon Commission to draw its sting. Attempts to give assemblies stalled in 1970s; Wales voted heavily against one and Scotland was in favour but not by the 40% required by the legislation. Eventually the issue brought down Callaghan government when the Scots Nats refused to support him. In 1980s Thatcher ignored the problem but it did not go away. Ireland: 1800 Act of Union annexed the country to pre-empt collaboration with France. But the 103 Irish MPs were a constant source of dissension, especially after the movement for Home Rule got under way. Gladstone decided on Home Rule in 1885 but split his party and let in Salisbury for 20 yrs. 1907 Sinn Fein founded, matched by Protestants in north who armed themselves under Carson and were supported by the Conservatives. Irish Free State formed in 1921 but six counties in north separate province of prots ruled by devolved Stormont parliament. Prots unwilling to allow Caths (40% of population) to share power and resentment grew until exploded in late 1960s in Belfast. IRA led campaign of terror and civil war raged; British army caught in middle and unable to prevent being attacked by both sides. Various attempts to set up power sharing failed in 1970s and early 1980s until Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This was initially frustrated by IRA's failure to agree disarmament measures but eventually by summer 2000 agreement seemed to have been reached. Scotland: 1707 Act of Union was more of a negotiated affair in which Scotland retained much of its educational and legal systems as well as boards based in Edinburgh. In 1885 given Secretary of State to redress the wounded dignities' of the Scots. Administrative devolution in next century grew apace and included much of the welfare structures set up after the war. SNP set up in 1930s was unhappy that the minister in charge of their country was not from the majority party after 1959 in terms of votes. In 1980s this problem was exacerbated by Thatcher when Cons in striking minority throughout: 31–42 in 1979; 28– 35 in 1983; 24–42 in 1987; and 25–39 in 1992. Seat distribution even more distorted. Scottish Grand Committee set up to deal with Scottish matters and handle second readings; comprised all MPs in country and sat in Edinburgh. Forsyth, S of S in 1995 reminded SGC it was not a legislature. Poll Tax added insult to injury and SNP grew in strength. Cons kept out of an all party gathering to plan an assembly; Mrs T said Scots should not complain as they received a bigger share of public cash than English. Report recommended a 129 assembly: 73 to be elected by traditional system from constituencies; 56 would be elected by regional list to 'top-up' and reduce disproportionality. Parliaments to have fixed term and have power to vary income tax by 3% and be in charge of all local issues except 'high politics'. In 1997 Labour polled 46% and Cons got not one seat. In referendum in Sept 1997 74% supported assembly and 63% tax varying powers. In May 1999 Cons got 18 seats; Lab 56(53+3); Lib Dems 17(12+5) and SNP 35(7+28). Lab formed coalition administration with Lib-Dems with Dewar as First Minister. Problems over tuition fees for Scottish University students, which Lib-Dems wanted to abolish. Also problems over Labour ministers and an 'access to ministers' sleaze story. In July 1999 assembly met and set itself a task of 8 bills during year; Westminster usually faces 20. West Lothian Problem: Tam Dalyell pointed out that Scottish MPs could legislate on English matters but not vice versa now assembly in place. No real answer to this. Hague suggests English matters should be dealt with only by English MPs but this might prejudice
Labour majority as it would have done in 1974. Political Significance: • seems to validate the 'core periphery theory' • introduced coalition government to UK via PR. • made reform of voting less likely in country as whole as Labour scarred by results in Scotland and Wales. • clash of functions between S of S for Scotland and First Minister; • Not enough tax raising powers to do all assembly wants to do. • West Lothian problem still unsolved. • proportionately more MPs in Scotland -72- than in England • friction between Edinburgh and London already apparent. Wales: Welsh nationalism more cultural than Scottish, which is more economic, and to do with identity. Welsh language key to resentment of Welsh. Saunders Lewis, founder of Plaid Cymru broadcast in 1965 emphasising role of language and Welsh language Society formed as result. Gwynvor Evans elected in 1967. Resentment against English is strong and reflected in sporting encounters as well as burning of holiday homes. In 1980s believed Tories set up quangos to administer local government which they had lost electoral control of. In referendum 1997 only sliver of a majority for the 'yes' vote with most of opposition in western corridor adjoining England. Ron Davies had to resign after being caught on Clapham Common apparently 'cruising' for gay sex. Blair manipulated system to place his man Alan Michael as leader of Welsh Labour and in the subsequent elections Labour was trounced in heartlands by Plaid Cymru. Eventually labour led a minority government. When Michael lost vote of confidence Rhodri Morgan took over: a popular choice and the one Welsh favoured rather than Michael. In the light of this Blair decided to be glad at Morgan's election and admitted his earlier opposition had been a mistake. Political Significance: • minority labour administration sustained by reluctance of any party to damage the assembly by bringing down its first government prematurely. • Welsh assembly already pressing for more powers and complaining it is weak compared with Scotland. • Blair showed desire to control process of devolution: core reluctant to let go of periphery. • such interference backfired in elections. • power relationships change over time and new kinds of institutions evolve like the 'subject committees'. English Regions: Nationalism lies deeper in English but it is strong as revealed in Second World War and in football matches. Regions may begin to call for own assemblies as 1. feel assemblies doing better for Scotland and Wales than present set-up is doing for them. Barnett Formula of distributing public money spatially based on Celtic countries being poorer but now Scotland has caught up and Wales doing better. Some voices say 16% more for Scotland and 23% Wales than English regions is not fair. 2. England might argue it needs its own assembly. However federal structure would founder on massive size of England compared to Celtic fringe. 3. West Lothian Question: England might feel Scottish and Welsh assembly members have unfair advantage. Devolution and EU: Scotland produces half of UK fish but it is London who represents fishing in Brussels. London decides on which regions qualify for EU assistance but assemblies will implement EU directives. Scotland better set-up for EU than other assemblies so far. EU good for devolved countries in that direct links will strengthen and provide hope for nationalists that they could survive with Euro, EU foreign policy and huge market. SNP looks to set up joint parliamentary committees. Public expect Brussels will be most important influence over their lives in 20 yrs time. However most felt USA would be more reliable ally in war than Europe. Regional Assemblies: Labour says in favour if referendums show there is a demand though surveys suggest little call for them as yet. Regional Development Agencies – budget £1.3bn pa – might become embryo for new assemblies if it is felt such new machinery will strengthen fund-acquiring potential. NorthEast seems region most likely to call for an assembly. Citizenship: surveys show only 7% identify 'very much' with EU; 40 with GB; 51 with country; 32 with local community.
Chapter 15: The Changing Constitution Since the 1970s the traditional constitution has become a subject of political controversy. Demands for reform grew and many were met by the Labour government elected in 1997. Further changes are demanded. The changes have created problems for both major parties.
The Constitution: Definition and sources Definition The system of laws, customs and conventions which defines the composition and powers of organs of the state (such as government, Parliament and the courts), and regulates the relations of the various state organs to one another and of those state organs to the private citizen. Constitutions vary considerably in nature: • Most are drawn up in a single document • The length varies • Some simply list the structure and powers of state bodies • Some list the duties and rights of citizens • Processes of interpretation and amendment vary • Many are entrenched, i.e. they can only be altered by a complex process. The British constitution is not drawn up in a single codified document; it is part written and uncodified. It has four principal sources: 1. Statute law, i.e. Acts of Parliament 2. Common law, legal principles developed by the courts 3. Conventions, rules of political behaviour which are considered binding by and upon those who operate the constitution but which are not enforced by the courts 4. Works of authority, which provide guidance on the working of the constitution but which are persuasive only Statute law is supreme and can strike down common law because of the sovereignty of Parliament.
Amendment There is no formal procedure for amending the British constitution. Bills of constitutional significance require only a simple majority in Parliament. Thus the constitution is said to be flexible. However, recent developments have challenged that flexibility: • Membership of the European Union • Incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights • Devolution of power to elected assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Principal features of the traditional constitution 1.
Parliamentary sovereignty a) This has been described as the cornerstone of the constitution b) The courts recognise only the authority of Parliament to make law c) No body other than Parliament can set aside that law d) The courts cannot strike down a law as unconstitutional The rule of law a) Laws must be interpreted and applied by an impartial and independent judiciary b) Those charged are entitled to a fair trial c) No one can be imprisoned other than through the due process of law A unitary state
a) This is one in which formal power resides exclusively in the national authority b) Unlike in a federal system, there are no entrenched and autonomous powers being vested in any other body c) Supreme power is vested in Parliament, which can devolve power to other bodies which remain subordinate to Parliament 4. A parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy a) Constitutional monarchy means that Parliament is supreme over the monarch b) The House of Commons is the predominant institution and in turn is dominated by the government c) Parliamentary government means government through but not by Parliament d) Ministers are legally answerable to the Crown but politically to Parliament through the conventions of collective and individual responsibility e) The government depends on the confidence of a majority in the Commons for the passage of its legislation and its continuance in office This centralised system is described as the Westminster system of government and can be traced back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688: • At its heart is the Cabinet, sustained by a party majority in the Commons • Each party fights an election on the basis of its manifesto • If elected to office, the party implements its promises • Parliament provides legitimacy for the government by passing its legislation but also scrutinises the government and its proposals
Challenges to the traditional constitution 1. Membership of the European Union The European Communities Act 1972 was distinctive because it: • Gave the force of law not only to existing but to all future EC law. The assent of Parliament is not required. • Gave EC law precedence over UK law. In the event of conflict, EC law takes precedence over UK law. • Gave the power to determine disputes to the courts. The European Court of Justice is the Supreme Court of the EC, and where questions of European law reach the House of Lords, they have to be referred to the ECJ for a final ruling. This challenges the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Although the doctrine is formally in place (in that Parliament could legislate to take Britain out of the EU), the longer the 1972 Act remains in force the more obsolete the doctrine appears. In addition, the decision-making capacity of the British government has been challenged, in that much policy-making power has been passed to institutions of the EU. This has been extended by the Single European Act (1987), the Maastricht Treaty (1993) and the Amsterdam Treaty (1999). Membership of the EU has added a new element to the constitution, which does not fit easily with its traditional features. 2. The constitutional changes since May 1997 Demands for wide-ranging constitutional changes grew during the 1970s and 1980s as the political process no longer seemed to be performing as well as in the past. The pressure for change intensified in the 1990s. Supporters of change argued that: • A new constitution was needed in order to push power down to the individual • Power was too heavily concentrated in public bodies and in special interests • Decentralised power would limit the over-mighty state • It would also be more efficient, because decisions would be taken at a level closer to those affected Supporters of the traditional constitution countered that its attributes made it superior to any alternative on offer. It was: • Coherent in that the different parts of the system were integrated • Accountable in that electors knew who to hold to account • Responsive in that governments paid attention to the wishes of electors • Flexible in that the system could respond quickly in times of crisis • Effective in that the government could govern and deliver on its promises
Reform under a Labour government Since the 1997 general election there have been a number of constitutional changes: • Following referendums in Scotland and Wales, an elected parliament for Scotland with legislative and tax-varying powers and an assembly with secondary legislative powers for Wales. Elections were held in May 1999 and Scotland and Wales have their own administrations. • Following a referendum in Northern Ireland, an elected 108 member Assembly and a power-sharing executive, along with a range of unique constitutional arrangements including a North/South Ministerial Council, giving the government of the Irish Republic a say in Northern Ireland's affairs • The passage of the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention of Human Rights into domestic law • Following a referendum in London, the establishment of an elected mayor and assembly • The establishment of a Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons to propose changes to the way Parliament does its business • The election of British members of the European Parliament by a system of proportional representation • The appointment of a commission under Lord Jenkins of Hillhead to make a recommendation on a proportional alternative to fptp • The removal of the bulk of hereditary peers from the House of Lords, 92 being left as a compromise between the government and the Conservative peers • The appointment of a Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords under Lord Wakeham • A Freedom of Information bill which is currently going through Parliament Thus the traditional constitution has been affected in various ways by these changes: Tenets
Incorporation of the ECHR Ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty Incorporation of the ECHR Creation of devolved assemblies Use of referendums Proposed new voting system Removal of hereditary peers Freedom of Information Act Modernisation of House of Commons procedure
Rule of law Unitary state Parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy
However, although the practical effect of some of the changes may be to challenge and in the long run perhaps to undermine the traditional constitution, its basic provisions remain in place. No new constitution has yet been put in its place.
Parties and the Constitution The Labour Party For Labour there were two problems: 1. Practical There were difficulties in implementing its election promises: • The narrowness of the vote for the Welsh Assembly indicated there was little support for devolution to the English regions • The suggestion of a new electoral system divided the party and the government • Proposals for reform of the Lords led to opposition in the Lords itself and the government was forced to accept a compromise which left 92 hereditaries in their place • The proposals for freedom of information were diluted following opposition from members of the government, while the revised proposals were attacked by critics, including Labour MPs, as being too timid 2. Theoretical
The government was unable to make a coherent case for change: • It was wary of a new electoral system for the House of Commons • It was reluctant to set up elected regional assemblies in England • It was reluctant to establish a wholly-elected Second Chamber • It was unwilling to abandon the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, thus giving power away with one hand and reclaiming it with another All this meant that the government had no clear philosophical approach to constitutional reform and had no clear idea where it was going.
The Conservative Party The Conservative Party has faced with some immediate practical and some longer-term problems. The practical problems included: • Coming to terms with being the opposition and effectively scrutinising the government's proposals • Disagreements within the party about the plans for reform of the Lords • Disagreements about some aspects of the reform agenda such as an elected second chamber and an English Parliament The long-term problem concerned the party's attitude to constitutional reform in general. It was clear that the status quo had gone and many if not all of Labour's changes could not be reversed. William Hague has established a number of party commissions to examine various aspects of the constitution, recognising the impossibility of unscrambling an omelette.
The Liberal Democrats Although the Liberal Democrats have been consistent in favouring constitutional changes, they faced problems stemming from their closeness to Labour on this issue. The party accepted an invitation to join a Cabinet Committee on the constitution and had some input into Labour's changes. However, when it was clear that the government would not pursue electoral reform the party, led by Paddy Ashdown (who was known to be close to Blair) took no action to make its displeasure clear. The new leader, Charles Kennedy, is pursuing an equally cautious line.
The Continuing Debate Debate about the constitution is at two levels: • The very nature of the constitution itself and the various approaches to reform • The specific changes, such as electoral reform or the future of the House of Lords Arguments about the constitution have been given an impetus by the election of Labour in 1997. The vital question is whether reforms should derive from a view of what the constitution should be, or should the constitution emerge as the result of specific changes made on their individual merits?
Chapter 16: The Crown Introduction The crown is the symbol of all executive authority. The monarchy dates back at least to the ninth century and is the oldest secular institution in the country. In Anglo-Saxon and Norman times the powers of the crown – executive, legislative and judicial – were exercised by the monarch personally, although he was advised by courtiers. Later, these functions were transferred to other bodies. Although those bodies now exercise power independently of the monarch, they are in formal and legal terms instruments of the crown: • The courts are Her Majesty's courts • The judges are Her Majesty's judges • The government is Her Majesty's government • Parliament is summoned and prorogued by royal decree • Civil servants are crown appointees • Many powers (including the power to declare war) are still exercised in the name of the crown Although the monarch exercises few powers personally, those powers remain important. The importance of the monarchy lies in what it stands for rather than what it does, that it is a symbol of the nation. As the monarchy is hereditary and thus not elected, it has to stand aside from the party political battle, to be above public controversy, and thus cannot exercise political power in any personal sense. The monarchy is weakened by any controversy, such as during the abdication crisis in 1936 and during the marital strife of members of the Royal Family in the 1990s.
Development of the Monarchy The present Queen can trace her descent from the Saxon kings of the 9th century. The continuity of monarchical rule was only broken during the rule of Oliver Cromwell (1649–60). Although the monarchy is hereditary, succession to the throne is governed by both statute and common law. Although in past centuries power was exercised personally by the monarch, it was never an absolute power (unlike in many European countries) and the monarch was expected to consult with the leading men of the realm before declaring the law and levying taxation. From this developed Parliament, which became in time a rival to the monarch for power. This led to the Civil War and the execution of Charles I, who had claimed 'divine right' to rule without the assent of Parliament. Some years after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 there was another clash between the king and Parliament and in 1688 (the Glorious Revolution) James II was forced off the throne and replaced by a monarch more acceptable to the parliamentary leaders. From then on the monarch gradually lost power to Parliament and to ministers increasingly responsible to the legislature rather than to the king. The monarch has gradually withdrawn from the personal use of power, and ministers (particularly the Prime Minister) 'advise' the monarch on the exercise of the prerogative powers of the crown. By the end of the nineteenth century it was clear that the monarch was a symbolic rather than an actual ruler. He/she was: • Unable to control Parliament • Unable to choose ministers except in a purely formal sense • Unable to appoint judges and other public officials • Power had clearly passed to the Prime Minister, dubbed by some an 'elected monarch'. This transition has not been based on Act of Parliament. Some statutes have limited the power of the monarch, but in general the change is based on convention. There is no law that states that the monarch cannot veto a statute or that he/she cannot exercise a personal preference in appointing the Prime Minister. However, conventions ensure that the actions of the monarch are predictable and involve no element of personal preference.
The Contemporary Role of the Monarchy Symbolic role This has several aspects:
Representing the UK at home and abroad • • • •
As Head of State and as Head of the Commonwealth (also a symbolic role) The Queen represents this country in a multitude of ways. Two practical Benefits are said to follow: The Queen has gained considerable experience of public affairs by reason of her almost 50 years on the throne. This, coupled with her political neutrality, has meant that she has been able to offer Prime ministers and others detached and informed observations. Several Prime ministers have attested to the value of this. At times, the Queen has used her position as Head of the Commonwealth to try to resolve disputes between this country and Commonwealth countries, as in the dispute between Mrs Thatcher and other leaders over sanctions on South Africa. Some observers claim (though the claim is disputed) that the Queen and leading members of the Royal Family are good for British trade. Royal visits to foreign countries are often accompanied by efforts to boost British goods abroad.
Settings standards of citizenship and family life •
For most of the Queen's reign this has been seen as an important function of the monarch, who is both Head of State and Head of the Church of England, the established church. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family carry out many public duties and are connected with a wide range of charities. Even critics of the monarchy accept that the Queen is diligent in carrying out her duties. However, in the late 1980s and for much of the 1990s, the personal behaviour of the younger members of the Royal Family brought much discredit to the monarchy and led to a debate about its future.
Uniting people despite differences •
The monarch symbolises the unity of the nation, something made possible by the fact that the monarch transcends partisan politics. In Britain, the Crown is the substitute for the state, which is a concept not much understood or utilised in this country. The Queen also takes her role as head of a multi-ethnic Commonwealth extremely seriously. However, critics believe that the Royal Family occupy a socially privileged position which symbolises social divisions rather than unity.
Allegiance of the armed forces •
The armed forces swear an oath of loyalty to the crown and the Royal Family has close links with the services. Some believe that this helps to emphasise the apolitical role of the military and acts as a deterrent to their involvement in politics. Others are more sceptical that the monarch would be able to act as a bulwark against a coup.
Maintaining continuity of British traditions •
The monarch symbolises continuity in affairs of state and many of her duties, such as the State Opening of Parliament and the Trooping of the Colour, have a symbolic importance. Supporters of the monarchy believe that the awarding of honours and other activities of the monarch help to break down social barriers by recognising those who have contributed to the community (although critics believe they help to perpetuate an out-dated class system).
Preserving a Christian morality
The Queen is supreme governor of the Church of England and there are close links between the monarch and the church. However, the extent to which this link remains important is controversial, given the changing attitude to religion.
Exercise of formal powers There is a range of powers the monarch exercises as Head of State. Though some argue that most if not all of these powers could be taken over by elected persons (such as the Speaker of the House of Commons), there are two reasons why they should remain vested in the sovereign. 1. The combination of the symbolic role and the powers vested in the crown enables the monarch to act as a constitutional safeguard. The unelected monarch serves as the ultimate protector of the political system. 2. Retention of the prerogative powers is a reminder to ministers and other servants of the crown that they owe a responsibility to a higher authority than to a transient politician. This view sees the monarch as an ultimate deterrent; although her actions are governed by convention, she still has the legal right to use her legal powers.
Criticisms of the monarchy There are four principal criticisms.
Potential for political involvement Although most of the monarch's actions are governed by convention, there are occasions when these may not apply. For example, in the event of a 'hung' Parliament, the monarch might have to exercise a personal discretion. There remains the danger that circumstances might make involvement in real, as opposed to formal, decision making unavoidable. Some critics suggest that the monarch's powers should be transferred elsewhere, perhaps to the Speaker of the Commons. However, defenders reply that retention by the monarch of the prerogative powers causes no problems and that transfer to the Speaker would politicise that institution.
Unrepresentative A hereditary monarchy cannot claim to be representative of the nation in that it is a hereditary institution. Nor it is socially representative of the people, being based on wealth as well as inherited privilege. There have been efforts, especially since the death of the Princess of Wales, to reduce some of the barriers between the Royal Family and the people. However, defenders argue that by definition it is impossible for the Royal Family to be socially representative and to be too close to everyday activity would rob the institution of its aura and charm.
