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Chapter

This chapter examines two closely connected institutions that lie at the epicentre of UK politics and these are the Cabinet and the Prime Minister (PM). The chapter considers the basic characteristics of both. It describes the way in which they operate, including policy, the functions of the Prime Ministerial role, the supporting staff, and the place of both in the UK constitution and system of government. The principle of the collective responsibility of ministers is touched upon. The chapter gives some practical examples of how selective PMs have worked with their Cabinets to demonstrate how these theories can play out in practical terms. The chapter also provides historical material to illuminate the background to the issues it considers. Finally, the chapter asks: is collective government, that is, government by a group rather than a single leader, the right approach for the UK today? The chapter also touches on the issue of Brexit and questions what we have learnt from the Brexit experience in terms of the UK political system.

Chapter

This chapter discusses the way in which political ideas are put forward and relates this to the forming and mobilization of political opinions. It looks the forms of communication used, the means of ‘media’ for transmission; the approach that political parties and government take towards it; and the influence it can exert from within the democratic system. The chapter looks at how people transmit information and how organizations do too. An important element of this discussion is how people form political opinions in the first place and how they make decisions based on them. A key question is: how can the right to vote be used to transmit and impact a political view point? The chapter also examines the role of social media and recent phenomena such as ‘fake news’. It also asks: how can public opinion be measured? The chapter provides a number of theoretical perspectives and real-life examples: the ‘Leveson Inquiry’ of 2011–12 and what it revealed about political communication and the online parliamentary petitioning process. Finally, the chapter explores a debate about whether the Internet has made political communication more supportive of democracy.

Chapter

This chapter turns to the forms of government that cover specific areas within the UK. These territories fall into two general categories: devolved and local government. The chapter introduces the general roles of these tiers of government, their powers, their responsibilities and how they function. It introduces a number of theoretical perspectives to these subjects. It looks at the balance of power between the various systems that exist. It offers examples as to how that balance of power works in reality. The chapter also considers the mechanisms for regulating interventions by the UK Parliament into devolved spheres of operation; the process of expansion of Welsh devolution over time; the devolution of responsibility for police and justice in Northern Ireland; devolution to local government in England; and innovatory approaches in Scotland. The chapter provides an assessment of devolution and local government and gives some historical context as well. Finally, the chapter looks at the relationship between Brexit and devolution.

Chapter

This chapter looks at how voting helps people to take a direct role in politics. The chapter discusses the rules by which the electoral system operates. It discusses the different types of electoral systems used in the UK. It connects General Elections and the formation of government at the national level. The chapter then offers a number of theoretical perspectives from which to consider voting in terms of fairness, mandates, and effectiveness. The chapter looks at the impact of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 and how the integrity of elections is maintained. Finally, it looks at the plan to equalize the size and reduce the number of UK parliamentary constituencies.

Chapter

This chapter turns to issues relating to political power and society. The goal of a contemporary democracy is to allow people to be both equal and different. The UK is a diverse society and people in the UK differ in many ways by their gender, sexuality, abilities, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, and many other aspects. The importance of various ‘identities’ has recently been recognised in UK politics and they now co-exist alongside more traditional ways of classifying people which tend to lie along socio-economic lines. The chapter then looks at the effectiveness of scrutiny measures to protect people from unequal treatment in the political or legal sphere on the basis of their identity.

Chapter

The Introduction asks: what do we mean when we talk about politics? On one level, politics is about the interactions between people. However, more specifically, it is about how a society is run. The term for this is ‘governance’. Governance involves who makes the decisions, how they make decisions, and how they put those decisions into effect. This first chapter relates this definition to the UK political system as it exists today. It provides a short analysis of the effectiveness of the UK system in terms of how it has evolved and what changes have been made over time. It takes a brief look at how the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic has shown up problems in the UK political system.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the legal system in the UK and looks at how the legal system and human rights relate to the political system. The chapter starts by defining both the legal system and human rights and shows how they are important in politics and in our democratic society and how they work in practice. These are closely connected issues, as the UK legal system is supposed to operate within human rights principles. The chapter introduces a series of theoretical concepts that aid to the understanding of the legal system. Central to this is the concept of the rule of law. The chapter presents some practical examples to show how various goals are realized. The first example given in the provision of legal aid to those who cannot afford their own legal advice. The second example relates to how policy makers attempt to deal with threats of terrorism. The third example is the key legal basis for the upholding of human rights via the Human Rights Act 1998. The chapter finishes with a debate on the political role of courts and looks at the implications of Brexit for the legal system and human rights.

