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Chapter

1. The Starting Point  

Understanding the Political System

This chapter discusses what makes British politics distinctive and recognizable: its parliamentary democracy, uncodified constitution, and pattern of party government. It begins by outlining some recent events that have made British or UK politics so fascinating and controversial. The chapter then describes the political system, particularly the institutional rules that affect what happens and govern how politics takes place. Parliament, composed of the House of Commons, House of Lords, and the Crown, is the supreme legal authority in the UK. The chapter also provides a summary of the British constitution. It places the UK in a comparative context, to be studied alongside other nation states. Finally, the chapter sets out the information and concepts that help in understanding the nature of and limits to British democracy.

Chapter

10. Delegating Upwards  

Challenges of International Politics

This chapter highlights the challenges presented by international politics. Much of what happens in British politics occurs because of Britain's relationship to the international stage. Relationships to other states, international bodies, and the international economy need to be managed by the UK's political leaders and foreign and defence bureaucracies, to manage how to deploy Britain's voice in international matters. Then there is the delegation of powers to international organizations and the making of treaties. The chapter specifically examines foreign policy and focuses on how functions are delegated to international organizations. It tells the story of the European Union (EU) as one of the most important international delegations culminating in the story of Brexit. This leads to a discussion of the UK's defence and security role. One key theme of the chapter is how success and failure in international politics feed back into domestic politics.

Chapter

This chapter assesses what politicians and members of political parties really care about: getting into office on the back of a successful election campaign. Rather than the general determinants of voting outlined in the previous chapter, this is about the choices voters and parties face within a particular system, so they can organize themselves to win. For that they need to play by the rules of the game, which includes developing strategies within electoral systems. The chapter then discusses the impact of electoral systems on that calculus, and how the number of parties is affected by the electoral system in place. It also looks at the factors that assist the winning of elections, and the extent to which the choices of parties and voters are affected by growing instability in the system. Overall, the chapter provides an overview of British political parties and party systems.

Chapter

11. Conclusion  

The State of British Democracy

This concluding chapter presents a summary of the common themes and key points about British politics, which help make sense of current events, such as whether turbulence and instability now characterize British politics, and whether democracy can work well in these conditions. It provides a table containing summaries of each chapter, which relate to the themes of the book: party government and executive power, political turbulence, blunders/policy disasters, and the difficulties of achieving agency. With these and other insights, it is possible to assess whether there is anything left for traditional understandings of British democracy or whether the country is in uncharted waters, without any clearly understood democratic mechanisms and not capable of producing effective policy outcomes. Overall, how does Britain fare as a democracy with its old and new features? The chapter then looks at the debate about the quality of UK democracy.

Chapter

This chapter examines the general issue of leadership in the British political system and the stresses and strains of this task, examining the role of the prime minister. As well as being leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, able to command a majority, and potentially able to get government business through Parliament and into law, the prime minister has executive powers, which helps keep this focus. Despite the power of the position and its importance in the British system of government, there are fundamental weaknesses in the role that come from the instabilities of party politics. Overall, the picture of prime ministerial and core executive power and capacity is a mixed one that is changeable over time. In recent years, over Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the prime minister's fate can change dramatically, even week-by-week.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on citizen attitudes, values, cultures, and behaviours, which underpin the British political system. Particularly important is voting for elected representatives, whether MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), Members of the Senedd (MSs), Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs), directly elected mayors, police and crime commissioners (PCCs), local councillors, or even parish councillors. Then there are extensive forms of political participation from citizens and groups, ranging from complaining to public authorities to protesting. Both voting and participation are linked to wider attitudes and beliefs about politics. The chapter also provides an understanding of the different forms of turbulence that have emerged in recent years, in particular since 2014, with the arrival of populist movements, and the more frequent use of referendums.

Chapter

This chapter studies a key aspect of delegation in British politics: decentralization and local/national self-government. It deals with local government in England, and government in the devolved territories/nations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Decentralization in British politics has formed into a complex pattern, where there are different dynamics in the various territories: relative centralization in England, power-sharing in Northern Ireland, pragmatic devolution in Wales, and then a strong push towards independence in Scotland. For a question about how centralized or decentralized British politics is, the answer would need to be based on where a person lives, with England rehearsing the conventional arguments about constitutional centralization and the rest of the country increasing decentralization, if not a form of federalism. The chapter then assesses the question of the rationale and general stability of the system, with respect to the integrity of the UK as a whole.

Chapter

This chapter examines how the United States and the Soviet Union sought to win the hearts and minds of people in various parts of the world as empires began to collapse during the period 1953–63. It begins with a discussion of the end of the French Empire, taking into account the loss of French Indo-China and the start of American involvement in Vietnam, along with the collapse of French rule in Morocco and Tunisia. It then considers the crises in the Congo, Angola, and the Middle East, focusing on the zenith of the Cold War in Black Africa, Britain’s declining power, and the Suez Crisis. It concludes by looking at the end of the British Empire in Africa.