Overly expensive Criticisms of the cost of the monarchy became pronounced in the 1990s. It is estimated that the annual cost of the monarchy to the public purse is around £57 million. This includes the costs of the various royal palaces. Supporters point to economies made by the Royal Family in recent years and to the fact that the costs of the monarchy are offset by revenues from the crown lands. It is argued that the public activities of the Queen and other members of the Royal Family represent good value for money to the British taxpayer.
Unnecessary Though some critics argue in favour of a more open and less costly monarchy on the Scandinavian model, others see the monarchy as an unnecessary institution which does actual harm. They believe that the arguments advanced in favour of the monarchy, such as its power to unite and its political neutrality, are simply myths generated to justify a deeply undemocratic institution. The functions performed by the monarch could just as well be carried out by an elected president.
Answers to these criticisms
Supporters of the monarchy counter this by a variety of arguments: • That the monarchy retains majority support in the polls • That it is doubtful if an appointed or elected head of state would be able to carry out the symbolic roles of the monarch • That although the reputation of the monarchy may have been tarnished in recent years it remains of value to the nation
Proposals for change Abolition In the 1990s polls showed an increase in those favouring abolition of the monarchy and a decrease in those who thought Britain would be worse off in its absence. More people said they thought the monarchy would not exist in fifty years time than said the reverse. However, more recently, support for the monarchy has recovered. Around three-quarters of those questioned regularly express support for retaining the institution.
Reform Various suggestions for change have been made. Radical suggestions include transferring the monarch's prerogative powers to the Speaker and for a referendum to confirm a monarch shortly after succeeding to the throne. Polls show a general desire for a more open and approachable monarchy, which mixed more with ordinary people. Other suggestions include that the eldest child of the monarch should succeed to the throne, regardless of gender and an end to the ban on anyone who marries a Roman Catholic succeeding to the throne. Criticisms of the conduct of members of the Royal Family appear to have been taken to heart and in 1996 the 'Way Ahead Group', consisting of senior members of the Royal Family and palace officials, was formed to consider the future of the monarchy.
Leave alone Although there remain some ardent admirers of the monarchy (perhaps from a desire to attack New Labour, despite the admiration Tony Blair has expressed for the Queen), this is very much a minority position. The strength of feeling that reform is necessary if the institution is to survive long into the 21 st century has been recognised by the government and by the Royal Family itself.
Strengthen Polls show that there is support for giving the Queen a greater role, though the nature of this role was not specified. This support is greatest among young and working class respondents, many of whom felt that the Queen would run the country more wisely than politicians. For example, a 1996 poll recorded many respondents saying that the Queen had superior skills to those of the Prime Minister, John Major. However, this view is not held by politicians or, as far as is known, by members of the Royal Family. For the Queen to be required to make politically-controversial decisions of any kind would be at the expense of those functions which ensure the continuance of a constitutional monarchy in this country.
Chapter 17: The House of Commons Origins of Parliament Parliament began in the thirteenth century as the King's need for money grew. It has evolved since as the result of a number of different pressures. There are two broad generalisations: 1. Parliament is not, and never has been on any continuous basis, a part of the executive. 'Parliamentary government' means government through, not by, Parliament. For most of its history it has been a reactive or policy-influencing body. Public policy is formulated by the government and then presented to Parliament for its approval. Parliament has the power to amend or reject legislation but not to make policy of its own. 2. Parliament carries out a number of tasks, including giving assent to the raising of taxes and scrutinising the executive.
The Development of Parliament • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
In the 13th century knights and burgesses were summoned to give assent to King's demand to raise extra taxes They joined the King's court (barons and leading churchmen) In the 14th century the summons became regular – Parliament had emerged 14th century – separation of Lords and Commons Gradual emergence of supremacy of the Commons Clash between Charles I and Commons – Civil War and execution of King 1649 Restoration of monarchy 1660 – on Parliament's terms 1688 Glorious Revolution – supremacy of Parliament clearly established Parliament continued to look to executive (ministers appointed by and responsible to King) to formulate policy 18th century – royal and aristocratic influence controlled the Commons Growth of electorate in 19th century Consequences: ending of grip of the aristocracy and the monarch over the Commons and the government Golden Age 1832–67 – MPs independent of the monarch, party ties loose, government lacked means to control Common After 1867 – growth of party led to government control of the Commons Government began to control legislative process and determine public policy House of Lords clearly became subordinate to Commons – 1911 Parliament Act 20th century – Commons the dominant chamber, but government with a party majority controlled the Commons
The House of Commons Elections Since 1911, the maximum life of Parliament has been five years. The 659 MPs are elected in singlemember constituencies by the first past the post method. All seats are now contested, although in the past a large number of MPs were elected unopposed.
Each constituency comprises a defined geographical area and MPs represent all the voters. Constituency boundaries are revised every ten to fifteen years by the independent Boundaries Commissions.
Members MPs are not representative of the voters in a socio-economic sense. They are generally male, middle class and white. This tendency has increased in the post-war period. Among Conservative MPs there has been a decline in the proportion of upper and upper middle class, public school educated men, although the percentage of graduates has grown. Conservative MPs are not socially typical but are somewhat more middle class than in the past. In the case of Labour, the proportion of graduates has risen. The percentage of working class Labour MPs has been steadily declining, reaching only 13 per cent in 1997. Labour MPs are largely drawn from public sector white-collar employment. There is a convergence between MPs on both sides of the Commons. The vast majority of new MPs are graduates and are drawn from politics and communications: • Labour – teachers, journalists, political staffers • Conservative – political advisers and researchers These trends reflect the rise of the 'career politician', someone who: • Lives for politics • Holds a job related to politics before standing for Parliament • Seeks entry to the Commons as soon as possible • Seeks to stay in the House for as long as possible • Makes politics his/her life's work • Hopes to hold government office The differences are in terms of experience in local government and in gender. Of the new MPs in 1997, almost two-thirds of Labour members have served as councillors as against one-quarter of Conservatives. There were 101 women Labour MPs as opposed to 13 Conservatives. There are few non-white MPs. In 1997 nine were elected – all Labour, only 1 per cent of the membership. A notable feature of the British House of Commons compared to other legislatures is the length of time MPs serve. A typical Member sits for about twenty years, some serve for thirty or forty years and the Father of the House, Sir Edward Heath, was first elected in 1950. MPs are paid a salary of around £47,000 and have secretarial and research allowances (around £50,000) and office facilities for MPs have been improved and soon each MP will have an office.
Sittings of the House The Commons: • meets annually • each parliamentary session runs from October to October (or early November) • usually sits for more than 150 days (similar to the legislatures of USA, Canada and France) • and for more than 1200 hours per year (a very high figure) • meets at 2.30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11.30 a.m. Thursdays • usually rises no later than 10.30 p.m. Monday-Thursday but may go on longer • Private Members' bills are discussed on Fridays • there is a 'parallel chamber' which meets in the Grand Committee Room off Westminster Hall and deals largely with non-contentious private Members' motions
Functions Legitimisation The Commons since its inception has been a legitimising body: 1. 'Latent legitimising' By meeting regularly the Commons produces a sense of the government's moral right to rule. This is reinforced by the fact that ministers are drawn from and rule through Parliament. 2. 'Manifest legitimising'
This is the overt giving of assent to legislation. This includes giving assent to legislation and to the government itself, in that the government can be forced to resign if it loses a vote of no confidence. However, the strength of party discipline ensures that a government with a majority is very unlikely to lose such a vote.
Recruitment By convention, ministers are normally drawn from, and remain within, Parliament. It is extremely rare for a minister to be appointed who does not sit in either and even rarer for that person to remain outside Parliament. Persons appointed from outside are usually given a peerage. Relations between ministers and the Commons are governed by convention: • individual ministerial responsibility means that ministers are answerable for their own conduct and that of their departments • collective responsibility means that the Cabinet are responsible to the Commons for government policy as a whole The fact that ministers remain in the Commons has advantages for the government: • ministers can use their positions to lead and marshal their supporters • there are around one hundred ministers in the Commons whose support for the government is assured – this is the 'pay-roll' vote There are also advantages for the Commons: • it ensures that members are close to ministers • ministers can be questioned on the floor of the Commons • they can also be contacted less formally, for example in the division lobbies • as ministers remain constituency MPs they are aware of the pressures faced by their fellow MPs Thus Parliament, unlike, for example, the US Congress, is the route for ministerial office. Reputations are won and lost in the Commons, and a minister who fails to master the chamber is unlikely to remain in office for long.
Scrutiny and influence There are various means whereby the Commons subjects both the measures and the actions of government to scrutiny: • debate • questioning • committees The Commons can influence the government: • by force of argument • by threatening to defeat the government in the division lobbies • by actually defeating the government, thus refusing its assent These two functions are central to the activity of the Commons and take up most of its time. The government is subject to critical scrutiny from opposition parties, although as it usually has a majority it is normally safe from defeat. However, MPs are not just influenced by party ties: • they are likely to have some perception of the national interest • they will seek to protect constituency interests • they may be influenced by moral or religious considerations • they may listen to bodies outside Parliament However, critics argue that as the government has a majority in the Commons scrutiny is largely ineffective. Government MPs are unwilling to use their power against their own side.
Expression The House serves several expressive functions: • MPs serve to express the particular views and demands of constituents • MPs express the views of different groups in society • They may explain the views of the House and the government to constituents and groups outside the House Though the House has the potential to serve a number of expressive functions, the extent to which they do
so is disputed. Critics feel that the party battle limits the ability of MPs to perform their functions adequately. The contemporary Commons has lost two functions it performed in the past: • The 'elective' function, i.e. choosing the government. That has now passed to the electorate in a general election • The 'legislative' function. The power to make legislation has passed largely to the government, with the role of the Commons being to give (or, rarely, to withhold) its assent.
Scrutiny and influence Legislation About 30 to 40 per cent of the time of the House is taken up with debate on bills, the bulk of which are government (as opposed to Private Members') bills. Each bill goes through certain stages: • First Reading – this is the formal introduction and no debate takes place • Second Reading – this is a debate on the principles of the measure. • Committee stage – this is when the bill is subject to detailed scrutiny. Some highly important bills have their committee stage on the floor of the Commons, though most are sent to a standing committee. Each bill is considered clause by clause. • Report state – this is when the amended bill is returned by the committee for further discussion • Third reading – this is when the House gives the bill its final approval The bill then goes to the House of Lords. If there are Lords amendments, the bill returns to the Commons for their consideration. Most Lords amendments are accepted. If not, the Lords usually gives way. Once both Houses have agreed, the bill then goes to the Queen for the Royal Assent. There are some exceptions to these stages but the bulk of legislation is thus dealt with. Bills constitute primary legislation. They often contain powers for secondary or delegated legislation to be made by ministers under their authority.
Executive actions There are various ways to scrutinise and perhaps influence the actions of government.
Debate and Question Time Most of the time of the House is taken up debating or questioning the actions of the government. Debates take various forms, perhaps to congratulate or condemn the policy of the government. They can be initiated by the government, perhaps to approve legislation or to discuss matters which the government wants discussed. They may be started by the opposition parties. Private Members have (limited) powers to initiate debate. Although some debates attract a large number of MPs, most do not, and only a few MPs are present, as they face competing pressures and increasingly spend time in their offices. Question Time takes place Mondays to Thursdays, with Prime Minister's Question Time on Wednesdays from 3.00 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. Ministers answer questions on a rota basis and the question asked must be something for which they are responsible. There are a number of matters such as the activities of the intelligence service on which questions cannot be asked. There are other methods for asking questions. Though some Members regard Question Time as a farce because of its adversarial and party-dominated nature, it does have some uses: • It allows MPs to raise constituency or other concerns • It keeps ministers on their toes and forces them to answer questions on matters that might be embarrassing • It brings matters to the attention of ministers which they otherwise might not be aware of • It puts things on the public record which might otherwise not be available
Select Committees Select committees are appointed to consider particular subjects assigned by the House.
There are two kinds: Non-departmental select committees which deal with various 'domestic' matters concerning the running of Parliament. These include the Public Accounts Committee that scrutinises the way public money is spent, the Committee on Standards and Privileges etc. 2. The departmental select committees. The present system was established in 1979 and now consists of 16 committees that scrutinise the activities of the various government departments, with some having a brief, which runs across several aspects of government activity. Departmental select committees were established 'to examine the expenditure, administration and policy' of the department it covers. They have the power to send for 'papers, persons and records'. Most have a membership of eleven and elect their own chairman. Each committee decides its own agenda and what to investigate. They have power to take evidence and much of their time is spent questioning witnesses. Some hold long-term inquiries, others go for short-term inquiries, and some a mixture of the two. Though ministers cannot be forced to attend, they invariably do, as do civil servants, although they only speak for their minister and so cannot divulge advice they give to ministers or express opinions on policy. When the inquiry is over a report is drawn up and published. Only a minority of such reports are accepted by the government and the select committees have no power to force action to be taken. Departmental select committees serve several purposes: • They have added to the store of knowledge of the House • The provide an important means of specialisation by MPs • They allow groups and individuals to get their views on the public record • The committees may take up the issue and ensure it is put on the political agenda • They are an important means for scrutinising and influencing the government However, there are limitations: • The committees have limited powers and limited resources • Few of their reports are debated on the floor of the Commons • Although the government has to make a written response to committee reports, they are under no obligation to accept them or act on them • Although ministers and civil servants appear before the committees, they do not necessarily reveal much of substance 1.
Early day motions A Member may table a motion for debate 'on an early day' (though there is little chance it will be debated). EDMs allow MPs to raise a wide range of concerns, which are thus put on the public record.
Correspondence Since the 1950s, the flow of letters to MPs from constituents and a range of organisations has grown enormously. In turn, writing to a minister is the usual method for an MP to pursue a matter raised by a constituent or by a pressure group.
Parliamentary commissioner for administration – 'ombudsman' The ombudsman was established in 1967 to investigate cases of maladministration within government. • 'Maladministration' covers any error in the way something was dealt with – it does not include policy • The ombudsman can only dealt with complaint forwarded to him by an MP • He can summon papers and take evidence under oath • If the department accepts and acts upon his recommendations no report to Parliament is necessary • His recommendations are generally acted upon • Compensation and other remedies are available for those aggrieved However, the ombudsman has a number of limitations. He has: • A limited remit • Limited resources • Limited access to certain files such as Cabinet papers • It is up to the government to take action on his reports • The only alternative source of pressure is adverse publicity in the Commons or media • MPs often prefer to do their own case work and are often unwilling to pass complaint to the
ombudsman The ombudsman handles an increasing number of cases annually. In 1998/9, 1,506 cases were referred and 372 investigated. In the previous year, £437,000 was paid in compensation.
Party committees These are unofficial committees of the parliamentary parties. In the two main parties: • There is a series of committees mirror the topics covered by the departments • Have elected officers • Tend to meet regularly to discuss forthcoming business • Listen to invited speakers • Consider topics of interest • Have some impact of policy-making within the part • Allow MPs to specialise • Have to compete with other demands on MPs' time
All-party groups These number some one hundred and are formed on a cross-party basis, and each considers a particular topic. The subjects covered are diverse. Many have links with outside bodies. There are also around one hundred all-party country groups.
Members under pressure Public business The volume of business has increased in recent times. • Although the number of bills has not greatly increased, the volume has – bills are much longer and more complex than formerly • This has led to an increase in the time spent in standing committees • The burden of other business has grown, especially scrutinising EU legislation, select committees
Organised interests The volume of lobbying by outside groups has increased in recent decades: • Since 1979 government has kept outside groups more at arm's-length • MPs have been more of a target • Departmental select committees have been a target for pressure groups • MPs have become somewhat more independent in their voting behaviour Many interest groups: • Have frequent contact with MPs • Ask MPs to table questions on their behalf • Ask MPs to arrange meetings at the Commons • Ask MPs to table amendments to bills etc. • Provide MPs with advise and information, useful for questioning the government and raising new issues This has some adverse consequences, including increasing the demands on MPs' time.
Constituents The volume of letters from constituents has increased. MPs give constituency work priority – dealing with letters, appearing at constituency functions and holding surgeries. MPs will normally deal with constituents' complaints by writing to the minister concerned.
MPs themselves The growth of the professional politician has added to the burdens of MPs. There is a greater body of MPs who are keen to be re-elected and become ministers. MPs typically work a seventy-hour week
• • •
The tendency of the career politician is to: table as many questions as possible intervene as often as possible in the Chamber attract media attention – so long as it is favourable
The House under pressure Although a poll in 1991 showed that a plurality (43 per cent) of those questioned said that they were satisfied with the job their constituency MPs was doing, respondents were more critical of Parliament as a whole. There are several factors.
Sleaze In the 1990s public anger at MPs accepting money from outside interests for tabling questions and other services led John Major to establish the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life. In 1995 the House went further than the Committee's recommendations: • Paid advocacy – advocating any particular cause in Parliament in return for payment – is banned • Members have to disclose income received from outside bodies paid to them because they are MPs • A Code of Conduct was established • A Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards was appointed • Payments for giving advice on parliamentary matters and hospitality can still be accepted, so long as it declared in the register of MPs' Interests
Partisanship There is a public perception that the clash between the parties has increased in recent years. It is certainly more visible because of the introduction of television. There is a feeling that politicians engage in negative point scoring. Television tends to show either a largely empty Chamber or baying MPs. This is particularly noticeable at Prime Minister's Question Time.
Executive dominance Executive dominance is perceived to have grown: • Party dominates the Commons • Power is concentrated in Downing Street • Parliament is marginalised • Polls show a majority agreeing that Parliament does not have sufficient control over the government or what Parliament itself does This feeling grew during the time of Margaret Thatcher and has increased under Blair as Labour MPs were given pagers so they could be summoned to vote and told how to vote.
Creation of other policy-making bodies The power of the Commons is further undermined by: • Membership of the European Union • The courts • Devolved assemblies In a number of policy areas, the scope of decision-making by Parliament has been reduced.
Pressure for change There are three principal approaches to reform:
1 Radical This wants Parliament to be a policy-making legislature. This would need major reform of the constitution to change fundamentally the relationship between Parliament and the government. This would include: • A new electoral system (PR)
A reformed and elected second chamber Separation of powers between the executive and the legislature
2 Reform This wants to strengthen the Commons as a policy-influencing legislature: • The onus for policy-making would rest with the government • The Commons would have greater influence over the process • There should be structural and procedural changes such as more powers to committees, incentives to MPs to pursue committee careers as an alternative to ministerial office
3 Leave alone Supporters stress the importance of the Chamber as the place where the great issues are debated and feel that committees, greater specialisation by MPs etc detract from this. They see the role of the House as primarily that of supporting or opposing the government. Adherents of all three alternatives have been heartened by recent developments:
Radical • •
The creation of delegated assemblies with PR systems The government's commitment to a referendum on the electoral system for Westminster
Reformers • • • • •
The introduction of Departmental Select Committees in 1979 The recommendations of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House The creation of the 'parallel chamber' Changes to the legislative process The creation of various commissions to consider reform
Leave alone • • • •
They feel they are likely to succeed by default The government is not keen on changes that would threaten their grip on the parliamentary process MPs become too tied up with various pressures to address the problems of parliamentary reform There is an absence of strong leadership for reform and lack of agreement on what those reforms should be.
Chapter 18: The House of Lords Introduction The longevity of the Lords is remarkable for two reasons: • It has never been an elected chamber • Until 1999, membership was based primarily on the hereditary principle Contemporary debate revolves around the nature of the second chamber rather than whether Britain should be unicameral or bicameral.
History • • • • •
• • • •
Originated from the Saxon Witenagemot and the Norman Curia Regis Consisted of lords spiritual (bishops) and lords temporal Membership was hereditary Could not claim to be representative – thus gradually became inferior to the House of Commons 1911 Parliament Act a) Lords could delay a non-money bill for no more than two sessions b) Lords could not delay money bills (those dealing exclusively with money) c) Absolute veto continued regarding bills to extent life of Parliament 1949 Parliament Act – delaying power of Lords reduced to one year 1958 Life Peerages Act – allowed people to accept peerage for their lifetime only 1963 Peerages Act – allowed hereditary peers to disclaim their title 1999 House of Lords Act – all but 92 hereditary peers lost their right to sit in the Lords
Membership and attendance Until 1999 there were over 1000 members of the Lords: • 759 hereditaries • 485 life peers • 26 law lords • 26 lords spiritual (2 archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England) Membership has been affected by 1958 and 1999 Acts
Membership 1.12.99 • • • •
Archbishops and bishops, 26 Law lords, 27 Life peers, 525 Peers under the House of Lords Act 1999, 92 (out of 670)
Composition The 1958 Act made possible a substantial increase in the number of Labour peers. Labour supporters had been unwilling to accept hereditary peerages, so the Lords was dominated by the Conservative Party. However, the Conservatives remained the largest single groups. The 1999 Act redressed the balance. There are almost equal numbers of Conservative and Labour life peers of the Lords, with the balance being held by the cross-benchers, i.e. those who do not accept a party whip. Because most of the 92 surviving hereditaries are Conservatives, that party is still the largest group. Hereditary peers are drawn largely from the upper class. The social profile of the Lords was affected by
the creation of life peers from modest backgrounds. However, most life peers are normally those who have achieved some particular distinction in politics, business etc. So the Lords is not socially typical of the population. The Lords is also atypical in terms of age and gender; a vast majority are sixty-five and older. There are just over 100 women peers, a minority. Black and Asians peers are a tiny minority. The 1958 Act allowed into the House peers with special expertise and experience.