Chapter

This chapter explores the UK as a state which is made up of a number of diverse parts. These parts are Wales, Scotland, England, and the territory of Northern Ireland. Each part has its own characteristics which show through in the political and constitutional makeup of the UK as a whole. The chapter describes these different components. It discusses the various differences between them and looks at issues related to maintaining coherence. Using theoretical models, it analyses the nature of the UK as the state, the nation state, and the multinational state. It looks at the concepts of consociationalism, the unitary state, the union state, and federation. It provides a number of practical examples which demonstrate how these ideas operate in the real world. It also considers the Welsh language, territorial variation in the party system, the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ procedure in the UK House of Commons; and the ‘Barnett’ formular for the allocation of funding in the UK.

Chapter

This chapter looks specifically at the UK Parliament as this is the central institution of the UK political system. It describes the people in Parliament, its internal makeup, and the way in which it is changing. The chapter examines the roles of members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. It considers the four basic functions of Parliament: providing a basis of government, holding government to account, producing legislation, and interacting with the wider public. The chapter describes three practical examples to help illustrate some of its themes. These are the following: the 2010–15 coalition government’s attempts to reform the House of Lords; the 2009 Wright Committee proposals for parliamentary reform and their implementation; and the practice of pre-appointed hearings conducted by parliamentary committees.

Chapter

This chapter switches the focus to political parties. It looks at their individual roles and how they operate. The chapter discusses the parties that constitute the ‘party system’. It considers the two main parties operating at the UK level: the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. It also looks at the smaller parties, such as the Liberal Democrats. The chapter considers the political approach of the various parties and the type of support they attract. It also looks at how parties are funded. The chapter provides a number of theoretical perspectives to help with an analysis of political parties. These are: the extent to which parties pursue values or power; the respective roles of their members and leaders; groupings within parties; how far the UK has a two-party system or whether our definition of the party system should be revised; and the relationships between the various parities. The chapter then gives examples of how these ideas play out with specific focus on recent events involving the Conversative and Labour parties. The chapter asks: do members have too much influence over their parties? The chapter ends by asking: where are we now?

Chapter

This chapter starts with a definition of the term ‘referendum’. A referendum is a means of involving the public in political decisions via voting on specific issues such as leaving the European Union. The chapter focuses on the use of referendums at the local level. It sets out the key features of a referendum. Who is allowed to vote in referendums? What sort of questions are put to voters? Under want circumstances should a referendum take place on specific issues? What are the risks associated with holding a referendum? The chapter also looks at regulations surrounding referendums in the UK. The theoretical considerations that the chapter examines are the fact that a referendum subject tends to be controversial, the relationship between referendums and direct democracy and the implications of the results.

Chapter

This chapter starts by asking what are the things that a community regards as fundamental to the well-being of its citizens? They could be economic prosperity, security, or a stable environment. However, a state doesn’t exist in isolation. There is an outside world with which it has to interact with. This chapter explains how both the decisions that the UK takes about external policy and the way in which it takes them are subjects of intense interest and sometimes even controversy. They have consequences for the outside world as well as for the UK. These are two spheres that cannot be totally separated. An important question related to this discussion is: how far should external policy involve the self-interest of the UK? How far should we take into account our wider responsibilities as members of the global community? What powers can the UK wield internationally? To what extend is external policy subject to democratic accountability?

Chapter

This chapter concentrates on the UK government, the part of the UK political system responsible for creating policy and putting it into effect. The chapter looks at the nature of the UK government, and the way it is made up of ministers, and civil servants and departments. The chapter also looks at the types of ministers, their legal and political powers, and the rules applying to them. The chapter assesses the constitutional position of the civil service, and its relationship with ministers and Parliaments. It also describes the departmental structure of the UK government and the so-called arm’s-length bodies within it. The chapter presents a number of perspectives on the way in which power operates within government and considers how the various ideas play out in reality. The chapter revisits the issue of Brexit but this time in the context of the civil services and ministers.

Book

Andrew Blick

UK Politics gives an introduction to this subject, providing the foundational understanding, critical perspectives, and historical knowledge needed to make sense of politics in the UK today. Part I looks at the way people are governed in the UK. This includes an analysis of the Cabinet and the Prime Minster, parliament, and the UK and human rights. Part 2 looks at how people participate in politics through examining the party system, elections, and voting. It also considers the issue of referendums. The third part is about how society affects UK politics. This part of the text examines communication and public opinion and considers identity, equality, and power. The final part is about the UK relates to the rest of the world. The key concepts here are devolution, local government, the nations and the union, and the outside world.