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Chapter

Cover UK Politics

10. Identity, equality, and power  

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

Cover UK Politics

11. Devolution and local government  

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

Cover UK Politics

3. The UK government  

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.

Chapter

Cover British Politics

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

Cover British Politics

3. Debating Politics and Making Laws  

This chapter evaluates the institution of the UK Parliament, where parliamentarians have a chance to debate issues of the day and to make laws. It reviews classic arguments about the power of Parliament in relation to the executive, before looking at the role of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The account is still influenced by the Westminster system of government, whereby the executive in the form of the government is sustained in power by having a majority in the House of Commons. The chapter then considers what Members of Parliament (MPs) and other representatives do in office, and how their behaviour links to other features of the political process, such as public opinion and constituency interests. It also compares other legislatures, such as the Scottish Parliament, with the UK Parliament.