Activity Until the 1958 Act: • The Lords was poorly attended • Peers were not paid a salary • The House rarely met for more than three days a week and only for three to four hours a day The position changed significantly after 1958: • Life peers were disproportionately active • Attendance grew and the House sat for longer • Late-night sittings became common • By the 1980s, more than two-thirds of the membership attended one or more sittings a year • More than 500 contributed to debate • The number of votes increased • Governments, Labour and Conservative, suffered defeat in the Lords, although Labour administrations were more prone to this • In 1985 the Lords allowed in the television cameras, forcing the Commons to follow 1989
Procedures The Lords differs from the Commons in its procedures: • Though the Lord Chancellor is the presiding officer, he has no power to call peers to speak or to enforce orders • The maintenance of order is the responsibility of the House itself • The Lords is more chamber-oriented than the Commons • The number of divisions is lower than in the Commons • The Salisbury agreement of 1945 means the Lords does not divide on the second reading of any government bill
Functions These are broadly similar to those of the Commons, and where they differ it is because the Lords is subordinate to the lower house.
Legitimisation The Lords fulfils the functions of both manifest and latent legitimisation, but on a modest scale because it is not an elected chamber and so cannot claim legitimacy.
Recruitment A small number of peers (two Cabinet – Lord Chancellor and Leader of the House – and ten to fifteen others, plus seven whips) serve as ministers. They are appointed primarily for political and managerial reasons: • They explain bills and marshal support • Peers have no constituency responsibilities and so can devote more time to their ministerial duties • They widen the pool of talent available to the Prime Minister • Someone can be elevated to the peerage at the same time as being appointed to the government
Scrutiny and influence Three features make the Lords particularly suitable for the detailed scrutiny of legislation:
As an unelected House it cannot claim the legitimacy to reject legislation agreed by the Commons. Thus it focuses on the detail rather than the principles. 2. Its membership includes experts from many fields who take a disinterested, non-party look at bills. 3. The House has the time to look at bills in more detail than the Commons. The House serves as a revising chamber with a role that is complementary to the Commons. It makes a large number of amendments to bills, most of which are moved by the government, though often in response to suggestions made by back-bench peers. It is rare for the Commons to reject amendments made by the Lords. The revising role occupies a little over half the Lords' time. The Lords also scrutinises and occasionally influences government policy: • Peers debate in a less partisan atmosphere than the Commons • They are not subject to constituency and party pressures • They can debate issues that receive little attention in the Commons • They bring expertise to the debate
Expression The Lords, despite not being a representative body, can bring issues on to the political agenda in a way not always possible in the Commons: • Peers are responsible to no one but themselves and can raise whatever they feel needs raising • MPs may be wary of raising issues that have little salience in party terms or which may offend outside interests • Peers are often lobbied by outside interests to raise issues • There is more time to debate general issues than in the Commons
Other functions 1. Judicial function The Lords is the highest court of appeal in the United Kingdom. The judicial work is carried on by the law lords and other peers who have held high judicial office, presided over by the Lord Chancellor. 2. Legislation The Lords also passes a small number of private peers' bills, although they take up only about 3 per cent of the Lords' time. 3. Constitutional guardian The Lords retains a veto over attempts to extend the lifetime of Parliament. It may use its limited power to amend or delay a bill, but it lacks any legitimate base to obstruct an elected government.
Scrutiny and influence Legislation About half the time of the Lords is given over to legislation, which goes through much the same stages as in the Commons. Votes on second reading are extremely rare. The main work takes place at committee and report stages, and committee stages are usually taken on the floor of the House. This means that there is potential for a more thorough and expert consideration than is possible in the Commons.
Executive action There are various means available for scrutinising the actions of the executive: • Debates These take place on motions and cover a wide range of issues and attract often highly informed and expert contributions. • Questions There are several ways in which peers may question government ministers. • Committees Use of committees is growing in the Lords. Two are of particular importance: • The European Union Committee a) This undertakes scrutiny of draft European legislation
• • • • •
b) It seeks to identify questions of policy or principle that raise important questions of principle c) It works through six sub-committees, each covering a particular area d) Members are appointed on the basis of their expertise e) It can recommend that particular documents should be debated by the House f) It has built up a reputation as thorough and informed body g) It has no power except that of persuasion The Select Committee on Science and Technology a) It has a wide remit to examine matters connected with science and technology b) It includes a number of peers with particular expertise c) It issues reports which attract considerable publicity d) It raises issues which otherwise might have been neglected by the government and/or the Commons Party meetings The parties are organised, with their own leaders and whips Even the cross-benchers have their own elected leader (convenor) Party meetings are usually held each week They are useful as two-way channels of communication between leaders and led
Reform: stage one Demands for reform grew in the 19th century as the unelected Lords became increasingly dominated by the Conservative Party. The 1911 Parliament Act envisaged an elected House. In 1918 there were proposals for phasing out hereditary peers and in 1948 a conference agreed that heredity alone should not the basis for membership. In 1969 the Labour government tried to phase out the hereditary element but the bill foundered. Repeated government defeats in the period 1974–79 increased Labour's hostility to the Lords and for a while the party favoured abolition. In 1992 the party called for an elected second chamber. Under Blair this became a two-stage process: • Elimination of the hereditary element • Introduction of a reformed second chamber A bill was introduced in January 1999 to end hereditary membership of the Lords. It was subjected to prolonged debate and the government accepted an amendment allowing 92 hereditary peers to retain their membership. • 75 chosen on a party basis • 15 to serve in various offices, for example as Deputy Speakers • Two to perform specific functions (the Earl Marshall and the Lord Great Chamberlain)
Reform: stage two After the 1997 election there was criticism of the government for failing to say what plans it had for further reform. In 1998 the government appointed a Royal Commission under Lord Wakeham to make recommendations on the role and functions and composition of a second chamber. The Commission reported in January 2000 but it is clear that no further action will be taken in the present Parliament. Critics wondered whether the interim House might not last as long as the one following the 1911 Act. The main proposals of the Wakeham Commission were: • There should be a Second Chamber of around 550 members • The majority of members should be chosen by an independent Appointments Commission, which should have powers to determine the composition of the second chamber. • It should be required to reflect the balance of political opinion in the UK, with no party having an overall majority • Some members, either 65, 87, 195, should be elected by some form of proportional representation to represent the various regions of the United Kingdom • The composition of the Second Chamber should be regularly adjusted to take account of voting patterns at general elections • A minimum of twenty percentage of the members should be independent crossbenchers • Efforts should be made to reflect gender, ethnic and religious factors • There should be members from all over the country and 'all walks of life'
• • •
The link between the Honours system and the Second Chamber should no longer exist The Prime Minister should no longer have any control over the size, balance and individual membership of the second chamber and there should be no more party patronage The reformed Chamber should be at least as powerful as the present House of Lords and should be able to provide a check on the executive with the possibility of examining human rights and constitutional issues
The future of the second chamber Retain The arguments for retaining the House as a non-elected chamber are: • The interim House (composed largely of life peers) is preferable to an elected chamber • The House complements the Commons by doing jobs that are different • Its members provide a degree of expertise and experience • It has a degree of independence as cross-benchers hold the balance of power • An elected House would have a claim to democratic legitimacy • It would either be the same as the Commons (and thus a rubber-stamp) or would have the potential to clash with the Commons (possibility of 'gridlock')
Reform The arguments for reforming the present House while retaining what are seen as its essential strengths are: • Although there is value in an expert and independent House, a wholly appointed chamber lacks democratic legitimacy • There should be a mix of appointed and elected members • The mix is a matter of debate • Some favour an indirectly elected chamber
Replace This favours replacing the House of Lords with a new second chamber: • Election would give it legitimacy • This would allow it to serve as a an more effective check on the government • If members were elected on a national and regional basis this would allow the different parts of the UK to be represented • Some favour replacing the Lords with a functional chamber, composed of representatives of different interests which would thus have a voice in the political process • Some favour a chamber chosen by lot – members would be chosen t random to bring an independent view
Remove altogether This argues that the Lords would be abolished and not replaced: • The UK would have a unicameral legislature, with a reformed House of Commons • There is no case for an unelected second chamber, since it would have no legitimacy • There is no case for an elected second chamber, since this would result either in imitation or conflict • Critics of this approach argue a) That a single chamber would not be able to carry all the burdens b) That a single chamber could not act as a check on itself c) It would not be able to scrutinise its own legislation Public opinion is divided among the first three options and the battle over the future of the second chamber is far from over.
Chapter 19: The Cabinet and Prime Minister There is no constitutional definition of a Prime Minister's role. Much of the job is what he or she chooses to do. Once allowance is made for variations of circumstance and personality, it is very difficult to generalise about the office. The powers of the PM are well known but are subject to constraints. PMs are usually classified as 'strong' and 'weak'. Strong leaders usually fall spectacularly (Lloyd George, Thatcher); the election defeats or retirements of 'lesser' PMs (Callaghan, Heath, Wilson) are less traumatic, yet it is 'strong' PMs who leave their mark. Though comparisons are often made between the US presidential and the British Cabinet systems, such comparisons are not very useful because of significant constitutional and political differences between the two countries. Analysis of the PM ebbs and flows; power is seen in zero sum terms, with the PM at times dominant and at others the Cabinet is on top. Some observers argue that resources are dispersed between the PM and ministers. They can check each other and at times must bargain and co-operate. Because departments have the budgets, staff and expertise and Secretaries of State have statutory powers, Number 10 can sometimes appear powerless.
The Prime Minister's Roles 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Head of the executive Head of government policy Party leader Head appointing officer Party leader in Parliament Senior UK representative abroad
The Prime Minister The Prime Minister's office in No. 10 There is a division between the 'political' and the 'official' parts of No.10.
Political No. 10: The Policy Unit • Was created in 1974 as a more personal resource for the PM • Because the PM lacked a department or team of advisers, he needed help in taking a strategic overview of the government • New PMs appoint own head of Policy Unit, who become one of PM's closest advisers • Different PMs have made different use of Policy Unit • Blair has considerably strengthened Policy Unit • In 1999 it had 13 members and conveys his views to departments and reacts to papers from them The Political Office • Deals with communication between the PM and the party organisation • The political secretary deals with ministerial special advisers and keeps the party political wheels turning • It is paid for out of party rather than public funds • The PM also has a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) • His/her job is to keep PM in contact with back-bench opinion in Parliament
The official No. 10: The Private Office • Headed by the principal private secretary • The third most influential post below Head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury • Consists of high-flying civil servants who usually go on to senior posts in the departments • Has day to day contact with PM • Private Office handles all official papers destined for the PM • Regulates the flow of papers to the PM and conveys his instructions to the departments The Press Office • Regulates the PM's relations with the media • Covers a range of concerns from issuing government statements to arrange interviews • Some Press Secretaries (e.g. Alastair Campbell) have been journalists rather than civil servants • The most notable was Bernard Ingham, who became closely identified with Margaret Thatcher • Campbell is credited with strong influence over Blair • Blair has also created the strategic communications unit to co-ordinate communications across departments and policy and presentation
Prime ministers' styles All PMs have had different approaches to the job. The most important influences on PMs are subject to limited or no control from No. 10: • The fluctuations in party support • The approval ratings for the PM • The state of the economy – the 'feel good factor' • Other political actors such as the Cabinet • The strength or weakness of the opposition PMs may choose how to allocate their time between their various duties. A small majority will mean the PM has to devote time to managing Parliament. Some PMs are spokesmen for the philosophy of his/her government, and making speeches and writing articles for the press will be important. PMs may also choose which policy areas to concentrate on, although foreign affairs and the economy are central to the success of any administration. The PM answers for the government at Question Time, in media interviews or at summit meetings.
Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister She proved to be the most dominant peacetime PM of the 20th century. She: • Broke with the 'one nation' policies of her predecessors • Substantially changed the agenda of British politics • Was personally credited with many of the policies of her government • Was forceful in Cabinet and Parliament • Kept a close rein on her Chancellors and Foreign Secretaries and had a troubled relationship with some of them • Was increasingly hostile to Europe, which lost her the support of several senior ministers • Regarded herself as a conviction rather than a consensus politician • Is regarded as a successful politician in terms of winning elections (three) and introducing radical policies, many of which have been accepted by her successors The reasons for her dominance provide insights into prime ministerial power: 1. Her successful use of Cabinet reshuffles to produce a more loyal team. 2. She gained from policy successes and from general election victories. 3. She had fewer Cabinet meetings than her predecessors and they were used to endorse decisions reached elsewhere. 4. She bypassed the Cabinet on occasions, making decisions in bilateral meetings, through the Policy Unit and so on. She interfered in departments, seeking advice from outside and taking close interest in the promotion of senior civil servants. However, by 1990:
• • •
She had lost the confidence of many in her Cabinet Policy was failing, especially the poll tax There was resentment at the influence exercised by Ingham and her foreign affairs adviser Charles Powell
John Major as Prime Minister Several factors remained consistent throughout Major's time: • A collegial approach to Cabinet decisions • Autonomy for ministers in running their departments • A low-key approach to national leadership • He was a 'stabiliser' without an over-riding political project • He became increasingly concerned with Ireland and sought to achieve lasting peace As PM he appeared constrained by: • The circumstances of his succession – Thatcher and her supporters felt she had been stabbed in the back • His lack of electoral mandate • Being surrounded by colleagues who were much more senior and experienced than himself Prime ministerial power, relations with Cabinet colleagues and perceived policy success fluctuated during his time. There were two phases: 1. November 1990-summer 1992 a) He inherited the premiership after a particularly brutal demonstration of the limits of prime ministerial power b) The Cabinet and party were deeply divided c) He had to take a collegial approach to his Cabinet, although that was his own preference d) Cabinet became the forum for more general discussion and saw no major arguments e) Major held the party together and made some policy changes, especially the poll tax f) He won a close general election despite a severe recession and proved an asset to his party 2. From summer 1992 to 1997 a) Major's position was gravely weakened by growing turmoil over Europe, the humiliation of 'Black Wednesday', and a series of policy errors and reversals b) The initial general election majority of 21 dwindled to nothing, inhibiting his freedom of manoeuvre c) The Cabinet split over Europe worsened d) Major's authority in the party and the country declined e) In an attempt to reassert his authority, h resigned as party leader and won an election against John Redwood f) His line on Europe and the single currency just about held until the election but has been abandoned by William Hague
Tony Blair as Prime Minister • •
He has been a distinctive Prime Minister After two years in office, he ranks alongside Mrs Thatcher as the strongest peacetime Prime Minister this century • His style of leadership in government closely resembles that of his leadership in opposition In opposition: • His reforms of the party were designed to make it more supportive of the leadership • He recruited a large team of aides and relied on them and on key figures such as Gordon Brown rather than the Shadow Cabinet • He attached importance to good communications and his role as spokesman for New Labour • He emphasised the need for discipline and self-discipline • Being seen to be in charge was an important aspect of being in charge In No. 10: • He has strengthened the PM's Office more than any previous PM • Boosted the size of the political staff
• • • •
Added political appointees to many units Substantially increased the number of aides with communications skills Increased the size of the Policy Unit Reduced the number of Prime Minister's Question Time from twice a week to once, giving him more time for other priorities Blair illustrates some features of the modern premiership. Many trends tend to pull PM away from or elevate him above his senior colleagues: 1. The growth of summits 2. The PM spends less and less time in the Commons 3. The media increasingly focus on party leaders 4. The PM is close to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who plays a major role in shaping the government's agenda. If the two agree, there is little other ministers can do about it. John Prescott is another important figure and has been given a large department to run 5. Blair does not have much time for the Cabinet which meets for less than an hour a week 6. He prefers to work with small groups of well-informed staff and Number 10 aides 7. His particular interests are the EU, Northern Ireland, welfare and education 8. He regards himself as the custodian of the New Labour strategy 9. He has carried a major role as public spokesman 10. More than any other, his is a communicating premiership
Possible Reforms Two possible reforms have been suggested as a way of improving the operation of the office: 1. A Prime Minister's department This would involve a larger executive office than No. 10. 2. A regularised Deputy Prime Minister It has been tied before with little success
Cabinet The Cabinet as such has no legal powers; these are vested in Secretaries of State. Because of the doctrine of collective responsibility, all members are bound to support Cabinet decisions or to resign.
Functions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
The final determination of policy to be submitted to Parliament The supreme control of the national executive The continuous co-ordination of the various government departments It plans the business of Parliament It provides political leadership for the party in Parliament and the country It arbitrates in cases of disputes between departments Although it does not decide many policies, it is the arena in which most important decisions are registered The Cabinet: • Meets weekly for about an hour • About forty Cabinet meetings are held a year • Much of its business is fairly predictable – reviews of foreign and EU affairs, home affairs, parliamentary business reports • In addition, issues which are politically sensitive or highly topical are considered • Blair has added an item on 'Current Affairs' – announcements and events for the coming week • An item is usually introduced by the relevant departmental minister • At the end, the PM sums up the mood of the meeting • Once a summary is written in the minutes it becomes a decision of the Cabinet • Votes re rarely taken • The PM will be sensitive to the feeling in the Cabinet when summing up and reaching his own
decision The PM may decide not to refer a matter to the Cabinet if it is too controversial or he may not get the decision he wants Arguably, Cabinets are now more important for: a) Team building b) Increasing the sense of shared ownership of policies among ministers c) Underpinning the sense of collective responsibility than for deciding policies
Size 20th century peacetime Cabinets have varied between 16 and 24 – the average has been 20. Wartime Cabinets have been much smaller (fewer than 10). Decisions about size have to balance the needs of decision making and deliberation against those of representation.
Cabinet committees The system is a response to the greater workload and need for specialisation. There are various types: • Standing – permanent for PM's time in office • Miscellaneous or ad hoc – deal with particular issues The PM sets them up and decides who serve on the various committees. Critics see them as a means for PM to bypass the full Cabinet and expand his own power. Supporters say they are the only way the modern system can operate.
The Cabinet Office Established in 1916, it is at the heart of the government machine. Its main tasks are: • To prepare the agenda of the Cabinet • To circulate papers beforehand • To record Cabinet proceedings and decisions • To follow up and co-ordinate decisions • It now plays an important co-ordinating role in a number of areas • It works through several secretariats – Europe, constitutional affairs etc. • Two new units have been set up by Blair: the Social Exclusion Unit and the Policy and Innovation Unit • The Cabinet Secretary (Sir Richard Wilson) works closely with the PM, especially over security and Civil Service matters and matters related to the conduct of ministers
Co-ordination There are various ways to try to better co-ordinate the work of government: 1. Treasury control of spending and the annual spending reviews 2. Informal consultation between senior officials 3. Formal interdepartmental meetings 4. The Cabinet Office 5. The system of Cabinet committees 6. The PM and the No 10 Office take an overview of government policy
Reforms of the Cabinet 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
The creation of a body which can help the Cabinet deal with strategy The creation of a Prime Minister's Department An increase in the number of political aides and advisers for ministers A reduction in the power of the Prime Minister Improving the quality of policy making in opposition
Ministers Although the size of the Cabinet hardly grew in the 20th century, the number of ministers overall has. Although prime ministerial patronage has grown, it is subject to limitations, both administrative and political: • Ministers must sit in Parliament – most in the Commons • The Cabinet must contain two peers • Appointments must take account of political skill and administrative competence • Some appointments are given to reward loyalty or limit dissent and opposition within the party • Cabinets need to be representative of the main elements in the party Four background features are common to ministers: 1. Lengthy tenure in the House of Commons 2. Experience on the ladder of promotion 3. Party standing 4. Preparation in opposition
Ministerial roles Headey identifies three broad types: 1. The ambassador – he/she sells the policies of the government to bodies outside Westminster and Whitehall 2. The executive – who is concerned to promote legislation and take decisions 3. The key issues minister – he/she selects a few policy areas and tries to initiate policy Ministers perform all three roles, which are mutually reinforcing. There is a hierarchy of ministers and departments, and the PM's most frequent contacts are with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of the Commons and the Foreign Secretary. He/she will also have frequent contact with ministers responsible for policy areas of particular importance to the PM.
Ministerial responsibility The doctrine states that: • Each minister is responsible to Parliament for his or her personal conduct • The general conduct of his/her department • And the policy-related acts or omissions of his/her civil servants • Thus ministers are answerable to Parliament for the work of his/her department Another interpretation is that Parliament can force the resignation of a minister thought to have been negligent. However, there are two difficulties: 1. That MPs in the majority party can usually be counted on to support a minister under pressure. 2. Collective responsibility means that the PM and the Cabinet will usually give a criticised minister their support. Resignations on the grounds of policy failure are now so rare that the convention has practically disappeared.
