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British Politics

In Britain, the government dominates parliament. This claim is a staple of “textbook” descriptions of British politics. Academic literature also suggests the British government’s power over parliament is unusual in international terms. As a result, the government’s struggle to secure parliament’s support for its Brexit deal has been widely seen as evidence that Brexit has challenged – or even overturned – this conventional wisdom. However, in this blog post we argue that recent events can be better understood as an acceleration of pre-existing trends in Britain’s political institutions and political parties that have weakened government’s grip over parliament. The Brexit process may have challenged the government’s ability to control parliament, but it was pushing at an open door. Three institutional …

Calls for a second referendum on EU membership have been growing louder without, however, properly making the case for it. They fail to address the heart of the matter: how to show adequate respect for the democratic result of the 2016 referendum on EU membership whilst making the case for a new referendum. Ultimately, the case for a second referendum requires a compelling justification for challenging the first. The real question that the proponents of a people’s vote must confront is whether the democratic process can be suspended without undermining its legitimacy. They need to be able to square the circle, because a democracy worth the name depends on the consistent application of its rules. The risk of violating consistency …

On January 15, 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered a defeat of historic proportion in the House of Commons: 432 MPs voted against and 202 for the ‘EU Withdrawal Act’, with a staggering margin of 230 votes. But how do the MP positions on May’s deal compare with the constituency-level votes on the 2016 referendum? [i] Notably, almost all the intra-party variation in voting takes place on the Tories’ side of the aisle. Only 3 Labour MPs bucked the party line and voted for the deal, whereas 118 Tories voted against May’s proposal. The plot below shows the distribution of constituency vote on the Brexit referendum by MPs voting either for or against the Brexit deal. The graph …

On June 23rd, 2016, the citizens of the UK voted to leave the European Union. This began an unprecedented process of dissociation, commonly known as Brexit. Among the many challenges that Brexit poses is how to handle the border between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. In the recent past, the “soft” border between the two nations has allowed for the free flow of people and goods. However, if Brexit negotiations fail, a “hard” border will replace the currently soft border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. This presents a problem because under present conditions the border allows for mutually beneficial economic and social exchange, as well as having been instrumental in guaranteeing the Northern Irish peace process. This border …

Cybersecurity has become a major concern for governments, companies and citizens, as some of their most sensitive information is routinely stored and communicated online. Rogue attackers can steal confidential information or corrupt their databases, potentially leading to critical security incidents ranging from reputational damages and economic losses to national security risks. The threat, however, works in two ways. While companies and governments are concerned about being targets of digital infiltration, they have used these technologies to obtain extensive information from common citizens for crime and terrorism prevention or commercial purposes. Collecting geolocationdata and screening social networks are now common practices, relatively easy to carry out due to the embedded features of modern devices. For years, many surveillance practices were conducted …

Reshuffles are a chance to revive the fortunes of a Prime Minister by changing the faces of their Cabinet and Government. January’s offered much but delivered less; the occupants of key Cabinet positions remained in place after all. May’s big beasts stood their ground, seemingly immovable; Justine Greening was the most prominent and the only woman to exit the Cabinet. The optics of Theresa May’s reshuffle became, at this point, about increasing diversity. But this neither told the real diversity story of the reshuffle, nor made an adequate case for diversity in the executive. Increasing diversity in their Cabinets appears to be of increasing importance to leaders and has been shown to have beneficial impacts on both policy outcomes and …

The liberal philosopher A.C. Grayling is one of the foremost opponents of Brexit. No doubt he salutes the bravery of those Tory MPs dubbed ‘mutineers’ by the Daily Telegraph when they brought about Theresa May’s first Commons defeat as they supported an amendment to her EU withdrawal bill to give Parliament a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal”. These Tory MPs defied the so-called ‘party whip’. Whips are MPs appointed by parties in Parliament to do what they can to make sure party members vote the way the party wants. Grayling is not a fan of the whipping system in general: he regards whipping as ‘undemocratic’, and he connects it to increasing levels of mistrust in MPs and …
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Some six months before Theresa May called a surprise general election, The Road to Somewhere was published. In it, David Goodhart argues that the old political divide, between left-wingers and right-wingers, has been superseded. The electorate, Goodhart claims, is now better divided between “anywheres” and “somewheres”.  Peter Wiggins looks at the Goodhart argument in the context of the 2017 general election. Of “Anywheres”, “Somewheres” and “Inbetweeners” According to The Road to Somewhere, roughly 25% of the population are “anywheres” – they are mobile, metropolitan, liberal, tolerant, at home wherever they may be, and wary of group attachment. These voters are likely to be highly educated, and they tend to approve of “mass immigration,” subscribing, as Goodhart puts it, to “progressive …