Chapter

This chapter examines the core assumptions of liberalism regarding world politics. It explores why liberals believe in progress, what explains the ascendancy of liberal ideas in world politics since 1945, and whether liberal solutions to global problems are hard to achieve and difficult to sustain. The chapter also considers central ideas in liberal thinking on international relations, including internationalism, idealism, and institutionalism. It concludes with an assessment of the challenges confronting liberalism. Two case studies are presented: one dealing with imperialism and internationalism in nineteenth-century Britain, and the other with the 1990–1991 Gulf War and its implications for collective security. There is also an Opposing Opinions box that asks whether liberal internationalist governments have a responsibility to protect other people from atrocity crimes.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the American political economy from the colonial period to Donald Trump. In particular, it examines how the United States emerged from being a predominantly agricultural country to the wealthiest economic power in the world. The chapter first considers America’s economic rise before independence before discussing the role played by economic factors in sparking war between Great Britain and American colonists. It then looks at America’s dramatic economic growth between formal independence and World War I, as well as through the post-war period. It also analyses the American political economy under Bill Clinton and how his economic policies — and those of his successor George W. Bush — contributed to the great economic crash of 2008. It also explores the major economic reasons that accounted for Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election and concludes with an overview of how the American economy has been impacted by globalization.

Chapter

6. The Media and Agenda-Setting  

Political Turbulence

This chapter addresses media in politics, including newspapers, television, the internet, and social media. It seeks to answer the question of how influential the media is over politics, in areas such as voting behaviour. This discussion gives a broad overview of politics and the media, about the agenda of politics and its framing, and what shapes it. The chapter then covers the classic question of the influence of the media in British politics. It also considers the importance of social media, and how it is now part of all media today, especially in relation to elections and referendums. Finally, the chapter looks at media and social media campaigning in elections. It introduces the concept of chaotic pluralism as a way of characterizing today's social media-dominated and fluid political environment.

Chapter

This chapter examines tensions in the grand alliance between Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union as well as the growing confrontation involving the three countries during the period 1945–7. It begins with a discussion of the Yalta Conference held in February 1945, taking into account the US, Soviet, and British approach to Yalta as well as the conference proceedings. It then considers the Potsdam Conference and how the issue of atomic bombs was addressed at the Council of Foreign Ministers meetings in 1945. It also analyses the growing confrontation in the Near East and Mediterranean, focusing on the crises in Iran and Turkey. Finally, it explores containment, confrontation, and the Truman Doctrine during the years 1946–7.

Chapter

This chapter examines the pervasiveness and importance of enlargement in the history of European integration. It first considers the principles, conditions, and instruments of enlargement before discussing the roles of various institutional actors and the candidate states. It then shows how, faced with the likelihood of large-scale Central and Eastern European accession, the European Union extended the requirements for membership to include the candidate countries' democratic credentials and economic competitiveness. The first enlargement included Britain, Denmark, and Ireland, followed by Greece, Spain, and Portugal, the European Free Trade Association, the Central and Eastern European countries, Cyprus, and Malta. The chapter also explains how the EU has developed a variety of strategies to deal with growing differences among the member states' socio-economic situations and policy needs without formally resorting to a division of its membership in concentric circles, core and peripheral groups, or alternative frameworks.

Chapter

This chapter examines how the European Payments Union resolved the problem of currency convertibility and unlocked the potential of trade liberalization, thereby paving the way for the European Economic Community (EEC), which in turn spurred further intra-European trade. It first provides an overview of trade and payments before and immediately after World War II and goes on to discuss postwar approaches to convertibility and liberalization. It then considers the degree, speed, and commitment with which countries opened up their domestic markets to each other's exports under the Trade Liberalization Programme. It concludes with an assessment of Britain's efforts to join a wider free trade area with the members of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation.

Chapter

7. Under the Shadow of Stagflation  

European Integration in the 1970s

Richard T. Griffiths

This chapter examines European integration during the 1970s. The 1970s is often portrayed as a dismal decade in the history of European integration, when the European Community (EC) experienced severe turbulence as it digested Britain's accession and was buffeted by the global economic downturn. Stagflation and Eurosclerosis — sluggish economic growth combined with institutional immobility — ensued. At the same time, however, the Community developed in important ways. The European Court of Justice generated an impressive body of case law, and the EC coped with the challenges of enlargement, the break-up of the international monetary system, and the consequences of slower economic growth. The chapter rejects the notion that the 1970s was a dismal decade in the history of European integration and describes it as a transitional period between the launch of the Community in the 1960s and the acceleration of European integration in the 1980s.

Chapter

This chapter examines four major issues in International Political Economy (IPE). The first concerns power and the relationship between politics and economics, and more specifically whether politics is in charge of economics or whether it is the other way around. The second issue deals with development and underdevelopment in developing countries. The third is about the nature and extent of economic globalization, and currently takes places in a context of increasing inequality between and inside countries. The fourth and final issue concerns how to study the real world from an IPE perspective and it pits the hard science American School against the more qualitative and normative British School.

Chapter

This chapter examines how policy towards the European Economic Community (EEC) fitted in with French leader Charles de Gaulle's broader European and international objectives and how the international constraints on his certain vision of France gave rise to his evolving, uncertain idea of Europe. Having denounced the Treaty of Rome before coming to power in 1958, de Gaulle ensured the EEC's survival by undertaking financial reforms in France and warding off Britain's effort to negotiate a wider free trade area. He linked these initiatives to implementation of the common agricultural policy (CAP). The chapter also considers de Gaulle's proposal for an independent and intergovernmental European Union and his role in the so-called Empty Chair Crisis of 1965–6. Finally, it discusses the impact of de Gaulle on the course of European integration.

Chapter

This chapter examines four important debates in International Political Economy (IPE). The first debate concerns power and the relationship between politics and economics, and more specifically whether politics is in charge of economics or whether it is the other way around. The second debate deals with development and underdevelopment in developing countries. The third debate is about the nature and extent of economic globalization, and currently takes places in a context of increasing inequality between and inside countries. The fourth and final debate pits the hard science American School of IPE against the more qualitative and normative British School of IPE.