Collective responsibility This means that Cabinet ministers accept responsibility for all Cabinet decisions, and a minister who cannot accept a decision has to resign. A government defeated on a Commons motion of No Confidence must resign or seek a dissolution of Parliament. In recent years the convention has come under pressure: • Collective responsibility was relaxed in the 1976 referendum on Common Market membership and the issue of direct elections to the European Parliament in 1977 to allow ministers to publicly express their own views. • The increase in leaks to the media in which the views of ministers were made clear • Mrs Thatcher stretched the notion of Cabinet collegiality and collective responsibility • John Major referred to Cabinet opponents as 'bastards'
Reforms Several suggestions have been made to improve the co-ordination and quality of British government: 1. The creation of a small Cabinet, including some non-departmental ministers. 2. The creation of an 'inner' Cabinet to give a greater sense of direction. 3. The amalgamation of departments 4. The creation of a central analytical body serving the Cabinet as a whole. 5. The creation of a PM's department
Quality of Cabinet government Several criticisms have been made: 1. That ministers are too frequently generalists and lack expertise 2. That there is a too frequent turnover of ministers – they are not in post long enough 3. Ministers are too overloaded with work 4. Decisions are taken for short-term political reasons
Chapter 20: Ministers, Departments and Civil Servants Introduction Departments • • • •
Form the building blocks of British government Each is headed by a minister who has responsibility for policy making Each is staffed by a body of professional civil servants, responsible for advising the minister on policy and for implementing his/her decisions Ministers are important policy-makers, although constrained by external pressures
Ministers • • • • • •
Stand at the heart of British government In legal terms, they are the most powerful figures in government Statutes confer legal power on ministers, not on the Prime Minister or the Cabinet as an entity Senior ministers are those appointed to head government departments Their formal designation is Ministers of the Crown and most are known as Secretary of State Each department has a number of other ministers, known as junior ministers, to assist in running the department Some argue that the legal position does not match the reality. Real power is not exercised by ministers but by others, including the European Union, the Prime Minister and civil servants. Thus in terms of policy making, senior ministers are not principals but agents.
Departments The structure of a department is hierarchical, although the precise details differ from department to department. Senior ministers have a range of people to assist in formulating policy. They are divided into: • Political appointees – junior ministers, parliamentary private secretaries and special advisers • The official appointees – civil servants (headed by the Permanent Secretary) and those employed in agencies associated with the department
Political appointees Junior ministers There are three ranks of junior ministers: • Ministers of state • Parliamentary under-secretaries of state • Parliamentary secretaries They: • Assist the senior minister • Are normally allocated particular tasks • Are appointed by the Prime Minister, sometimes after consultation with the secretary of state • The senior minister decides their duties and they act on his/her behalf • They have no formal control over civil servants
• • •
The number has grown over the past half century Serving as a junior minister is the normal route for promotion to senior minister Although not all junior ministers make it to the Cabinet
Parliamentary private secretaries They: • Are one route to becoming a junior minister • Are appointed to assist ministers • The post is unpaid, PPSs are not members of the government • But are subject to collective responsibility and if the vote against the government may be dismissed • The tasks are largely determined by the minister • A PPS may serve as the minister's principal link with the back benchers • PPSs are selected by the minister, though subject to confirmation by the PM • May be part of the policy-making group in the department
Special advisers There are two types: • The expert – appointed because of special expertise • The political (more common): a) Appointed to act as adviser to the minister on a range of issues b) To assist with speech writing c) To act as a political link with the party and outside bodies d) They are not MPs but usually politically ambitious graduates e) Their loyalty is to the minister who appointed them and often move with the minister from department to department f) The number has grown in recent years
The officials Permanent secretary He (sometimes but rarely she): • Is the permanent head of the department • Will usually have spent his entire working life in the civil service • Was usually educated at public school or grammar school/Oxbridge • Is likely to be a 'generalist' – classics or arts – rather than specialists • Is likely to have served in more than one department • Specialist knowledge is of how the machinery of government works • Formally, has line control within the department • In effect, he is the chief executive of the department • All communication between civil servants and the senior minister is formally channelled through the PS (although in practice this is now impossible) • Will normally sit in on all discussions concerning important matters • Is answerable to the minister for all that goes on in the department • Although there is one exception – the PS is the Accounting Officer for the department and is responsible for ensuring that money is spent as intended by Parliament • He answers to the Public Accounts Committee
Senior civil servants A similar pattern applies to those below PS: • They are predominantly white males and are career civil servants • There have been major changes in recent years to the role and structure of the civil service • The structure is more open, with an emphasis on bringing people in from the outside • This is especially true for heads of agencies
Most civil servants now work in agencies following the Ibbs Report The intention was to separate the executive or service-delivery aspects of government from the policy advice aspect • However, the top civil service – the policy-advising grades – consists of around 3000 people – overwhelmingly white, male and non-science graduates Two features of the civil service over the past 20 years: 1. The greater emphasis on managerial and business skills a) This began under Thatcher and Major and has continued under Blair b) It sets performance indicators and targets c) The general description is the 'new public management' (NPM) – see Chapter 21 d) Some agencies have been privatised e) The civil service has been reduced in size from 750,000 in 1976 to 494,000 in 1996 2. The relationship between ministers and civil servants has changed as a result of the less rigid structure in each department a) There is a less hierarchical relationship between ministers and civil servants b) The PS is no longer the 'gatekeeper' to ministers c) Ministers call in more junior civil servants to discuss proposals d) Senior ministers head departments that are more managerial and business-oriented
Ministerial Power Ministerial power derives from several variables: • The office • The individual in the office • The external environment
The office The convention of individual ministerial responsibility confers legal, departmental and parliamentary powers: • Legal – statutes confer legal powers on departmental ministers • Departmental – line control over what happens in the department is conferred on ministers and civil servants are answerable to the minister and to no one else • Parliamentary – the minister and not civil servants is answerable to Parliament for the department Senior ministers enjoy considerable formal powers and much public visibility. They also have some power by virtue of their political position. Being drawn from one of the two Houses of Parliament they may have a power base in the legislature. This may make it difficult for the PM to sack them and may give them leverage in relation to other ministers.
The individual in the office There are two dimensions: • Purpose • Skill
Purpose Ministers become ministers for a variety of reasons – some just to become a minister, some to achieve particular policy outcomes, some to become PM. Five types of senior minister: Team player • Someone who believes in collective decision making and wants to be part of the team • This correlates with the concept of collective Cabinet government • There is little evidence that many senior ministers see themselves primarily as 'team players' Commander
Those who have very clear ideas deriving from their personal preferences of what they want to achieve • Perhaps deriving from their past experiences or their own reflections Ideologues • Someone who is driven by a clear, consistent philosophy • They are comparatively rare as PMs rarely appoint ministers purely on ideological grounds Managers • The minister takes the decisions but is pragmatic • He/she acts as brokers of competing demands Agents • The minister acts on behalf of another person or body a) The Prime Minister b) The civil service c) The European Union
Skills These are strategic options: • Command – the ability to take decisions • Persuade – the ability to carry along colleagues and others • Manipulate – the ability to play one person or body against another to get the minister's own way • Hiding – knowing when to avoid a problem – to keep one's head down There are two other important skills: • Effective time management • Understanding how the system – and the particular department – works
External environment This includes: • Power situation – the relations between different bodies in the immediate political environment. It is a dynamic not a static relationship. It covers especially Downing Street, Cabinet, Parliament, the civil service and the media. • Climate of expectation – what various parts of the political system – the voters, the party etc. want at any particular time. • International developments – what happens elsewhere in the world will have an impact on ministers. Two conclusions: • Senior ministers have the potential to be significant figures in determining public policy • Ministerial power is variable, not constant
Constraints on ministers Ministers labour under constitutional, legal and managerial constraints: • Constitutional – the doctrines of collective and individual ministerial responsibility • Legal – the ability of the courts to limit ministers to the powers granted them by Parliament (ultra vires etc), limits imposed by membership of the EU, the incorporation of the ECHR and by devolution. • Managerial – the mass or duties and responsibilities of ministers
Explaining ministerial power There are various models:
Principal-agent model This says that ministers are essentially the agents of a principal: • One school says Britain has prime ministerial government • Another that ministers are agents of their civil servants
Both schools have been challenged
Power dependency model This is based on several propositions: • That any organisation is dependent on other organisations for resources a) Ministers are dependent on their departments b) Civil servants are dependent on their minister e.g. to deliver resources such as money, parliamentary time etc. • In order to achieve their goals, organisations have to exchange resources a) No body can operate as an exclusive and effective body b) Alliances have to be created This model is a corrective to the principal-agent model and suggests a more complex and less hierarchical process – ministers are not relegated to a supporting role – the PM and the civil servants need them as much as vice versa. However, it has been subject to a number of criticisms. • The baronial model This suggests that ministers are like medieval barons who preside over their own, sometimes vast, policy territories, within which they are largely supreme. They fight or form alliances to get what they want. This model helps explain the nature and fluidity of power relationships within government. The PM has to bargain with the most powerful ministers in his government. However, ministers are not all-powerful – they are constrained by other powerful actors, including the PM. However, this model suggests that senior ministers are more important figures in British government than is generally realised.
Chapter 21: Civil Service Management and Policy The civil service is at the core of the British political system. It: • Is a vital connection between people and government • Provides ministers with expert advice • Is charged with the ultimate responsibility for the efficient and effective delivery of government policies • Is required to manage central state services so as to meet the needs of the people and of ministers This chapter: • Focuses on the major changes aimed at modernising and improving the management of the public services • Examines the key questions these raise about the future purpose and direction of the civil service Until recently the civil service, though widely admired, was seen as the bastion of tradition. Then in a virtually short period there were major reforms to its shape, size, structure and purpose.
Restructuring Service Delivery: Executive Agencies The emergence of the Next Steps The basic structure of the CS was transformed by executive agencies following the Next Steps initiative, started in 1988. The idea was that 'satellites' of the Whitehall departments could carry out certain key functions, such as the payment of social security benefits. The aim was to improve service delivery while modernising CS management. Some senior figures in the Thatcher government became attracted to the idea of decentralising executive, managerial and service delivery functions while maintaining central policy control. This was not particularly novel and dates back to the Fulton report of 1968 and some ad hoc agencies were set up to carry out specialised functions for government. The agency principle was revived in the late 1980s following the comparative failure of the Rayner reforms and the resulting Financial Management Initiative (which achieved considerable cost savings) to transform the prevailing management culture to the satisfaction of the PM. Robin Ibbs, Rayner's successor as Head of the Downing Street Efficiency Unit, produced a report that argued that the most significant obstacles to fundamental changes could be overcome only if: • The entire structure of the CS was overhauled • New executive agencies were created, headed by Chief Executives with significant managerial freedoms • Operating at arm's length from the core department, to which they would remain ultimately accountable • Carrying out about 95 per cent of the work of the CS
Creating agencies The Next Steps programme is the most significant reform of the CS since the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of the mid-18th century. By autumn 1998 there were 138 executive agencies (plus units of HM Customs and Excise) employing 76 per cent (377,480) civil servants. Chief Executives head them, predominantly recruited via open competition and many from outside the CS, and on renewable, fixed-term contracts with performance-linked salaries. By 1998 eleven agencies had been privatised.
Managerial and constitutional issues Although the Thatcher government said there would be no implications for accountability to Parliament, it
is clear that this was not thought through. In practice, there has been a change to the previous position, in which there was indirect accountability of civil servants through the departmental minister, even though the change has not been formally acknowledged. Parliamentary Questions on matters relating to the agencies are answered by letters from Chief Executives (published in Hansard) rather than by ministerial replies. This is an implicit recognition of direct CS accountability to Parliament. The agency concept is an attempt to establish a clear distinction between the policy-making and policyexecuting functions of government. Matters of policy were seen as the preserve of the minister and matters of administration as the responsibility of civil servants. However, this attempted distinction is not realistic and broke down over the Child Support Agency and the Prison Service Agency, both of which had implications for the accountability both of ministers and civil servants. However, the general principles of the agency programme attracted broad, cross-party support and Labour has continued along the same lines. Ministers have resumed full responsibility to Parliament for the Prisons Agency and reforms have been carried out in the Child Support Agency.
Public, private, or both? Privatisation Privatisation has affected public services at all levels of government. There were three broad reasons for the policy: 1. Thatcherites equated state control and public ownership with fat, flabby and inefficient organisations, over-dependent on subsidy, unaware of their true costs and unable to meet the demands of customers. 2. The strain on the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement would be eased by transferring large numbers of workers from the public sector into the private sector. This would reduce Treasury lending and provide funds through the sale of assets. 3. There was an ideological imperative to encourage economic 'freedom', create a 'property and share owning democracy' and reduce the size of the state machine. Labour largely continued the programme, though placing more emphasis on public – private partnerships such as the Private Finance Initiative. Privatisation also raises issues of accountability. Regulatory agencies such as Oftel have been set up to address this issue. These are headed by directors general and aim to enforce a pricing formula, publish information helpful to users of the service and deal with complaints. In some cases, the new arrangements worked well but in others, such as that dealing with the railway industry, serious problems arose.
Market testing and better quality services During the 1980s there was an emphasis on compulsory competitive tending (CCT) when activities such as catering were put out to tender to the most competitive bid, the contract often being won by private companies. In the CS the process was known as 'market testing', and some activities were contracted out to the private sector although others were won by 'in-house' bids from the department concerned. The results were mixed and there was much debate about its advantages. Critics alleged that the market testing process: • Spawned its own bureaucracy • Cost millions in consultancy fees • Led to job cuts and adversely affected morale • Infringe the managerial freedom of agency chief executives • Raised important questions about service standards, security and confidentiality • Threatened the principle of public service provision in some spheres There was a change of emphasis after 1997: • All departments were to review their services and functions • The 'best supplier' was to be identified, while improving quality and value for money • There is no compulsion to go to tender provided quality improvements can be guaranteed 'in-house'.
The Private Finance Initiative Under the PFI, private contractors provide the initial capital for a project and receive a licence to operate
the facility, thus enabling them to recoup their costs. The public sector provides the service (such as medical services in a hospital) and at the end of the contract period (say thirty years) the facility is handed back to the public sector. So far, it has financed major projects such as the Channel Tunnel and its highspeed rail link. During the first two years of the Labour government deals worth £4.7 billion were signed, with another £11 billion projected for 1999–2002. Reforms were made to the procedure with the aim of avoiding disasters such as the computer contract entered into by the Passport Agency. Critics allege, however, that there is a high long-term price to pay for these assets compared to what they would cost is paid for by conventional means.
Citizen's Charter to Service First When it first appeared in 1998 during Major's time as PM it was widely attacked as a gimmick. It has been renamed Service First by the Blair government. The Citizen's Charter had two aims: • To differentiate Major's policy on the public services from Thatcher's • To counter the opposition parties' interest in citizens' rights and constitutional change There were several initiatives, such as the Charter Mark scheme for organisations deemed to have improved services. The basic objective was to improve the quality of public services and make service providers more accountable to 'citizens', 'clients', 'consumers' and 'customers'. Critics saw Charterism • as a triumph of style over substance • with a limited definition of citizenship • with service standards set by the providers themselves • with no legal enforceability • with an absence of genuine mechanisms of accountability and redress The Blair government announced it would replace the 'top-down' system it has inherited with a 'bottom-up' approach. There would be consultation with the users, clearer information would be provided and indicators of outcomes improved. It is not clear to what extent this is an improvement on the former system.
Rolling onwards: modernising government The Blair government has made it clear that the CS would be required to play a major part in implementing Labour's programme while the process of managerial change continued. In 1999 the White Paper Modernising Government was issued, brining together many of the themes discussed above. The document drew heavily on the world of image-makers and PR consultants and was at times opaque in meaning. Its main provisions included: • To produce 'joined up' policy • To focus on public service users rather than providers • To deliver high quality and efficient public services There were changes to the machinery of government, especially in the Cabinet office where the Modernising Public Service Group was created to implement the reforms. The main pledges in the 1997 manifesto, such as cutting all infant class sizes to thirty by September 2001, were embodied in Public Service Agreement, a form of performance indicator. A 5,000 strong, nationally representative People's Panel was established to tell the government 'what people really think' about the public services. Their deliberations will be fed into future government action. A leading commentator believes that the long-term impact of the White Paper will be comparable to the Next Steps report.
Chapter 22: Local Government Background Local government has always been subordinate to central and has no constitutional safeguards as other countries have. Local government can only do what the law grants; anything else is 'ultra vires' and liable to be quashed by courts. This has led many to dismiss local government as irrelevant; even to question whether it is necessary. Other criticisms include: poor decision making; poor quality cllrs; party political conflict; remote units of government. Defence: local government have elections to support them; representatives have mandate for decisions made; votes distinguish local government from mere administration by central government.
Confusion to cohesion: Anglo-Saxon origins made it complex and idiosyncratic in terms of parishes, boroughs and counties involving magistrates and sheriffs appointed by monarch. Much overlapping occurred between multipurpose and single purpose bodies, self-selection or open election. Victorians finally brought order to this complex web whilst dealing still ad hoc with problems as they arose. 1835 Municipal Corporations Act to 1899 reform of London government Vics founded local government on popular elections: counties, districts, non county boroughs, parishes plus all purpose county boroughs. Tiers of this sector still unclear. Throughout 20th century central government keen to exert control over local level, especially after welfare state emerged. 1965 LCC replaced by GLC with 32 boroughs and City of London Corporation. 1966 Royal Commission on Local Government reported too much fragmentation but could not agree on blueprint for change. • Majority: 58 unitary authorities but • Minority: two tiers based on cities and 'shire' counties and constituent 'districts'. Labour was for the majority but Cons went for minority, producing the 1972 Local Government Act: 1972 Local Government Act a) 6 Metropolitan Counties- strategic authorities- with 36 metro districts- education, social services, housing. b) 47 counties in charge of big spending services with 333 districts in charge of housing planning and waste removal. 1969 Wheatley Report on Scotland: two tiers 9 regional councils and 53 districts.
Political Undertones Parties tended to be lead by their constituencies i.e. shires got more resources from Tory governments; Labour was drawn to urban areas. 1980s changes: motivated by political considerations again in that Cons wanted to neutralise Labour control of urban areas. Consequently metro counties abolished and functions given to series of joint boards with lower tier districts/boroughs. 1990s changes: Cons shifted towards unitary authorities and asked the Local Government Commission under John Banham to achieve this to deliver efficiency, accountability and 'localness'. LGC however refused a national blueprint and recommended unitaries only for parts of the country with two tiers retained in some. Banham sacked but replacement David Cooksey eschewed national pattern also. Quite a bit of conflict arose between the tow tiers though parishes found they were courted by both sides though little came out of process for them in the end. Scotland and Wales: Unitary system across both. 1992 Local Government Act abolished county and district councils in Wales and regional and district in Scotland to be replaced by 22 unitaries in Wales and 32 in Scotland. In England there are unitaries in places, two tier authorities in others and boroughs in
London plus the GLA with mayor. So it's still a patchwork but a different one from the 19th century with local Government larger and more remote than before and with fewer powers with unresolved debate about technocratic efficiency versus democratic accountability.
Intergovernmental relations: general competence or general dogsbody? Lack of constitutional safeguards enables central government to overrule local concerns. Courts cannot judge legislation unconstitutional as Supreme Court might in USA. However bargaining is norm in relations between centre and local government with latter seeking to challenge and seek compromise; they can only do what the law says they can do. 'General competence' is urged as alternative framework; this would enable local government to operate over a wider area and less constrained by courts. Electoral mandate and closeness to community makes a strong case. Labour however has urged a new duty for local government of promoting social, economic and environmental well-being of the area. Not a new remit but gives more flexibility than hitherto. Local Government and Local Politics: traditionally councils run by 'Tory-Anglican elates' in 18th and 19th centuries. In 20th century parties slowly consolidated their hold on councils and dominated campaigns for election, making them mini general elections. Now 80% of councils are 'politicised' and national issues and fortunes affect though the substantial extent of local issues has been advanced by some scholars. Turnout: this is poor; most EU countries over 60% but only 40% and less in UK; 30% in May 1999. Loyalty to Party Group Policy: expected by all cllrs and model standing orders exist in all main parties. Range of disciplinary measures used against rebels. Party group is main theatre of debate over policy. Council merely ratifies confidential group discussions. Local Government: Changing Policy Environment: Senior officers very influential in determining policy and often attend group meetings to answer questions. Specialists and managers operate 'corporate approach' from Bains Report 1972. Senior officers and cllrs operate as a 'joint elite' which is now at heart of decision making in LG. Citizenry: consultation and participation: to be responsive to local citizens council has to have machinery to solicit views and be willing to listen and change course. Local democracy and Community Leadership (DETR, 1998) exhorts LG to involve publics to greater extent to achieve a 'reinvigorated local democracy' Possible methods to be used: • citizen juries • focus groups • visioning conferences • citizen panels • community forums based on neighbourhood committees • interest and user group forums • referendums to test opinion. Regional Agenda: 8 new English RDAs launched April 1999 to address regeneration issues and economic imbalances. NE, NW, Yorks and Humber, W Mids, E Mids, E of Eng, SW and London (to be run by GLA). Additional ones in Scotland and Wales and NI makes it 12 altogether. RDAs: 12 members with 4 from local authorities. Obs: econ devel; bus support; enhance skills; promote employment; sustainable devel. Idea is to raise econ level to average of EU; work therefore regional; focus European. Have to do a draft regional economic strategy for public consultation: 5–10 periods with partnerships from vol and private fields. Need plan to help win EU money. RDAs appointed not elected; NE Constitutional Convention (1999) seeks to win assemblies; wants 54 member elected assembly. Some regions already have chambers but not elected but appointed with 30% non-local government membership. LG worried lest new assemblies strip them of few powers they have and no evident signs of wide demand for a new tier of government. Moreover would make LG even more remote from people. Mackintosh Committee looking at relationship between assembly in Scotland and LG; Partnership Council doing same in Wales. Too early to see how relationships will develop. Local Government and EU: 'triadic' rels between three levels of government and three sets of actors at these levels. EU law and local -central rels figure highly too. LG sees EU as way of circumventing central government constraints (Env Health, consumer protection, public protection and sometimes human rights legislation).
Funds: Las seek to win funds ad influence policy too; specialist staff on EU and sometimes even based in Brussels for this purpose, especially preparing bids or lobby for changes. Other countries far better serviced however.
Purposes of LG in EU: 1. funding partnerships 2. intermunicipal learning 3. regions and councils can learn and shape new initiatives. European Social Funds and European Regional Development Funds key sources of money. Subsidiarity encouraged decision making at lowest level and this has given a new emphasis to LG. Modernising Agenda: shape of future local government. 1. replace CCT with Best Value in service provision/ 2. reorganise political arrangements 3. new ethical framework. Best Value: Compulsory Competitive Tendering had made it compulsory for LAs to put certain functions out to tender to private sector. Based on 'challenge, compare, consult, compete' removes the compulsory element and the need for the tender to go to the lowest tender. Embraces all services however and no exemptions, even planning. Public consultation central to the approach. Targets and perf indicators are necessary with constant inspections. LAs suspect central government re what happens if it thinks a service is failing.
New Political Arrangements Choices 1. Exec mayor directly elected 2. mayor and council manager 3. exec leader and cabinet. Councils must consult with citizens on model to be introduced; 5% can petition for a referendum on elected mayor. 1. Mayors: generally elected with high visibility and exec powers as in USA. Appoint cabinet from council and act under his direction. 2. Mayor + CM: would give power to CM paid appointee, super chief exec. 3. exec ldr and cab more popular as it gives role for wider group of politicians. Ldr would select own cabinet from colleagues. Other cllrs would act through scrutiny committees though party loyalties likely to persist in any new set-up. Most cllrs oppose elected mayors as anti-democratic. Bur public support: 64% according to poll. New Ethical Framework: Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life praised LG for most part but wants • councils to adopt code of conduct for cllrs and officers • councils to have standards committees to oversee ethical issues • independent national standards board to investigate violations of councils' code of conduct. Government will also abolish surcharge whereby cllrs had to repay money illegally spent.
Chapter 23: The Judiciary The British system is unlike that of the USA where the Supreme Court acts as the ultimate arbiter of the constitution. Since 1688, the British courts have been bound by the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, although in recent years there has been a growth in judicial activism. The courts are now important political actors. Until recently, there have been two reasons for the lack of interest in the political importance of the judiciary: • The judiciary is subordinate, with public policy made by the executive and the legislature • The judiciary is independent and politically neutral However, in recent years these assumptions have been challenged, especially by Prof. J.A.G. Griffith and the dividing line between politics and the law is blurred rather than rigid.
A Subordinate Branch? Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights of 1689, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, the central tenet of the constitution, has meant that the courts lack the power to strike down Acts of Parliament. However, the subordination of common law to statute law does not mean the subordination of the judiciary to the executive. Courts retain certain powers: • Of interpreting the precise meaning of a statute • Of reviewing the actions of ministers and other public officials by applying the doctrine of ultra vires (beyond powers) • Of applying the concept of natural justice to the actions of ministers and others Because Parliament is sovereign, the government can seek to overturn the decisions of the courts by passing amending legislation, although this is time-consuming and can be politically dangerous, in that the government will appear to be changing the rules of the game. The power of judicial review provides the judiciary with a potentially significant role in the policy-process. In recent decades there has been an upsurge in judicial activism for several reasons: • Judges have been more willing to review and quash ministerial action • British membership of the EU • The incorporation of the ECHR into domestic law • Devolution of powers to elected assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Thus the courts, perhaps against their will, have found themselves playing a more central role in policy making.
An Autonomous Branch? The independence of the judiciary is safeguarded in a number of ways: • Since the Act of Settlement of 1701, senior judges have held office 'during good behaviour' and can only be removed by the Queen following an address by both Houses of Parliament (only one judge, in 1830) has thus been removed • Judges' salaries are a charge on the Consolidated Fund and so do not have to be voted every year by Parliament • The House of Commons generally bars any reference by Members to matters that are sub judice (awaiting trial) By convention, judges refrain from politically partisan activity and have generally refrained from commenting on matters of public policy (the Kilmuir Guidelines issued in 1955). It was seen that the selfinterest both of politicians and judges confined them to their respective spheres. However, the dividing line is not as clear as it seems: • There is an overlap of personnel, particularly in the higher reaches. The clearest example is the Lord Chancellor, who is simultaneously a member of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
Several Lord Chancellors have been prominent party politicians (e.g. Lord Hailsham). The law officers (the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and their Scottish equivalents) are also politicians with judicial functions, as is the Home Secretary. • The highest court of appeal in the UK is the House of Lords, where the judicial work is done by the law lords • Some MPs sit as recorders (part-time but salaried judges), while others are magistrates, although judges cannot be MPs and MPs appointed as judges must resign their seats The line between political and judicial activity cannot always be drawn for those holding political office, who at times have to take judicial or quasi-judicial decisions. As members of an executive accountable to Parliament they are affected by public opinion to an extent that judges are not. However, judges are not completely immune from public controversy: • Judges have been invited to chair public inquiries into various disasters or scandals. Their reports sometimes bring the judges into party political controversy • Judges have been more willing in recent years to enter public debate on matters of controversy and to comment on matters of public policy Thus the courts are neither as powerless nor as totally independent as the doctrine would suggest.
The Courts Apart from a number of specialised courts and tribunals, the organisational division of courts is between criminal law and civil law.
Criminal cases About 98 per cent of criminal cases in England and Wales are tried in magistrates' courts. The courts have power to levy fines and to impose prison sentences not exceeding six months. The courts also have limited civil jurisdiction and a number of administrative functions such as the licensing of public houses. Magistrates are either professional or lay. Lay magistrates are not legally trained and are drawn from the ranks of the public. More serious cases (and appeals from magistrates' courts) are heard in Crown Courts. Appeals go either to the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court or to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. A further appeal is possible to the House of Lords, although only if a point of law of general significance is involved. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (which was formerly significant in deciding appeals from colonial, ecclesiastical and admiralty courts) has achieved greater prominence in that it will adjudicate in cases concerning the power of devolved assemblies.
Civil cases Some minor civil cases are heard in magistrates' courts, but more important cases go to the High Court, which is divided into three divisions: Queen's Bench, Chancery and Family. Appeals go to the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal and then to the House of Lords. Cases brought against ministers or other public officials for ultra vires are normally heard in the Queen's Bench Division.
Tribunals Many citizens are affected by decisions taken by public bodies. Administrative law provides the legal framework for the adjudication of such disputes. To avoid the ordinary courts being clogged up by the mass of such cases, a network of tribunals have been established to resolve these disputes. They offer the twin advantages of speed and cheapness and are much more informal than are the courts.
The Judges At the apex of the judicial system stands the Lord Chancellor and the law officers, who are members of the
government. Below them are the judges: • The most senior are the law lords, the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (currently 12) a) appointed by the Crown on the advice of the PM b) members of the House of Lords (life peers) • The next level consists of the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Family Division and the Lords Justices of Appeal a) Also appointed by the Crown on the advice of the PM b) Drawn either from High Court judges or senior barristers • Other judges – High Court judges, circuit judges and recorders a) Are appointed from less senior barristers although solicitors can also now be appointed • Magistrates are appointed by the Lord Chancellor Judges: • Are overwhelmingly male and white • The majority went to public school and then graduated from Oxford or Cambridge • Senior judgeships are the almost exclusive preserve of barristers This social and professional near-exclusion has been attacked: • Judges are seen as out of touch with society itself • Male judges are seen as insensitive in cases involving women • Griffith accuses the judges of being biased to the government of the day and the Conservative Party Though Griffith' criticisms have not been echoed by many other commentators, concerns about the judiciary have grown as judges have become more involved in controversy.
Judicial activism The deferential attitude of the courts towards government began to change in the 1960s. Judges appeared worried at encroachments on individual liberties by governments and thus more willing to use their powers of judicial review. Judges found against both Labour and Conservative governments. The number of applications for judicial review rose sharply, as did those where leave was granted. A number of cases were of the greatest political and constitutional significance. However, the extent and impact of judicial activism should not be exaggerated: • Statutory interpretation allows judges some but not complete leeway • Only a minority of applications for judicial review concern government departments – many are directed at local authorities • Most applications fail and legal aid is scarce
Enforcing EU law Membership of the EU created a new judicial dimension to the British constitution: • The 1972 Act gave legal force not just to existing EC law but to future law • When regulations have been promulgated by the Commission and the Council of Ministers they take effect within the UK • Parliamentary assent is not required, having already been given in advance • Parliament may be involved in measures to implement directives, but the purpose of the directive cannot be rejected • Questions of law are decided by or in accordance with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and all courts in Britain are required to take note of its decisions • Cases involving EU law which reach the House of Lords must be referred to the ECJ for a ruling • In the event of a conflict between the provisions of European law and those of an Act of Parliament, the former must prevail The question of what British courts should do if faced with an Act of Parliament that expressly overrides European law has concerned writers on constitutional law. The question remains hypothetical, and the general opinion of jurists is that, because of the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, the courts must apply the provisions of an Act that expressly overrides European law. The courts have had to resolve apparent inconsistencies between European and domestic law. Where the courts have found UK law to fall foul of European law, the UK government has introduced legislation to bring domestic law into line. Until 1990 it was assumed that the courts did not have the power to strike
down or suspend Acts of Parliament, which appear to breach EU law. However, two cases – the Factortame and Ex Parte EOC cases – have shown that presumption to be false. In 1990 the ECJ ruled in the Factortame case that British courts could suspend an Act of Parliament that appeared to breach EU law until a final decision was made. In the EOC case the courts invalidated the provisions of an Act of Parliament. Thus the courts have assumed a new role in the interpretation of European law. The ECJ not only hears cases that emanate from British courts but also considers cases brought by or against the EU Commission and governments of member states. The cases heard by the ECJ constitute a body of case law that constitutes an important constraint on the British government. However, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty remains formally extant. Parliament retains the power to repeal the 1972 Act and the decisions of the ECJ have force in the UK inasmuch as Parliament has decreed they will. However, membership has introduced a new judicial dimension to the British constitution, and has profound implications for the role of the courts in public policy. The courts now appear to have acquired, in part, a power they lost in 1689.
Enforcing the ECHR The importance of the courts has been reinforced by the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. The ECHR: • Was signed in Rome in 1950 and ratified by the UK on 5 March 1951 • It came into effect in 1953 • It declares the rights that should be protected in each state and sets out ways in which those rights may be protected • Alleged breaches are investigated by the European Commission on Human Rights and may be referred to the European Court of Human Rights • It was not incorporated into British law and until 1966 there was no individual right of petition to the Commission • In subsequent decades, a large number of petitions were brought against the British government, and when cases went against this country the government changed the law • Some of the decisions of the ECHR were politically controversial, especially when the Court decided that the killing of three IRA suspects by British forces in Gibraltar was a violation of the right to life Though some Conservative MPs called for an end to the right of petition, Liberal Democrats, many Labour MPs and some Conservatives urged incorporation: • It would reduce the cost and delay involved in petitioning the Commission • It would allow British citizens to enforce their rights through the British courts • It would raise awareness of human rights In the 1997 election Labour included a commitment to incorporation in its manifesto. The Human Rights Act was passed in 1998. It: • Makes it unlawful for public authorities to act in a way incompatible with the ECHR • Makes it possible for individuals to invoke their rights in any proceedings brought by or against a public authority • Require courts to determine whether primary or secondary legislation is compatible with the ECHR • Require courts to decide if the acts of public authorities are unlawful under the ECHR • Though courts are not empowered to set aside Acts of Parliament they are required to interpret legislation as far as possible with the Convention • The highest courts can issue certificates of incompatibility where UK law is deemed incompatible with the ECHR • It is then up to Parliament to take the necessary action and there is a 'fast track' procedure for that purpose The incorporation of the ECHR creates a new role for British judges and provides the possibility of friction between the executive and the judiciary.
The impact of devolution Devolution to elected assemblies has also enlarged the scope for judicial activism. The legislation creating
elected assemblies in Wales and Scotland sets out the ways in which their powers can be challenged and provides a role for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Under the Government of Wales Act there are complex provisions for determining: • Whether a particular function is exercisable by the Welsh Assembly • Whether the Assembly has exceeded its powers • Whether it has failed to fulfil its statutory obligations • Whether a failure to act puts the Assembly in breach of the ECHR The Scotland Act also provides for a similar process. Both Acts increase the possibility of judicial activity: • The role of the Judicial Committee is enhanced • There is scope for the courts to interpret the legislation in a constrictive or an expansive manner • The approach of the courts will affect the elected bodies • The longer the legislation is in place, the more scope there is for the courts to depart from the intentions of the Westminster Parliament • The Scottish Parliament will have to be aware of the attitude and opinion of the courts concerning those matters reserved to Westminster • The actions of the courts will have a bearing on whether devolution will strengthen the union or lead to its dissolution
Demands for Change In recent years there have been calls to strengthen the powers of the judges by the enactment of an entrenched Bill of Rights. On the other hand, critics of the increased powers of the judiciary make a number of points: • The new roles are a threat to the supremacy of Parliament • Instead of public policy being made by elected and accountable politicians it is made by unelected and unaccountable judges The courts have been controversial in terms of their constitutional role and also in terms of their traditional roles of interpreting and enforcing the law. The Pinochet case, the 'Guildford Four', the 'Birmingham Six' and the men convicted of the murder of Carl Bridgewater have all led to criticism of the judges and of the British legal system generally. Polling evidence indicates a high level of public dissatisfaction with the way judges do their job. There is also concern about the operation of the Crown Prosecution Service. Access to the legal system is limited, largely because of the costs involved. Various suggestions for reform have been made: • There have been moves to create greater openness in the recruitment of senior judges and to extent the right to appear in the senior courts • In 1998, new judges were required to reveal whether they were Freemasons • The 1999 Access to Justice Act created a community legal service to take responsibility for the provision of legal advice and legal aid and a criminal defence service to assist those charged with criminal offences • Legal language has been simplified However, more far-reaching changes, including the creation of a Ministry of Justice, have not been implemented. Pressure is growing for the separation of the roles of the Lord Chancellor, and especially that he should no longer be able to sit as a judge in cases concerning the government. So far, he has resisted such calls.
Chapter 24: The Policy Making Process 'Policy is a set of ideas and proposals for action' relating to a) rules and regulations b) public expenditure and its distribution: government spends £350bn a year on welfare, defence etc.
Models of Policy Making 1.
Conventional Model: 'officially' civil servants advise ministers who make policy, explain it to parliament- representing the will of the electorate- which then amends, passes or rejects. Civil servants impartially implement resultant decisions. Ruling Class Model: Marxist analysis says elected machinery merely a 'blind' as ruling elite values, i.e. those of the property owning elite, permeate whole of society and inform every government decision.
Institutional Theories 3.
Pluralist model: Dahl assumed power dispersed through society and that interests could all make themselves heard during the process of making decisions. Therefore a 'free market' of interests with government holding the ring. Corporatism: Schmitter saw alliance between ministers and civil servants and PG leaders who get influence in exchange for delivering support of their members. PGs become an extension of government in this view. Party Government model: argument is that parties provide the major channel of policy ideas. Whitehall model: argues civil servants as permanent able advisors provide the biggest input.
Theories on decision-making 7.
Rational decision-making: assumes decision-makers are rational and behave logically, identifying objectives and formulating strategies. 8. Incrementalism: Lindblom sees them as less rational; more given to 'muddling through' based on status quo i.e. they adjust to present rather than innovate. Privatisation however was wholly new and government adapted quickly to needs of policy. All these models have some truth in them.
Policy Cycle Initiation Agenda setting: can be ministers e.g. Straw reforming party finance or Blair committing to ban hunting in interview. Media influential in raising issues and revealing matters e.g. Mandelson loan in Guardian 1998.
Six groups of initiators: 1. 2.
Public: voting sets new agendas at elections or referendums; occasional issues explode into view and affect agenda e.g. dogs legislation after attacks or gun banning after Dunblane. Cause groups, media and academics: cause groups can capture public attention and influence action; media can inform government of matter requiring action, academics can occasionally be drawn in and listened to. These create climate of opinion in which decisions are made; academics can help set this climate for both major parties and exert influence long after their deaths e.g. Keynes,
4. 5. 6.
Burke, Hayek. Group of economists advise Chancellor and Bank of England on interest rates. Extraparliamentary parties and inner party groupings: parties more influential in opposition when there are no leaders in government. Labour keener on democratic decision making but in government ignores or manages party voices. Cons also find party more effective in opposition but leader given pretty free hand. Fabian Society and other groups influence Labour and No Turning Back Cons. Parliament: party sources: backbench committees input policy and sometimes they have success i.e. David Evans on identity card system for fans. Opposition front bench offers alternative answers to most questions, making policy on the hoof sometimes in reaction to events. Select Committees: 17 of them monitoring policy and can be very influential with media spotlight on them.
Ministers, depts, official inquiries and think tanks: Ministers can be strong minded and direct policy or weaker and follow civil servants advice. Royal Commissions can transform an area of public life e.g. local government, criminal justice or Lords. Thank Tanks very influential during 1980s but less so in 1990s. Mrs T preferred right wing advice to academics and civil servants receiving the poll tax as one piece of dubious advice which she decided to take. Labour have IPPR, Demos and Catalyst. PM and Cabinet: PMs dominant influence after a few years e.g. Mrs T but personal style important in that some more apart like Macmillan and others 'hands-on' like Mrs T and Blair who both prefer to bypass machinery and make decisions with small groups of advisers. Policy can be: initiated at micro and macro levels from any part of system but centre is key area; peripheral influences can be drawn into centre as necessary. Each policy environment a world in itself with plethora of elements.
Policy Formulation: Process begins with civil servants and PG reps and moves on to ministers during 'learning phase.' Bureaucratic Process: advisory meetings and coordinating ones with other ministries. Cabinet Office do coordination at top levels until passed on to parliamentary counsel who draft the legislation. Legislative Process: readings and debates as chs 17 and 18 explain. Most passes through virtually intact but controversial measures will face delay and amendment in both houses. Conclusion: three sets of actors dominate this phase: civil servants, PG leaders plus their experts and ministers. Maybe 3500 people involved in the phase altogether. Mrs T used to be impatient and call in ministers to report on progress to speed things up. Blair seems similarly frustrated by lack of movement and the 'inertia' of the system.
Policy Implementation NHS set up by Attlee's government no problem and privatisation was similarly successful but to implement as planned requires rare combination of circumstances: 1. must be unitary admin system; no conflict of authority; 2. uniform norms in system 3. perfect obedience or perfect control 4. perfect information and coordination 5. proper time for admin resources to be mobilised. Not easy to assemble all these conditions: Education: 1944 Act tried to introduce three equally respected types of school but grammar became prestigious and sec modern poor. Later attempt to make comprehensives best of all worlds failed because was not realised catchment area is crucial to success and class pattern is invariably reflected in local schools. Economy: public spending wildly out in 1970s; estimated at 12% increase in 1971 by year 1975 but was 28.5% in the event. Lawson lowered interest rates to 9.5 in 1987 to avoid recession but this fuelled boom which required high rates to quell which caused recession of record depth.
Poll Tax: aimed at equitable way of raising cash for local government but seen as highly inequitable and a disaster all round.
Constraints on policy makers: Finance: chief limitation. Political Support: difficult to sustain e.g. poll tax some policies never surface through lack of political will. Competence of key personnel: not always possible to survive learning curve e.g. of kind needed with privatisation. Time: over centralised system causes delays. Timing: best to get controversial policies out of way early in term; Mrs T lost argument re Landrover after damaging Westlands row. Co-ordination: in between ministries topics can fail. Personality factors: Thatcher and Lawson clashed over ERM. Geography: decisions tend to favour Southeast. International Events: oil price hikes in 1970s, IMF conditions in 1976 and Falklands War reveal how important these are to British politics. Europe: since joining the EU has been a major factor, especially for the Tories in late 1980s. Policy Networks: Jordan and Richardson distinguish between 'policy communities' with firm memberships of insider groups and 'issue networks' with shifting membership and less resources.
Privatisation of British Telecom Not part of Con manifesto in 1979 but telephone side of GPO separated from rest in 1980 creating British Telecom. Howe later announced its privatisation. Legislative Process: initial bill faced great opposition. POEU led by John Golding made a passionate defence of the state owned enterprise. 1983 election caused the bill to lapse. Reintroduced in 1984 and became an act 12th April. Golding agreed the second bill was better than the first with lots of amendments during committee stage. Golding claims his advice was sought to improve the bill. Bureaucratic process: learning curve for civil servants negotiating with 1. BT personnel 2. City also involved as government concerned to sell shares at rate the public would buy 3. Interest groups like POUE mobilised rural groups over kiosks, NFU, LA groups and WI. Result differed from intention: competition not introduced though came later; 2mn bought shares but in 2yrs down to 1.6mn. Complexity: daunting prospect but Mrs T's admin was determined. Limits of majority rule: need workable legislation and first bill was poor. Consultation opportunities considerable: lots of groups had a say. Professionalism of civil servants: soon picked it up then left service to work for BT.
Chapter 25: Politics, Law and Order Law, Order and Political Ideas Law and order needed from earliest times to protect property and physical safety. Early justice more retributive e.g. Hammurabi in Babylon. Western jurists and thinkers had different concept of 'justice' and interpretations of human nature basic to their ideas. Pessimists: Hobbes pessimistic about ability of man to live in peace in state of nature so advised a strong state or Leviathan to keep order. Conservatives have tended to this view. Optimists: John Locke, Rousseau and Marx believed man would be more kind to each other in such a state and tended to condemn poor environments for bad human nature, especially Marx. Labour has tended to favour optimists but too simplistic to generalise. Conservatives: human nature weak and corruptible. Sixties reckoned to be a time when standards slipped and authority undermined plus idea of personal responsibility. Right adds the problem of immigrants and mob rule encouraged by trade union leaders. Labour: sees problems deep in society, in inequalities and differential life chances creating a situation in which people are encouraged to want what they cannot have. Also argue the law is skewed to favour the rich, imprisoning petty burglars and letting off City fraudsters with fines. Society and crime: Tories said crime figures nothing to do with social conditions; why else no big crime figures in 1930s? But studies by Simon Field in Home Office displays clear statistical link between crime increase and recession/unemployment. Convergence: Labour responded to crime wave and in particular youth violence -e.g. Jamie Bulger killings with 'tough on crime; tough on causes of crime' approach under Shadow Home Sec Blair. In the end sounded virtually the same as Ken Clarke, Tory Home Sec. Michael Howard and Jack Straw tried to outdo each other in terms of being tough as 1997 election approached. Labour had decided law and order was key area to win middle class votes. Extent of Problem: Virtually everyone touched by crime, which is ubiquitous in modern society. 2.9mn notifiable offences in 1979 but 5.7mn by 1993; 128% in 14 yrs. From there figs dropped a little below 5mn (1998). Still crime still huge problem: house broken into every 30 seconds. British Crime Surveys suggest three times as many crimes occur as are reported, more so in case of vandalism and sex offences. 29/11/2000 Straw announced 8 'regional crime reduction directors' Tories tried to minimise extent of crime increase as wanted voters to think there had been return on cash spent on crime reduction. Also pointed out UK no different to other countries like Holland, Sweden and Germany not to mention Australia and USA. 'Crime Wave' Statistics: influenced by: 1. number reported increased as result of insurance requirements 2. most crime very trivial and many don't bother to report 3. UK used to be more violent than today; 17 times murder rate in 13th century compared to today 4. more cops improves reporting 5. chances of being mugged still less than once in 500 yrs. Tories and Crime Wave: Howard claimed tough policies responsible for falls in crime stats 1993–95 but Economist pointed out: 1. unemployment falling 2. number of young males 15–24 declining. 3. some police forces targeting repeat crimes. 4. better anti crime devices bearing fruit. 5. crime recording methods changed. Fear of Crime: Makes crime worse as it tends to deter people from using streets. Old ladies scared even though least at risk; young men are most at risk and they tend not to be so scared. Professional person 50% less likely to be attacked than working class male. Inner Cities still worst for crime though rural areas catching up.
Patterns of Offending: by age 30, 1 in 3 men convicted of crime; and 1 in 16 been to prison. 7% convicted 6/7 times responsible for 66% of offences. Violence on increase. 14–20 key age range for offending; 90% of 16yrolds reoffend within 4yrs. 150,000 offenders commit 7mn crimes each yr; only 19% recorded and only 5% cleared up with only 3% resulting in conviction. 18/20 age group about to expend a lot. Public very aware of crime and feel betrayed by it.
Causes of Crime Rich and Poor: some say rich have 'stolen' their wealth from the poor e.g. Angela Davies, the US radical thinker. The sight of things which we are told are desirable yet are unavailable because of insufficient money must provide a constant reason for crime and an acute one as inequalities increase. More potential crimes: law now defines more crimes and temptation is more widespread. Young People: a) many lack stable home; b) too much long term unemployment; c) crime enlivens dull existence. Underclass: Charles Murray discerns an anti-social impoverished and near criminal class who adopt values at odds with responsible society and live in sink estates on benefits plus crime. Values declined: Conservatives maintain the old values have been eroded by sixties related permissiveness. Drugs and Crime: two thirds of all property crime is drug related. Heroin addict has to raise £13,500 a yr to support their habits and most of this is via crime.
Responses to Crime Policing: supposed to be the 'neutral' instruments of society acting on behalf of society as whole. However they can be instruments of government policy and can act tyrannically in some situations. Some argued they were 'politicised' during miners' strike 1984–85. Others claim they are sexist and racist and there is some evidence to support this; though British police no worse than those in similar countries. Evidence of incompetence when convicted killers found to be innocent and maybe framed by police. Conservatives became angry at police for having so much increased resources yet not reducing crime; they were not providing value for money. In 1970s clear-up was 40% by 1993 it was 25%. Paperwork is/was monstrous and too little time spent on job fighting crime on streets. Scarman Report urged more cooperation with local communities. Sheehy Report 1993 recommended removal of layers of police officers to improve 'top heavy' management. Police Federation was able to kill off more radical suggestions. Penal Policy: Mrs T always claimed punishment did not fit the crime and that sentences should be increased for serious crimes; 1984–87 they did, in fact increase substantially. Capital punishment: Mrs T and many Con MPs supported this but in debates when facts presented most decided to stay with ban: i.e. 1988 341 -218 on free vote. USA has 20,000 murders to UK's 700 pa and no sign they have increased since abolition. Moreover would create martyrs of terrorists and make mistaken executions seem terrible. Prisons: Denial of freedom still very punitive despite improvements in conditions. Critics say it is 'university of crime' as most inmates return after reoffending; 60% after 2 yrs while only 10% serious offenders. Costs £2bn pa and often amounts stolen fraction of cost of keeping person in prison. Overcrowding caused riots in 1980s e.g. Strangeways. Population soared to 50,000 before reducing by end of 1980s. Some improvements but Wymott 1993 riots cost £20mn damage. Privatisation favoured by Cons and big programme initiated by Howard. He also favoured a 'prison works' philosophy though much criticised by judges and reformers while numbers rocketed over 60,000.
Alternatives to Prison Caution Plus: offender is cautioned and has to pay compensation to victim face to face. Cuts down
reoffending rate; used by Northants police. Halt Programme: Holland use this; under 17s programmes if admit guilt and accept 'shaming'; good reoffending rate. New Zealand family conferences: Maori tradition; extended family assembles to discuss actions and sanctions. 50% say satisfied with outcome. Identity chips: add to all electrical goods to ensure tracing. Head Start: USA nursery education for 30 yrs shows they do not do crime and do well in life. Abortion: one Chicago study says abortion prevents emergence of youth from underclass. Reducing Offending: Home Office report 1998: focussed on targeting repeat offenders and identifying 'hot spot' areas. Vigilante Movement: 40,000 Neighbourhood Watch groups but maybe squeeze crime onto streets again. Vigilantes employed in lots of areas on subscription basis but some over reaction by employees and beatings when not right person. 'Have a go' victims sometimes fined but Tony Martin case 2000 had sympathy of public even if he went to jail for shooting a burglar.
Security Services MI5 Set up 1909 employs 2000 people and has budget of £150mn pa. Works on counter espionage involving itself in IRA activities also as well as serious crime.
Special Branch Home Secretary in charge. Ports and airports 2000 employees; £20mn pa budget.
MI6 Political and economic intelligence abroad. Foreign Secretary is boss. Now has serious crime added to jobs it does.
GCHQ Communications centre at Cheltenham, based on Bletchley centre during war, which broke codes. Big row in 1980s when Cons banned unions. PM chairs Cabinet Committee on security services and one of the secretariats in Cab Office is concerned with this too. Security Commission formed in 1964 and investigates as does the Home Affairs Select Committee; also scrutinises expenditure of MI5 MI6 etc.
Chapter 26: The Welfare State and Social Policy Nature of Social Policy Guaranteeing entitlements has become a major function of modern governments since the Beveridge Report of 1942 and the measures of the 1945–51 Labour government. Free enterprise economies are based on incentives and it is inevitable gaps will occur between rich and poor. This had led to substantial resources being allocated to welfare services and a) rapid increases in spending over the last 50 years though compared with EU countries our 3% looks niggardly: Germany: 4.5%; Denmark 5%. Resources: taxes and 'transfer payments' from one section of society to another e.g. pensions and unemployment benefit. Government decides on the levels but payments by Benefits (executive) Agency. Central government has little to do with delivery: a multiplicity of local agencies deliver services including (re) education: councils and churches; charities and private business provide other services for the elderly e.g. meals on wheels and retirement homes. Welfare services are important because: 1. people have come to expect them and their votes are cast in support of them. 2. philosophies of political parties of government have been supportive of both Labour and Conservative; most of the small ones do as well including Lib-Dems and nationalists. 3. modern economy requires well-educated and healthy people who are willing to adapt to new working conditions and retrain. 4. when markets fail state has to step in to assist those affected: unemployment benefit, social security. If education and health were voluntary poor would suffer unalleviated by medical services.
Level of Spending Economic recessions in 1970s and 1980s fuelled calls for cuts. Growing percentage of elderly (now some 20% of the population) and improved technological possibilities has caused huge increases in health spending-£10bn increase since 1990. Conservatives disliked welfare state because a) redistribution of income reduces inequalities which provide motor of the economy; b) welfare state a haven for restrictive practices creating inefficiency; c) causes high taxation and spending; d) creates a 'dependency culture' which deters self reliance. Their reforms did little to reduce spending but they did affect delivery and Labour attitudes as well especially regarding the idea all should get benefits – 'universalism'- compared with targeting resources on those who most need them: 'means testing'.
Balance between programmes Influenced by: 1. public support e.g. for NHS in 1980s so Thatcher had to declare it was 'safe' in her hands. 2. events causing distress like business failure in 1980s, which caused increased spending. 3. policy e.g. council housing cut drastically by Conservatives and 1.4 mn sold to tenants.
Guiding principles of reforms in welfare in 1980s and 1990s 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
extend private funding and curb public spending introduce management concepts from private sector monitor and regulate performance and quality of service emphasis on consumerism and choice and flexibility of provision 'quasi'-market into public services provision.
These policies applied with varying degrees of intensity depending on the sector concerned.
Delivery Means NHS reforms in the 1980s designed to separate funders, i.e. health trusts, from providers, e.g. hospitals. Latter had incentive to provide good efficient and economical service to retain contract. Contracting out a major development for years e.g. laundry, cleaning etc.
Who Should Pay? UK depends on taxation whilst other developed countries uses contributory insurance schemes. UK funds have to compete with other priorities while insurance funds specifically allocated. Insurers also tend to look for most cost effective service. However, workplace insurance schemes can produce inequalities as better workers get better treatment. 'User' charges have always existed e.g. for prescriptions to raise extra cash and discourage careless usage. £1000 flat rate for university attendance introduced in 1998.
Blair Government Reforms Frank Field was told to 'think the unthinkable' but was soon replaced when Brown realised how much his reforms would cost. Budgets have been mildly redistributive in first two years but 2000 one was more so with an election in mind. Aimed to target causes of poverty e.g. Welfare to Work aimed at creating employment for young people and disabled and lone parents. Employers receive grants to take on unemployed and train them properly. Low Pay attacked through the minimum wage of £3.60 per hour; deliberately low to avoid knock-on effect on employment. • Child Support Agency reformed in face of furious complaints. • Child Benefit increased by substantial amounts in 1998 and 2000. • Tax credit scheme for low paid enabling them to claim 70% of child care costs. • Working Families Tax Credit boosted low paid by giving them more of what they earned. • Pensions to be reformed to create private second one as well as the state one.
Who Should Benefit? Universialism In theory welfare services are for everyone who meets the criteria; e.g. to be a child to receive free education, to be old to get a pension, to be ill to get health care etc. Selective Targeting seems more efficient but this conflicts with the idea of citizen entitlement. Wealthy can have the same entitlements as the poor and they can do better out of provision too. Le Grand has shown only council housing benefits the poor.
Why does this occur? 1.
some groups better at lobbying than others e.g. middle classes and secondary/university education and the millions who work in the public sector. 2. some groups better placed to compete e.g. middle classes and university entrance: 80% professional classes and 14% working classes in 1997–8. Universalism gives equal entitlements but this gives green light to increasing inequality if rich can benefit in this
Debate about welfare state Michael Novak says benefits 'too easy to obtain and too attractive to resist'; an entitlement irrespective of need. People have given up their freedom in exchange for security, which can no longer be met (because of the changing balance of youth to age and increasing cost). He reckons the welfare state 'softens the morals
of recipients' and 'penalises creativity'. Four million Americans are in a cycle of dependency on benefits but new immigrants seem to succeed as always: make the sacrifices and be creative and make life god for their kids. Welfare has 'subsumed civil society'. He says seven principles should obtain: 1. increase numbers of independent strong creative people 2. nourish strong families which produce strong personalities 3. encourage independence not crush it 4. establish capital funds for each citizen to build up for future generations 5. use capital funds to relieve Treasury 6. devolve decisions to lower levels 7. make government regulations simpler to make fraud more difficult.
Chapter 27: Economic Policy Probably the dominant feature of modern British politics is the extent to which governments are judged by how well they manage the economy. Governments can get lots of things wrong and still win elections by providing what electors see as economic success, but however well they do in other areas, lack of economic success is likely to lead to electoral failure.
The Nature of Economic Policy A very broad definition of economic policy is: • 'policy' consists in the choices made and rejected by government • 'economic' refers to that set of institutions and activities concerned with the production and distribution of goods and services There are two qualifications: 1. The boundaries of 'economic policy' are moving all the time. For example, in recent years, education has been viewed in economic terms, as a contribution to national economic success. 2. There is constant struggle and argument over the making and control of policy. Thus it is no longer true that education policy is solely the concern of those involved in education. Although the boundaries of economic policy are uncertain, there is general agreement that its heart concerns the government's responsibilities for its own spending and for economic management generally. The choices made by government about how much they spend, where to allocate its money and how to raise it have a special significance. This is partly about: • Scale – government is the biggest institution in the British economy and has a correspondingly great effect on society and government decisions affect the economy generally • Purpose – choices about public spending and taxation are important instruments which government can and does use to influence the course of the economy The second economic responsibility of the government is 'steering the economy'. Government has various instruments of control that can be used to guide the economy such as the level of public spending and taxation. Although the Thatcher government denied that the government could control the economy in the way attempted during the era of 'Butskellism', all post-war British governments have attempted to steer the economy.
The Machinery of Economic Policy This refers to the institutions that manage the economy and the process by which they make choices. The complexity of the process means that there is no simple distinction between those at the top of government who 'make' policy and those lower down who 'implement' or 'execute' it. Economic policy making and implementation are inseparable. Those at the top have the potential to make broad decisions, but economic policy is also shaped by the decisions of a large number of organisations, both public and private.
The centre of the machine The Treasury The Treasury is a small department and other departments carry out much of the execution of economic policy. Its importance is threefold: • It is a vital source of policy advice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the Prime Minister and other senior figures. • It is the keeper of the public purse in that it is the key institution in decisions about public spending • It shares with the Bank of England control over policy towards financial markets, for example
regarding the exchange rate The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury are the two key ministers.
The Bank of England It is the nation's 'central bank': • It is a publicly owned institution with responsibility for managing the national currency • It is responsible for ensuring the stability of the banking system • It is the Treasury's agent in managing public debt and in interventions to influence levels of interest rates • Its headquarters are in the City of London, and although the Governor is nominated by the Prime Minister, he is a considerable and independent figure The Bank's importance rests on three factors: 1. It plays a major part in the execution of decisions increasingly considered to be the heart of economic policy – those concerning the working of financial markets 2. It has an established position as a source of advice about the successful management of those markets 3. Under Labour it has acquired new responsibilities for interest rate policy This does not mean that the Treasury and the Bank of England dominate policy. However, they have a continuous role in shaping the strategic purposes and daily tactics of economic policy and no other government institution specialises in this activity at such a high level.
The Prime Minister The PM is both figuratively and physically close to the machinery of economic policy making. Number 10 Downing Street is next door to the Chancellor's official residence in Number 11 and the Treasury is close to Number 10. Although any modern PM is likely to be an important part of the policy making process, the precise position depends on: • The abilities and interests of the particular individual • The personal relations between the PM and the Chancellor • The wider popularity and authority the PM can command Prime ministerial involvement need not consist only of personal intervention: • The staff of the PM's own office and from institutions close to the PM, notably the Cabinet Office • PM's economic advisers (as in 1989 when Lawson resigned over the influence of Sir Alan Walters)
The Cabinet Prime ministerial participation can now be described as 'institutionalised', which means that it is part of the established procedure regardless of the actual incumbent. It is less certain that this is true of the Cabinet, which once was a major participant. The Cabinet still has a role in that its meetings are likely to include items related to the economy (although Mrs Thatcher kept controversial matters off the agenda for long periods). In addition, Cabinet committees are important for discussing economic issues and there is a role for the Cabinet in determining disputes about public spending. However, since the 1970s the extent of collective Cabinet involvement in economic policy making has been uncertain. While individuals such as the PM, the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary remain important, the collective significance of the Cabinet has probably declined. This does not mean that Cabinet ministers and their departments are unimportant. By executing policy, departments also make it by shaping the decisions.
Quasi-government Quasi-governmental bodies are important in the machinery of economic policy and can be divided into two categories: 1. Nationalised corporations This form of organisations has in the past been used for activities ranging from the BBC to the mining of coal. From 1945 to the end of the 1970s, nationalised corporations were significant instruments of government policy and had a major effect on the economy. Privatisation has reduced the size and significance of nationalised industries. 2. Free-standing, specialised agencies (quangos)
These have become important in recent years. They cover a wide range of areas and take a variety of organisational forms. They have become one of the most important means by which economic policy is 'delivered' and thus shaped. Bodies such as Urban regeneration Agencies do not just carry out policy decisions made elsewhere; they shape policy by their control over the details of policy execution and their role in policy advice. There are two reasons for the role of 'quasi-government': • Central government departments do not have the resources and knowledge to carry out all the tasks of government • 'Quasi-government' offers some protection against control by politicians, especially Members of Parliament
The private sector Privately owned institutions such as banks are involved in the machinery of economic policy because economic policy is made in the process of execution, not just by a few people at the top making decisions. In executing policy government rely widely on private bodies.
Three Themes in Economic Policy The Thatcherite revolution 'Thatcherism' describes the policies of the Thatcher governments but they largely continued after her fall in 1990. Its origins lie in the policy failures preceding her election in 1979 and the debate about those policies. Thatcherism was an attempt to introduce historically different policies and to replace the consensual, cooperative style of British government with a more centralised and directed approach. The most important features of Thatcher's economic policy: • a radical change in the structure of ownership through privatisation • a radical change to the structure of rewards a) to cut the tax on the rich to encourage enterprise b) to cut welfare benefits to make unemployment less attractive and so reduce unemployment and reduce the pressure of wage demands on inflation • the reduction or ending of subsidies to many industries to stimulate efficiency Judgement about the Thatcher period remains deeply divided.
The case for Thatcherism: 1.
However painful the experience of closing down large parts of manufacturing industry, it was a recognition of the inevitable. British industries were not efficient enough to find markets for their goods. A change to a more centralised and directive style of policy making was necessary because the traditional co-operative approach had failed. Thatcherism was not unique. Across the world governments, almost regardless of party, introduced similar reforms. Thus, Thatcherism was a necessary adjustment to changing patterns in the world economy. The figures for economic growth show that something significant happen to the performance of the British economy after 1979.
The case against: 1. 2.
The most distinctive consequence of Thatcherism was the hastening of 'deindustrialisation', the elimination of large parts of British manufacturing industry. The shift away from a consensual style of governing and the strategy of increasing the rewards of the rich carries great dangers for social peace and harmony.
New Labour and economic policy New Labour in 1997 largely accepted the changes in economic management and the structure of the economy brought about in the Thatcher era. This came about in three stages: • After Labour's catastrophic defeat in 1983 the party gradually accepted the main parts of the Thatcherite revolution • Blair persuaded the party to accept the replacement of Clause Four committing Labour to public ownership with a new clause which commended 'the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition' • The general election manifesto of 1997 accepted the spending levels planned by the Conservatives for the first two years and also promised not to raise basic or top rates of income tax Three features of New Labour's economic policies are significant: 1. The increase in the independent capacity of the Bank of England to control interest rates. This was intended to reassure the financial markets that Labour would be prudent and responsible. The new arrangements: a) Set an inflation target to be achieved by the Bank of England b) Gave the Bank control over short-term interest rates subject to achieving the inflation target c) Created a new Monetary Policy Committee within the Bank to make decisions about interest rates 2. There was a comprehensive spending review, designed to fashion a distinctive Labour mechanism for controlling and planning expenditure and to map out a strategy for public expenditure growth 3. To halt the Conservative policy of redistributing wealth to the rich.
The impact of Europe Entry to the Common Market in 1973 was momentous for the British economy: • It contributed to a historic shift in trading patterns. In 1971 29 per cent of UK exports went to EU countries; in 1996 that figure was 57 per cent • It shifted the location of important economic policy decisions to the EU, especially as a result of the introduction of the single market in the 1990s • Membership has divided both major political parties, especially the Conservatives since 1979. There has been a debate about the nature of Britain's membership and the type of economic organisation which should be achieved • The decision over whether to join the singe currency will be of historic importance. This has both economic and political dimensions.
Chapter 28: British Foreign and Defence Policy under the Blair Government The study of British foreign policy has become increasingly problematical because of the difficulty of defining an arena or 'sphere' of foreign policy which is distinct from domestic policy. Government activity has become internationalised. In the 1990s the term 'globalisation' became current. This refers to the revolution in information and communication technology and its consequences for the behaviour of money and financial markets. The 'global village' predicted in the 1960s seems to have arrived, although caution is required in interpreting these developments.
Ethical Foreign Policy On 12 May 1997 Foreign Secretary Robin Cook identified Labour's foreign policy in terms of a 'mission statement', 'to promote the national interests of the United Kingdom and to contribute to a strong world community'. This would bring four benefits to Britain: • Security of the UK and its dependent territories (colonies) and peace through the promotion of stability, defensive alliances and arms control • Prosperity through promotion of jobs and trade • Quality of life by protecting the environment and countering drugs, terrorism and crime • Mutual respect by working through international forums and bilateral relationships to 'spread the values of human rights, civil liberties and democracy which we demand for ourselves' The first three are traditional objectives of British foreign policy. It is only the fourth element that is, arguably, new or distinctive. This is the key to the idea of an ethical foreign policy and raises three questions: 1. What does it mean? Is there a distinctive concept of an ethical foreign policy? 2. Is an ethical foreign policy an innovation? 3. Has British foreign policy since 12 May 1997 met the requirements of a self-consciously ethical foreign policy?
What is an ethical foreign policy? If foreign policy is based on self-interest, is it conceivable for it to be altruistic or to pursue deliberate selfabnegation? The 'Realist' concept of the national interest argues that foreign policy is concerned with the security of the state within an anarchic and potentially hostile international environment. However, although foreign policy is primarily about self-interest, much foreign policy activity such as foreign aid, military assistance to developing countries and international co-operation in education or culture does not fit into the 'Realist' definition.
Is an ethical foreign policy new? Foreign policy has always involved a mix of values around a core of national security. In 1997 Labour stated that its foreign policy was a radical departure from that of Old Labour and also from that of the sleaze and corruption of the Conservative period in office. Cook's policy is not a radical change from earlier periods, though it does contain a stronger emphasis on human rights, but it was important for both domestic and external reasons to promote it as a new and radical departure.
Has policy lived up to being an ethical foreign policy? The Conservative opposition criticise Cook on the grounds of inconsistency, for instance that he stresses human rights in one case while ignoring them in others. There are three test cases:
Indonesia It is difficult to claim that the government's reaction to events in East Timor met the criteria of an ethical foreign policy based on human rights.
Sierra Leone The evidence is of an ineffective and confused policy.
Kosovo This has been the most important, and arguably the most successful, foreign policy initiative of the Labour government. It can be argued that, on balance, the consequences of the war are justified in terms of ethical foreign policy.
Dependent Territories Policy towards the Dependent Territories – the last colonial remnants – also meets the criteria for an ethical foreign policy. In February 1998 Cook announced that the inhabitants of the Dependent Territories would regain the right of abode in Britain they had lost in the 1981 Nationality Act. However, the populations are small and the cost limited.
Is the claim of an ethical foreign policy justified? • • •
Additional emphasis has been given to an ethical dimension Policy has been presented at home and abroad in these terms, and presentation becomes part of the content of policy to which others react While in Kosovo the scale of the tragedy spurred the government to take action, in human rights abuse cases in China and Russia, the government's response has been similar to that of its predecessors What has been achieved since 1997 is a change of emphasis rather than of fundamentals
The Strategic Defence Review Conservative defence policy since 1990 was about managing two external demands: • The new realities of the post-Cold War world • Increasing pressure for economies By 1997 defence policy had entered a period of relative stability within ever-declining budgets. Three main defence roles had been identified: 1. The defence of the UK and its dependent territories, even when there is no overt external threat. This included retention of the nuclear deterrent. 2. Insurance against a major attack on the UK or its allies and includes the NATO commitment and NATO force structures. 3. The contribution to wider security interests through the maintenance of peace and security. This includes peacekeeping and peace enforcement through the UN and NATO, involving British forces even where no national security interests are at stake. This is the military aspect of the ethical foreign policy. In opposition, Labour argued for a comprehensive 'Strategic Defence Review' in which the whole range of security commitments and interests would be analysed, together with actual and potential capabilities. Otherwise, reactions would be ad hoc and the Treasury would dictate defence policy by determining budgets. On coming into office, the Defence Secretary, George Robertson, announced a Strategic Defence Review to determine priorities in the post-Cold War world. He modified the three defence roles of the previous government into distinct missions: • Defence role one was divided into two missions: a) Defence of the UK in a situation of no overt external threat b) Defence of the Overseas Territories
• Possession of nuclear weapons (Trident) was confirmed • Defence roles two and three were subject to greater change The threats to British security now came less from direct military attack from Russia than from a multiplicity of risks around the world arising from instability, escalating local conflicts etc. Defence role two was broken down into missions to provide defence against strategic attacks on NATO and regional conflicts within the NATO area. Defence role three was elaborated into four missions: • Regional conflicts outside the NATO area • Support for peace-making and humanitarian intervention • The defence of wider British interests • Defence diplomacy, such as negotiating arms control agreements The rationale for the review rests on a broad conception of Britain's security interests: 1. That there is no immediate direct military threat to the British security, but conflict in one area may spill over into other areas, closer to home. 2. The emphasis on an ethical foreign policy and defence of humanitarian interests requires flexible capabilities 3. Britain benefits by accepting responsibilities and duties which contribute to a stable world which is itself a British interest There is an unquestioned assumption that, through punching above its weight, prestige and influence are maximised and hence that responsible behaviour brings its own reward. Defence forces remain small and over-stretched and the end of the Cold War has increased the demands on the forces not reduced them. The Strategic Defence Review's conclusion was higher levels of preparation but with further reductions in size. This raises a number of questions, but one in particular. • Can British military power aspire to be a premier division force capable of fighting a high intensity war? • or are they now a second division force whose effectiveness is confined to such lower intensity wars as Bosnia or Kosovo? British forces work on the assumption that they are small but capable of high-density warfare and also trained for low intensity warfare as in Northern Ireland. The government has made no radical change to defence policy: • The downward pressure on expenditure remains • There has been progress in establishing more flexible forces • Over-stretch remains • Uncertainty remains over whether, in the medium term, it is possible to sustain such a varied defence effort with such a small force.
Relations with the United States During the Major government British relations with the USA deteriorated from the peak of the ThatcherReagan and Thatcher-Bush years. The Clinton-Major relationship never established itself. Blair has sought a close working relationship with Clinton. At the party level each supported the other's election campaigns and shared similar ideas on left of centre politics, the 'Third Way'. There have been three important areas of co-operation: 1. NATO enlargement, culminating in the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999, without alienating Russia. 2. Attempts to solve the Northern Ireland crisis 3. Co-operation in Iraq Blair's remarkably close relationship with Clinton has not been shaken by Clinton's misdemeanours; however as Clinton's presidency ends its value to Blair will decline. There is continuity in the Anglo-American defence relationship. Blair's emphasis is on Britain as a pivotal power, one that is at the crux of alliances and international politics which shape the world and its future, rather than trying to recreate a Great Power role.
Chapter 29: Environmental Policy Introduction This area did not figure highly in either 1992 or 1997 elections, but top ten environmental groups claimed membership of 4.5mn people, exceeding those of political parties. Sustainable development mainstream topic of debate and locus shifting from London to Brussels, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Impact of EU on Environmental Policy Policy Content Europe bit late in addressing this field. First Action Plan in 1973 and was aimed at quality of life and living conditions of uniform nature. Product standards harmonisation also a priority. Single European Market 1987 marked formal recognition of Env Policy though DGX1 set up in 1981 to look after it. SEA formally legitimised Env Pol as up to that point had only squeezed in via need to reduce distortions of the market. 1993 Maastricht Env Pol (amended T of Rome) deepened and broadened and by T of Amsterdam which endorsed sustainable development and integrating of env pol into other policy areas.
Revised T of Rome 130r: Precautionary principle: action to prevent harm to env before evidence available • Preventive action; • Polluter pays • Policy integration: across gamut.
Env Action progs agenda for action; 5th EAP is Towards Sustainability: 1992–2000: agriculture, energy, industry, transport and tourism key areas mentioned.
Policy making Env law now made by maj voting. By 1994 John Gummer reckoned 80% of UK env law made in EU. 1. Management and admin of issues: traditional pragmatic 'solve when problem' approach replaced by impact of principles like polluter pays. Less flexibility possible under EU. 2. Relationships of orgs involved in policy process; env groups better received in Brussels than in London. Moreover local government held responsible by EU for implementation. 3. UK adopted higher standards than would otherwise have been the case.
From Env Policy to Sustainable development: 1. 2.
'public pol concerned with governing relationship between people and their natural environment' 'use of land and the regulation of human resources which have an impact on our physical surroundings.' In practice env policy amalgam of 'common law, statutes, agencies, procedures and policies.'(Lowe and Flynn) This Common Inheritance: Cm 1200) 1990: criticised for feeble measures recommended but was a coherent approach integrated with economic and social issues plus attempt to move to 'sus devel'. Why:
1. 2. 3.
influence of EU and UN influence of Pgs growing awareness of interlinked nature of key env policies.
Sustainable Development Agenda Economy and Environment classic confrontation of late 20th century. Sus Dev marries two in apparent harmony: 'growth which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.' (Bruntland Report, 1987). Business now careful re env: env management systems, env auditing, purchasing production processes all affected. EU labelling in force. Bruntland report: endorsed by UN ldrs at Rio in 1992 1. Rio declaration 2. Agenda 21 3. Climate Change Convention to resist global warming 4. Biodiversity Convention to protect species and habitats 5. Worlds' forests declaration. Earth Summit II 1997 in New York: exposed problems of developing countries in meeting Rio objectives. Sustainable development: UK Strategy, 1994: Panel on Sus Dev -5 experts reporting to PM; Round Table on Sus Dev-30 reps from bus, local government, etc; Going for Green Programme- to market sus dev message. Sus Dev Commission will embody Panel and Round Table after 2000. Biodiversity: UK action plan: restatement of objectives. Some experts reckon government should be more pro-active on sus dev. Opps for Change 1998: updating of government position consultation paper. Gummer keen on reform but colleagues less so. Lab seems more committed to env issues and policy now closer to EU neighbours. Netherlands advanced country re sus dev but UK improving its policy objectives to come into line. Netherlands more conscious of pol and soc consensus on sus dev; UK more agreement on aims but less on means. 'Decoupling' is word for increasing efficiency while reducing impact on env. Dutch distinguish between 'relative decoupling'- pressure on env increasing at slower rate than econ growth- and 'absolute'- stable env factors while econ grows. Dutch have found new markets for new products e.g. env technology to meet new demands. UK some way behind as fear econ disadvantages.
Central Government and its Agencies. DETR: latest in organisational fixes from DOE in 1970 (housing, local government plus public building and works and Transport). Merely a rearrangement of machinery though; key env issues still with other depts e.g. agriculture and energy- transport separated later in 1976. Labour brought transport back into env dept and to emphasise the role of regional development. However few new powers given to new dept and some functions devolved to Cardiff and Edinburgh. Cons 1990 This Common Inheritance: each ministry to have a 'green minister' responsible for the env implications of dept policy. They also downgraded Cab cttee to ministerial one; Lab upgraded ENV cttee back to Cab status. However it did not meet during its first yr. on regular basis and worked via correspondence. Select Cttee on Env Audit set up 1997 on extent to which policy contributes to env protection and sus dev. Env Agency: time scales for env policy much greater than usual ones for politicians and it cuts across depts like no other policy creating turf disputes. Royal Commission Env Pollution 1970s argued for integration of policy areas and FOE agreed. 1980s/1990s saw HM Inspectorate of Pollution and National Rivers Authority and Waste Regulation Authorities. However under pressure from other parties government agreed on even more integration in 1991 with new Env Agency to embody HMIP, NRA and WRAs in Eng and Wales. Scottish Env Prot Agency has in addition the local env health officers. Logical step but not poss in E and W. HMIP 1987, combined inspectorates for ind air pollution and regulating discharges from 2000 ind processes.
NRA formed at same time as privatisation of water and has pollution control functions of old water authorities. 1990 Env Prot Act: created three types of waste authority: waste collection auths for household or commercial waste; it is disposed by Waste Disposal Auth; Waste Regulation Auths responsible for safe treatment and disposal of waste produced by homes, mines, quarries and agriculture. Env Agency brought together air water and commercial waste into one but took time to make staff cohesive grouping. Maybe most have not noticed difference but new emphases pursued: Waste minimisation is encouraged through advice and education to achieve sus dev. Name and Shame used when transgressions spotted. Devolution will pose new challenges; could be Wales will wish to be separate. Rural Conservation Agencies: date back to National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. 1. nature conservation: scientific and technical expertise in nat history, flora and fauna. 2. landscape protection: Countryside Agency now taken over from Countryside Commission. Landscape separate from nature protection; unusual in Europe. Eng Nature has resp for management of national nature reserves. All this machinery has developed ad hoc and have little power or resources – 'politically marginal'. Devolution and Environmental Policy: Scotland more powers than Wales; both assemblies concerned with similar topics in env policy but their respective authorities are quite different. Agriculture has long been devolved; energy still national government responsibility. Some in Wales have called for Scottish style powers. e.g. Wales resp for roads and London rail; makes little sense. Welsh Assembly though has responsibility of producing a Scheme of sus dev for Wales. Difficult with scant resources and powers but progress being made. Scots don't have duty to do same but are doing so anyway. Could be assemblies will diverge from Westminster on sus dev pathways.
Local Government and Env Planning Assemblies will have to work with local auths and try to agree common agenda as they have statutory responsibility for air water and waste pollution and planning. Local Agenda 21 is from Rio summit in 1992. Pollution Regulation by Las: Env Agency responsible for emissions from industrial processes but district and unitary auths resp for non scheduled processes stemming from legislation in 1936, 1956, 1968 and 1990. Env Prot Act 1990 took away some of these duties and gave them to the new body. Situation confused therefore in terms of responsibilities. Local Planning: planning law gives wide powers to control land use planning re content, permissions and enforcement of breaches. Cons tended to see planing as impediment to econ progress/market. Enterprise zones, urban development corporations simplified plans, awarded tax breaks to developers and generally loosened the regime. Once embraced env agenda re-embraced planning as best way forward but debates in South-East continue re extent to which building should be constrained: Housing: 1991 census suggests 4.4 extra homes will be needed 1991–2016. Government is encouraging 'brown field' development from 50% to 60% of new dwellings. Does not remove need to build onsite greenfield sites. Council for Protection of Rural England reckons meadow land size of Bedfordshire lost to building 1994–99. Cons now argue development should be directed northwards. Two new national parks to be opened in New Forest and South Downs said Prescott at 1999 party conference. Local Authority Initiatives: UNCED conference at Rio announced Agenda 21: global environment agenda for the century. Much of this predicated on LA action and so some extension of its powers expected as UK advanced in taking this agenda forward. Sus dev especially important; all have produced strategies by 2000 and set themselves targets. Needs more money though to fulfil objectives from this conference. Pressure Groups and Government: Road Transport. November, 1999, Transport Act gave Las right to charge for road use; legislation is permissive only. Norwegian and Singapore experiments thought to be successful. Environmental Groups: Best-supported env lobby in world says McCormick: 4.5 mn members or 8% of population. Rapid growth of groups in 1970s and formation of FOE, Greenpeace and Transport 2000. Tactics were high profile and successful. Greenpeace is international in scope. Ramblers got right to walk more freely in November 1999 on moor land, mountains, heath and down. Landowners will retain right to close land 28 days a year. Road Building Protests: Twyford Down, Newbury and Honiton big sites. Twyford Down M3 protests in mid 1980s used non-violent direct action protest. 'Dongas Tribe' occupied hollows and defied machinery.
Won much public sympathy, especially from middle classes united against government. 6 protest camps at Newbury grew to 29. Based in trees and tunnels. Reclaim the Streets anti-car PG active in anti-capitalist demos in 1999. Government and Road Transport: Roads for Prosperity White Paper 1989. Many plans dropped: 1. Treasury alarmed at increases in road budget. 2. Contradicts sus dev. 3. Reports on Env Pollution expressed concern at health implications of current policy; argued for halving of road building and doubling of petrol over decade. Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Roads said new roads would encourage more traffic. New Deal for Transport 1999 suggest integrated transport policy to fight congestion and pollution; link transport to land use planning. Labour sensitive to anti car jibe and making implementation responsibility of local government not central.
Chapter 30: Northern Ireland (NI) The Central Problem About two thirds of the 1.5 million people in Northern Ireland are Protestant and wish to remain as part of the UK; however, they are in a minority of Ireland as a whole, which is Catholic. Within Northern Ireland a Catholic minority of about one third wish to unite with the rest of Catholic Ireland.
Historical background: (Key words: Plantations, Act of Union, Home Rule Bills) 1.
From the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries Ireland was ruled from London. In the seventeenth century Scottish Presbyterians were imported into 'plantations' within the nine county North-East province of Ulster, displacing the indigenous Irish farmers. The anger caused by this made Ireland a security risk to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars and the country was absorbed in 1801 by the Act of Union. Irish nationalist anger however increased and expressed itself in violence. 2. To assuage it three Home Rule Bills were introduced after 1886 designed to grant limited autonomy. However the Ulster Protestants refused, on threat of violence, to accept what they saw as a surrender to 'Rome' and insisted on separate treatment. Partition and After (KW: Partition, six counties, 37 constitution, RUC, B specials, politico-social discrimination, Orange lodges, NICRA, riots, troops, IRA) 1. Caught between two warring factions the British government passed the Government of Ireland Act in 1920 which partitioned the country into a 26 counties Free State (Republic of Ireland in 1949) and a six counties into Northern Ireland; the three other Ulster counties were more heavily Catholic. 2. Protestants feared the Catholics within would subvert their province and that the Catholics without (in Eire) would conspire to do the same especially after the 1937 Constitution which committed Eire to unification. 3. The Royal Ulster Constabulary was mainly a Protestant protection force; the B Specials exclusively so. 4. Access to resources was controlled by the protestants and the poorer Catholics suffered flagrant discrimination regarding political and social life: 85% of councils were controlled by the protestant Unionists via their 'Orange Lodges'; Catholic unemployment was much higher; and Catholics tended to receive poorer housing. Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) founded 1967 demanding an end to such discrimination. Their political action resulted in riots in 1969 and British troops were sent in. Initially Catholics welcomed the troops but then they were seen as the enemy and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) revived and began its campaign of assassination and terror. During the next thirty years the problem persisted despite numerous peace initiatives.
Explanations of the Problem (Acronym: ENCRE) 1.
2. 3. 4.
Ethno-National: two competing educationally and socially segregated ethnic groups demand their 'state be ruled by their nation'. Catholic nationalists associate with the culture and traditions of Eire whilst protestant Unionists identify with the British. Colonial: Republican used to argue Britain was exploiting the province through military occupation for financial benefit. However the £4bn annual subvention received contradicts this argument. Religious: key identification function, integral to political influence. Economic: Catholics are poorer and provide IRA recruits.
Unionist: (KW: UUP, DUP, UKUP, PUP, UDP, ALL, SDLP, SF) Ulster Unionist (UUP) Linked to Orange Lodges, favours economic but not political cooperation with Eire; wants devolved government for province. David Trimble – once hard-line, now more pragmatic – is leader and First Minister of the government elected in the wake of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. With John Hume won 1998 Nobel Peace Prize. Once hard-line but now more pragmatic, he is firm on need for IRA to give up arms before Executive can work effectively.
Democratic Unionist: (DUP) More hard line party led by Dr Ian Paisley MP. Half of members belong to Free Presbyterian Church; more working class support. Paisley opposed peace process and favours increased military effort against IRA.
United Kingdom Unionist: (UKUP) Led by Robert McCarteney MP, Wants closer relationship with UK; members left in 1999 to form Northern Ireland Unionist Party.
Progressive Unionist: (PUP) Wants to retain link with UK and advocates socialist policies.
Ulster Democratic Party (UDP): Linked to paramilitary Ulster Defence Association; wants to retain UK link.
Centre Alliance: Attracts support from both sides of the divide; favours devolved government and power – sharing.
Nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Led by John Hume MP, its Catholic membership favours united Ireland but by peaceful political means. Wants cooperation between north and south Ireland and east-west between Dublin and London. He entered into dialogue with Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein in 1988 and helped to bring about the Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Fein (SF) Led by Gerry Adams this is the political wing of the republican movement, commanding 40% of Catholic vote. Disclaims direct link with IRA but widely believed to have one. Seeks to justify 'armed struggle' against British government and partition. Wants RUC abolished and opposes the annual marches by Orange orders though Catholic areas. The 1998 decision to take seats in a devolved assembly was a major breakthrough and opened the door for possible power-sharing to work.
Paramilitaries (KW: IRA, INLA, UVF, UFF, and RHC) Irish Republican Army (IRA) Revived after 1970 when the breakaway Provisional IRA, committed to military force began its campaign; the 'Official' IRA became virtually defunct. British soldier killed in 1971 and in January 1972, 13 civilians
shot dead in Londonderry. From then on the army, RUC and Ulster defence regiment regularly targeted; however 70% of the 3000 victims of the 'Troubles' were civilian. Irish national Liberation Army an offshoot of the IRA.
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) and Red Hand Commandos (RHC) provide the paramilitary forces of the protestant side.
Attempts at Political Settlement: 1972 Direct Rule from Westminster 1973 Sunningdale Agreement 1975 Constitutional Convention 1980 Constitutional Conference 1982 Northern Ireland Assembly 1984 New Ireland Forum 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Case Studies Sunningdale: Elected assembly to sustain an executive comprising ministers from both sides plus a Council of Ireland and a council of ministers from both countries. However the unionists objected to the 'Irish dimension'; 11 of the unionists elected in 1974 opposed the deal and a strike by protestant workers finally did for the scheme in May 1974.
Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985, Hillsborough: Result of negotiation between Thatcher and Haughey in 1980: no change in status of NI without consent of the majority; provided a consultative role for Dublin. Set up a permanent conference to discuss matters of common interest. Unionists opposed but this intergovernmental agreement was hard to boycott. Strengthened the role of Dublin in NI affairs.
Peace Process Result of: moderation of republicans; acceptance by unionists of all Ireland dimension; recognition by British government that both sides had legitimate aspirations; more flexibility on NI from Dublin; external pressure from USA.
Nationalist Dialogue: Hume/Adams: Both traditions necessary for solution; violence counter productive; Britain neutral on whether NI stayed in UK. Peter Brooke, S of S NI 1990 distanced UK from any 'strategic or economic interest' in the province and opened up secret channel to IRA.
Downing Street Declaration (DSD), 1993: No change without consent; accepted right to Irish unity but only via consent. Produced ceasefire 1994 Framework Document, 1995: devolved government, cross border body, Anglo-Irish cooperation provided model for:
Good Friday Agreement (GFA), 1998: 108 member assembly, north-south ministerial council, British-Irish council and governmental conference. Release of prisoners within two years; commission on policing and human rights commission, repeal of
1937 Constitutional unity claim. Devolution, Consocialism (power-sharing), Cross Borderism, Intergovernmentalism. Inclusive and Confederal also. Referendums in May 1998 confirmed inclusivity: UUP, PUP, UDP, SDLP and SF all said 'Yes'. Only DUP and UKUP opposed. 71% in NI and 98% in Eire endorsed GFA. However the number of unionist members supporting in new assembly was 30 whilst those against was 28.
Decommissioning (Mitchell,) Conflict continued with the Real IRA exploding a bomb at Omagh in 1998. The biggest stumbling block was the question of whether the IRA would relinquish its stocks of arms. George Mitchell, the Senator appointed peacemaker came up with six principles of non-violence but the paras did not accept them. After 1997 Labour made the issue less crucial but it still concerned the Unionists and they threatened to expel SF from the executive if the process is not complete by May 2000. When no response was forthcoming Trimble resigned and direct rule was enforced by Mandeslon.
Conditional participation Conflict continued during the negotiations with the Real IRA exploding the Omagh bomb in 1998. However the biggest political problem was whether the paramilitaries would disarm. Senator George Mitchell, appointed a peacemaker suggested the process should occur during talks; his six principles of non-violence were accepted by the parties but not the paramilitaries. 1997 and New Labour saw the issue downgraded but it still caused unionists great concern. In the end SF allowed on to the executive on condition decommissioning finished by May 2000. SF to be expelled if reneged.
Alternatives to GFA 1. United Ireland 2. Full Integration into UK 3. Independent NI 4. Repartition to better reflect communities 5. Joint Authority 6. EU authority (producing a new European identity?) 7. Direct rule Westminster 8. Demographic change might change Catholic proportion of NI All options doubtful and strength of traditional loyalties will ensure none of these options likely.
Chapter 31: Britain and European Integration Background Britain and European Integration Britain came out of the war gravely weakened and we had to readjust to waning power both politically and economically. The British world perspective differed from Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland in that it had not been invaded and occupied, either by the allies or by Germany. For these latter countries the war had been catastrophic and faith in the nation state undermined. They faced the need to: recover economically; contain the threat of Germany as well resist the threat of USSR in east. Supranational cooperation seemed the answer to certain key politicians. Marshall Plan required such cooperation as did the efficacy of NATO and soon a new approach was born to integration. • 1952 European Coal and Steel Community product of 1950 Schuman Plan to entrench FrancoGerman cooperation: institutions in anticipation of the future EC and EU. • 1957/8 European Economic Community set up and European Atomic Energy Community. • 1967 all three merged to become the European Community. 1993 name changed to European Union by Maastricht Treaty.
British Applications UK applied when Suez revealed the weakness of the 'special relationship' with USA and UK economy began to decline relative to rest of Europe. 1959 and 1967 applications vetoed by De Gaulle who feared UK would threaten their leadership of Europe. He insisted on a national veto by member governments. UK joined however in 1973 along with Ireland and Denmark. Heath needed help of Labour MPs to pass the treaty of accession, central point of contention was the loss of UK's right to rule its own affairs: 'sovereignty'.
Push for Integration 1979–2000 under Presidency of Delors 1985–95 • • •
1979 European Monetary System was set up to hasten economic integration. Enlargement: 1981 and 1986 Greece and then Spain and Portugal joined (then there were 12). Deepening: 1987 Single European Act set up single market in EC and strengthened powers of its institutions. a) EMU: movement developed at end of 1980s b) Social Chapter attempted to strengthen social policy. c) Institutions made more supranational. d) EU created embodying EC as one 'pillar'; defence and foreign policy as another; and justice and home affairs as the third. 1995 Finland and Austria joined now that USSR no longer a controlling influence. Now 15 member states though Norway refused to join in a referendum.
EU Institutions and Decision Making European Commission 'Civil service' of EU but can initiate policy as well as express the 'conscience of Europe'. Has staff of 16000 (2000 translators). Led by President and 19 'commissioners' 2 who head 'Directorates General' across the
policy gamut. Two each from big countries and one each from the others for terms of 5 years. Romano Prodi made president in 1999 when commissioners resigned over poor management and sleaze accusations. Kinnock and Patten UK commissioners.
Council of Ministers Comprises ministers from each member but composition varies with topic: e.g. agriculture involves this group of ministers from EU countries and so on for energy, health, finance etc. In 1998 there were 21 different formations of the Council. High policy is decided by this body and is assisted by 1. COREPOR: body of permanent representatives. Civil servants often sub for their ministers. 2. Presidency: circulates every six months and provides an obligation to take the political initiative to solve pressing problems. 3. Secretariat of Council: 2000 staff support the work of the body.
Qualified ('weighted') Majority Voting (QMV) Allows the Council to make majority decisions according to size of country e.g. Fr, Ger, UK and IT have 10 votes while Lux has only 2. QMV majority is 62 of available 87 votes. UK therefore could be overruled but still have to implement a decision; sovereignty therefore has been lost. Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties in 1993 and 1997 extended QMV still further but in practice unanimity is always sought.
European Council Set up in 1974 as gathering of chief executives and foreign ministers of member countries. Meets twice a year and has initiated, amongst other things, EMU, SEA and the Single currency in 1999.
European Parliament 626 members who sit in groups according to ideology e.g. Socialists, Liberals etc. Used to be dominated by socialists but since 1999 centre-right won a small majority. UK has 87 MEPs, elected by PR, with 36 Con, 29 Lab and 10 Lib-Dem. Used to suffer from lack of powers and was little more than a talking shop but has been strengthened via 'co-operation' procedure (SEA) enabling it to influence Council during legislative process and the 'co-decision' procedure (Maastricht) which gives it the power to reject items completely. Amsterdam Treaty extended this power to cover a wide range of EU legislation plus the power of veto over new accessions. But EP's profile is weak: it has no oratory and suffers from plenaries in Strasbourg and committees in Brussels. EP offers rival legitimacy to national parliaments. However turnout in elections is low: 49% on average (24% in UK)
European Court of Justice: 1. 2. 3.
'Constitutionalisation' taking place as a result of ECJ interpretations of the founding treaties. EU law takes precedence over domestic law i.e. Factorame Case 1990 when ECJ overruled British courts applying British law. 15 judges who interpret and effectively make law as well.
Other Bodies Court of Auditors checks EU spending and Economic and Social Committee is consulted on legislation as a 'parliament of interests'. Also a Committee of the Regions after Maastricht. European Central Bank in Frankfurt sets interest rates for 'Euroland' countries in single currency. Would take over role of bank of England if UK joins Euro.
Interest Groups 500 of them most of which coordinate groups from member countries. Committee of Agricultural Organisations (COPA) represents farming bodies like national Farmers Union. EU will only deal with 'umbrella organisations representing EU-wide interests. Local governments seek representation in Brussels because of the Structural Funds and other sources of finance, which have become important, especially to declining areas.
Decision-making Under EC 'pillar' usually initiatives begin in the Commission after consultation with interests and then sent to Council of Ministers. COREPOR help consideration process. At same time sent to ECOSOC which submits an opinion on the proposal; and EP which uses one of four procedures (consultation, co-operation, co-decision, assent) depending on the type of issue involved. Lobbying occurs during this second consultation stage. Council then reaches a decision often via working parties. See diagram below.
EU Decision making and British Politics EU procedures unfamiliar to British practice and often portrayed as 'interference' even when a minister has approved the decision. Economic policy is still the EU's main impact: acts a 'regulator' through setting frameworks for competition and various rules affecting agriculture, telecommunications, the environment, energy or equal opportunities. This is akin to technical bargaining between the government and EU bodies.
Europeanisation of policy making: • • • • • • • • • •
Draft legislation often reviewed by government officials to gauge impact on UK. Government defines a position and present it to ministers and officials from the EU; may need to speak different language for this: 3139 meetings of working groups in 1998. Ministries set up coordinating agencies involving: the Foreign Office, DTI, MAFF, Cabinet Office (who act as PM's advisers) and the Treasury. PM and other ministers involved via Council of Ministers. Nearly 100 ministerial meetings of Council every year. Same ministries have to ensure EU legislation is implemented or face referral to the ECJ. MPs and members of new assemblies have to learn how to affect policy-making processes of EU. Local government has also had to learn same processes. Political parties have to learn to co-operate with like minded party groupings in EP e.g. Blair keen to establish links with German Socialists as joint action better than individual kind. Interest groups have to learn multi-level system: regional, national and supranational Public opinion is a factor e.g. referendum on Euro is promised in UK and voters very dubious so far on it.
Key Policy Areas EC pillar is 'supranational' whilst other two- foreign and defence policy and justice and home affairssettled via 'intergovernmentalism' Decisions are not binding as law for latter two pillars either.
Common Market Pillar Provided for: 1. removal of tariffs on trade 2. free movement of goods, services and capital 3. the harmonisation of legislation affecting way the market works. a) was achieved by 1968 but b) and c) took much longer: 1992. Thatcher sceptical on EU but supportive of single market idea as it was part of free market philosophy.
Common Agricultural Policy Set guaranteed prices to protect inefficient farmers in EU producing food surpluses ('mountains' and 'lakes') and taking up to 70% of budget of EU. Joining the EC caused increased prices for food in UK. Because British agriculture was efficient it did not receive much benefit from CAP leading Thatcher to demand 'our money' back in the early 1980s. Reforms have been introduced since then reducing the percentage to under 50% British agricultural policy basically run from Brussels as BSE episode proved.
Common Commercial Policy Common external tariff set so UK has very little say in this area of policy; ministers essentially bargain
with EU re application of rules.
EMU ERM was an earlier form and entailed keeping the exchange value of the pound in a set relationship to other major currencies, especially the Dmark. However in Sept 1992 there was a run n the pound and UK came out of ERM causing a fatal blow to the Conservative government. Major negotiated an 'opt-out' from the single currency and the social chapter. Labour joined the latter but have maintained the Conservative 'wait and see' line on EMU. 11 EU states are already in the Euro and will use it from 2002 as cash. UK promise a referendum before entry but this has been postponed and may not occur for years even now.
Other Policy Areas Regional Development Fund set up in 1975 to help poorer areas and Social Fund to help deprived ones. Cohesion policy aims to reduce differences between different regions. Social Charter aimed to protect workplace conditions from deterioration. Conservatives kept out but Labour joined in 1997. In 1990s Home Office became 'Europeanised' like the rest of Whitehall when Maastricht agreement on Justice and Home Affairs was implemented. Foreign policy still not coordinated as Kosovo crisis revealed.
EU Budget 1999 was only £67 billion or 1.11% of total EU GNP so is not especially costly; main public expenditure remains with national governments.
Continuing Controversy or new Consensus? •
• • • • • •
Divisions existed in both parties from the start and ratification of entry required Labour votes to add to Heath's Conservative ones. Wilson used referendum to side-step his own problems once in government after 1974. Defection of SDP MPs in 1981 partly in response to Labour's then leftwing policy of withdrawal. Three senior Conservatives casualties of European issue: Lawson in 1989; Ridley in 1990; and Howe in 1990. Even Thatcher was brought low partly as a result of her hostility to European integration. Major found the behaviour of his 'sceptics' frustrated his government embarrassingly until he was forced to suspend the party whip. 1996/7 Major obstructed EU dealings to assuage sceptics. BSE caused major row and Major blocked EU decision making for a month in protest.
Blair's Government since 1997 • • • •
Referendum deferred Blair behind policy review in 1998 Led EU effort over Kosovo. Blair keen to coordinate defence policy and make it self reliant in cases like Yugoslavia. These steps have helped raise UK stocks within EU. However, public not interested and turnout only 24% in 1999. Hague has decided this was sign public are sceptical and has gambled heavily on this proving electorally significant next year.
Multi-level Government Regional and devolved government will deal separately with EU possibly on agriculture and other areas. More institutional reform in 2000 will continue the enlargement and deepening of the EU as ex-communist countries queue up to join.
Supranationalism: involved EP, Commission Council of Ministers and ECJ, which operate in a way which places constraints on sovereignty. Intergovernmentalism: primacy of governments in decision making: between governments and not over them. Sovereignty: the idea that each state is able to do whatever it likes internationally without constraint. Subsidiarity: the idea that decisions should be made at the lowest practicable level.
Chapter 32: Tony Blair's New Labour Government: an interim assessment There was great interest in the return of the Labour government in 1997: • It brought to an end the longest period of one-party government for over a century and the longest period in which the Opposition party had remained out of office • The new Labour ministers were very inexperienced – only one had been in Cabinet before • However, Labour's return to power was widely forecast • Preparations for government, including meetings with senior civil servants, were pretty advanced Blair's rhetoric promised much but was often vague, except for the five key pledges: 1. Cut class sizes to 30 or under for 5–7 year olds 2. Fast-track punishment for persistent young offenders 3. Cut NHS waiting lists by 100,000 4. Remove 250,000 under 25 year-olds from benefit and into work 5. No rise in income tax rates The spending plans of the Conservative government would be maintained for the first two years in office and the existing rates of income tax were also accepted. There were several reasons for this prudence: • Blair and Brown were determined to kill Tory charges that Labour would be a tax-and-spend party • They had to demonstrate that Labour could be trusted with people's money • They also believed that a prudent economic management required such a policy • That globalisation limited the economic discretion of national governments of both left and right • That low inflation, lower rates of income tax, business-friendly policies and a tight cap on public spending were all necessary • This outlook became a key part of the 'Third Way' Few PMs have started with Blair's advantages: • A record Labour majority • A divided and discredited Conservative opposition • His own record level of popularity • His authority on the Labour Party, which was the least ideologically divided in memory • A favourable set of economic indicators The government's economic policy was quickly established: • Control of interest rates was handed over to the Bank of England and an inflation rate target was set of 2.5 per cent • Some critics complained at the omission of a target for unemployment and others said that these decisions should be made by democratically-accountable politicians • The government answered that markets were more likely to trust bankers and non-politicians to handle interest rates • Gordon Brown, constrained by his pledges on income tax rates, had to turn to indirect taxes to raise revenue • There was a comprehensive spending review to set future priorities • Education and health were the key beneficiaries of additional spending • Much of the extra spending would only take place in the second half of the Parliament and some wondered if the improvements would show before the next general election
The European Union • • •
Blair promised a fresh start and a more constructive relationship The Social Chapter was incorporated The government was cautious on joining the single currency and laid down conditions for entry
• • • • •
The programme was central to New Labour: It was a sharp contrast to the lack of interest of the Thatcher-Major governments Critics argued that it was ad hoc and lacked any guiding vision On the other hand, it reflects the British tradition of incremental change The reforms are broadly pluralistic and took Britain closer to the constitutional model of most EU states • However, pluralism has its limits – the closed lists for EU, Scottish and Welsh elections, the attempts to impose Alun Michael on the Welsh Labour Party and the efforts to prevent Ken Livingstone becoming Mayor of London • The constitutional reform programme reflected Blair's 'command' approach to leadership of the Labour Party The new government inherited many of the problems faced by its predecessor, especially Northern Ireland. The Good Friday agreement was widely hailed as a triumph for Blair, but getting the parties to agree on measures to implement proved harder to achieve.
Labour Party: • • •
In spite of the large majority there has been no relaxation in control of the party There have been a number of rebellions in the Commons over specific policy decisions To reinforce discipline, the Chief Whip reports to the CLPs about their member's voting record, which will be taken into account before the MP is renominated for the next election • Some left-wingers feel that the government has gone too far in trying to appear 'middle England' and is in danger of forgetting its core supporters • A number of policies have been aimed at Labour's core vote: increases in child benefit, introduction of the minimum wage and the acceptance of the Social Chapter New Labour won votes from the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and previous non-voters in 1997. Blair sought co-operation with the Liberal Democrats for three reasons: • Labour's chance of winning a general election would be much increased by Labour-LibDem cooperation – there was much tactical voting, to the advantage of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. • The longer-term project was of winning at least two terms of office, making Labour the natural party of government in the 21st century • Blair had a project of reshaping the centre-left – he has more in common with the LibDems than with the left of the Labour Party
Criticisms of New Labour's record For the first two years criticism was muted. However, a survey in September 1999 revealed some concerns: • A thin majority (48 per cent to 42 per cent) believed that taxes had been kept down • State schools had not been improved (44–39) • The health service had not been improved (53–37) • Poverty had not been reduced (46–36) • Sleaze had not been stopped (47–33) • Public transport had not improved (65–22) • Blair has become too arrogant (49–47) In October 1999, a comparative poll of attitudes towards the party leaders showed voter concern about Blair's increasing 'arrogance', his diminishing image as someone 'who understand people', has 'lots of personality' and 'is more honest than most politicians'. However, he won points for being experienced, tough and having more 'substance' than 'style'. At that time, Labour was around 20 points ahead of the Tories, whose leader attracted much worse ratings than the PM. A number of questions suggested themselves about the future: • If Britain remains outside the single currency, what effect will this have on Britain's influence in the EU, not least in shaping economic policy or on the strength of sterling? • What will be the impact on British domestic politics of joining or remaining out of the single currency? • How will Labour strike a balance between its commitment to maintaining low income taxes and tight
controls on public spending and improving public services? How will it balance its traditional interest in redistribution to the less well off and maintaining the support of middle England? • Will constitutional reform lead to a new style of politics, one involving more power sharing between parties and pluralism? How will Westminster relate to the Scottish and Welsh executives and if coalitions come about at Westminster what impact will this have on internal relations within the political parties? Much of the government's popularity, vision and strategy rests with Blair. He is as dominant as Mrs Thatcher ever was, and has done more than any Prime Minister this century to reform both his party and Number Ten and increase his grip over both. In both, he has created institutions to facilitate the type of leadership he believes is necessary. The credit for success will deservedly lie with him; so may the blame for failure.